Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sidewalk Cafe, VFW Hall and Car Services at CB 5

By Conor Greene

At its July meeting last Wednesday in the Greater Ridgewood Youth Center, Community Board 5 members discussed an application by Woodhaven House for an unenclosed sidewalk café, complaints regarding a VFW hall’s liquor license and licensing of local car service companies.

Woodhaven House Café Request

The owners of the Woodhaven House bar and restaurant will have to wait to find out whether they can place 28 tables with 56 seats on the sidewalks along Woodhaven Boulevard and Fleet Court in Middle Village. The board’s Land Use Committee will consider the idea at its next meeting, meaning the full board will not vote on it until September, according to Giordano, since the August meeting has been canceled.

The restaurant wants to use nearly half of the 15-foot sidewalks to place 12 tables along Woodhaven Boulevard and 14 along Fleet Court, according to Robert Callahan, who represented the establishment. The tables would be used until as late as 1 a.m. on weekends and midnight on weeknights, he said.

Board member Lorraine Sciulli pointed out that the area is “very close to houses” told Callahan that the Juniper Park Civic Association “has already experienced complaints from people there.” She called the proposed late hours “a problem.” Callahan responded that the wait staff is told to remind customers to be respectful to neighbors. “I don’t see the need for the midnight closing on the weeknight,” said board member Robert Holden. “There is still going to be people out there yelling. There is enough noise coming from inside the Woodhaven House – we don’t need to put it in [resident’s] faces.”

At least one resident who lives near the establishment is completely against the proposal. “Over the last three years, we have been very dissatisfied with the valet parking, noise coming out of the establishment and people blocking side streets,” said Arthur Laske, who lives at 84th Street and Penelope Avenue. “I’m not too happy with what’s going on with your establishment.”

Callahan said the restaurant has had issues with the company currently running the valet parking, which he admitted is “not up to standards.” He added that they “ask patrons to be as quiet as possible when leaving the establishment,” but pointed out that “alcohol is involved.” Laske later said that the restaurant has a “total disregard” for the neighborhood. “It’s a nightmare, this establishment,” he said. “It’s an outrage, and the community is not happy.” On Tuesday, Giordano said that the board might be forced to ask the Department of Consumer Affairs for additional time to weigh in on the matter, since the next meeting is not until September.

VFW Post Liquor License

The board has held off taking action regarding the liquor license for the VFW Post at 84-02 60th Avenue in Middle Village while awaiting clarification from the state Liquor Authority, according to Giordano.

At the start of last week’s meeting, resident Ralph DeSanto complained about “loud parties” that have been taking place in an alleyway that has recently paved over. “No one is trying to close the post, but they have to do this indoors,” he said. “We can’t live in our homes. They’re a good organization, but they’re not licensed to serve [alcohol] outside.”

Michael Brown, post commander, later responded, stressing that the establishment “is not a bar to have drinks at” for the general public. “We’re here to help the vets, especially in this day and age.” He said the post has begun to use the yard, which is their property and is “very rarely used” for parties. “I have tried my best to appease my neighbors and treat the place as if I live next doors.” He said the issue with DeSanto is due to a “constant vendetta” that has carried on since “his brother was banned from the post.”

Giordano said he is “in communication with the Liquor Authority to find out what they would be permitted to do outside” under their license. “We’ve gotten it from both sides as far as this goes,” he said. “We have petitions from each side, one saying they’re fine, the other saying that… they’re noisy and increasingly out there.”

The community board is “really in fact-finding mode right now,” added Giordano.

Car Service Licenses

Several local car companies need to have their licenses renewed, but the board decided against issuing “letters of no objection” for three of them, said Giordano. The board has received complaints about several car services in the area, with gripes including car repairs performed on the street, double-parked cars and garbage thrown on the ground.

“Services do not endear themselves to the community when they have drivers littering the streets, urinating in public and all sorts of crazy crap,” said Giordano. “They can be a difficult lot, and we’re not quick to write letters of no objection when we think there are objections. I’m not looking to be petty or overly harsh, and I don’t think the board is, but when they want us to be reasonable, they have to be reasonable. These car services should not be operating their for-profit business at the detriment of the neighborhood.”

The board has decided against issuing a letter of no objection for Fenix Car Service of Seneca Avenue in Ridgewood. “From what I know, they don’t have an off-street parking location, and are seeking a waiver for that,” said Giordano. There are also questions regarding the amount of off-street parking that Priscella Car Service has near its Wyckoff Avenue base in Ridgewood, said Giordano. He said that the companies are supposed to have at least one space for every two vehicles in its fleet within a mile-and-a-half of its headquarters.

Four One’s Car Service, which has recently moved part of its operations to 73rd Place near Metropolitan Avenue is also among the car services having parking difficulties and Giordano says the board will continue to check on the questions that have arisen before issuing a letter of no objection. Of the four companies currently up for license renewal, the only one the board will immediately issue a no objection letter for is Lindy’s Car Service on Metropolitan Avenue near Fresh Pond Road, according to Giordano. “A great benefit to them is having more parking spaces for their drivers than they have vehicles,” he said.

With no meeting scheduled for August, the next CB 5 meeting is tentatively slated for Wednesday, September 10.