Neighbors Opposed to MV Hall’s Use of Yard
By Conor Greene
Members of a local VFW hall are seeking permission to extend its liquor license to allow drinking in an outside alley next to their Middle Village building, a proposal that has upset some neighbors.
A hearing on the request was held at last week’s Community Board 5 meeting. The proposal will now be discussed at the committee level before coming back to the full board for a vote at next month’s meeting.
However, Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, said his group is meeting with both sides in hopes of reaching a compromise.
Members of Haspel Staab Post 551 on 60th Avenue are preparing to apply to the State Liquor Authority to extend the terms of their license so that alcohol can be consumed in a small paved yard next to their building, which separates the post from a house owned by Ralph DeSanto. He opposes the request because of disruptions to his quality of life he says parties at the VFW Hall have caused.
The hearing last Wednesday in Christ the King High School began with comments from attorney Thomas Monaghan, who is representing the VFW Hall in its request. He explained that the license would simply be extended to include the outdoor area, and that all existing rules governing drinking at the hall would continue to apply.
“All rules would apply to the outside, however no alcohol or activity will take place outside after 10 p.m. if they are against noise codes,” he said.
Holden, also a CB 5 member, asked why the group wasn’t going to keep the drinking inside, as has been done for decades. “As everybody in society knows, when people drink, they get louder – it is just the nature of the beast.” He noted the area is largely residential.
Monaghan responded that the members are only seeking to do what is allowed under state law. “The club respects the law – that’s why were here tonight,” he said, adding that the members have not yet filed the request with the state. “Ample statutes cover that problem,” he said of resident’s complaints that the members are loud late at night.
This response didn’t sit well with board member Lorraine Sciulli, who is also a JPCA member. “To say that after 10 p.m. it reverts to the noise code is a little disingenuous,” she said, since it is unlikely the city would send somebody immediately to investigate a noise complaint. “To bring drinking outside means to turn the whole neighborhood upside down.”
Michael Brown, post commander, spoke next and accused DeSanto and the JPCA of providing a “misleading account” of the member’s activities and intentions. “This is an affront to all veterans,” he said. “We have been relegated to second class citizens... not afforded the chance to defend ourselves.” He said that the post asked for a list of complaints that the JPCA received, but never heard back.
Longtime post member Tom Lynch called DeSanto’s opposition “a crusade against us” and said he has “lost sight of the noise problem and is now consumed with one object – destroying the lives and ideals of the very men and women who defended the country in wars.”
Neighbor Linda Mullins, who has lived across the street for 17 years, accused DeSanto of misleading neighbors who signed a petition against the VFW’s request. “Ralph DeSanto had a personal dispute on Memorial Day and in retaliation is going around slandering the VFW,” she said. Some neighbors who signed the petition “didn’t understand the circumstances and were not given all the facts,” she alleged. “This is not a community issue, but a personal issue.”
However, DeSanto, the next speaker, argued that it is in fact a “quality of life” issue. “Why should we be allowing the post to serve alcohol in the alley?” he said. “It is only going to increase the noise in the neighborhood. This is a residential area. We can’t sleep in our homes whenever they have these parties. It’s not twenty to thirty people – they fill the alley.”
He said that one event held last year featured a $20 admission that provided an open bar and was advertised online. He said it was “extremely noisy.”
His mother, Josephine DeSanto, 85, said she has lived in the house next to the hall for the past 46 years. “Mike Brown is lying,” she said, drawing a reaction from the post members and supporters in the crowd. “I’m glad they’re happy, but it bothers us... I support them, but there is no reason to drink in the alley.”
The final speaker was Victor DeSanto, whose window faces the alley. DeSanto is a former honorary member of the post, and some have claimed the backlash against the members is due at a falling out several years ago. “It’s only us [affected by the noise] which makes it so hard to understand,” he said. “We want peace. All I’m asking is for cooperation on both sides so we can resolve this.”
While the community board’s eventual vote regarding the proposal is simply advisory, Holden hopes the civic association can help both sides reach an agreeable solution in the coming weeks.
CB5 MEETING ROUNDUP
Other issues discussed at the board’s monthly session included problems along train tracks used by the Long Island Railroad and a freight company, road resurfacing, the Maurice Avenue sewer project and a request by the Woodhaven House for a sidewalk cafe.
Train Track Growth and Smelly Garbage
District Manager Gary Giordano reported that he is trying to get the LIRR and New York and Atlantic Railway to clear overgrown trees and shrubs from along areas near roads and sidewalks. He said that Donna Rypkema, who was struck by a falling tree while walking along Myrtle Avenue near Fresh Pond Road three weeks ago, is slowly improving.
“There is a lot of growth along the line,” said Giordano, adding that the LIRR officials say that NY and Atlantic is responsible for removing it. “If it is along a line they share, [it’s not clear] whose responsibility it is,” he said on Tuesday. “If it is along the freight line, I certainly get the impression that it’s Atlantic’s responsibility to maintain that.”
Giordano said he is also trying to get verification from LIRR that the agency has been testing the structural integrity of trestles that cross over roads. “We want to make sure they’re in good condition,” he said. He said bridges of concern include ones at Myrtle Avenue and Fresh Pond Road, Cypress Hills Street between Central and Shaler avenues and 65th Street near Shaler Avenue.
“I’m reasonably confident those bridges are inspected with regularity and are structurally sound, but I want to hear it from LIRR,” said Giordano. “There is a lot of back and forth movement [of trains at those locations].”
Another big issue for residents is trains carrying garbage through the area from Long Island. They are supposed to be covered and sealed, but the community board had received several complaints about strong odors coming from the train.
Giordano urged residents to call with any additional complaints. “It does get trucks off the street” but creates a new problem with smell, he said. “It is an ongoing issue and I need all the help I can get,” he told the board and residents.
On Tuesday, he said he hadn’t received any additional complaints. “I’m hoping that whoever their customer out east is has gotten newer containers that are sealed for the storage of this solid waste, or that the seals were replaced.”
Area Road Projects
A number of local roads are being resurfaced, with most of the milling work complete, according to Giordano. Projects include Forest Avenue between Metropolitan and Myrtle avenues, Maspeth Avenue from Maurice Avenue to 61st Street, Cypress Hills Street from Fresh Pond Road to the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Central Avenue from Myrtle Avenue to 73rd Place.
Another major project is the installation of a sewer line and box sewer beneath Maurice Avenue. “We’re hoping that will alleviate some flooding in that neck of Maspeth,” said Giordano. “We’ve been lucky in the past year, but the real test will come when we get two or three inches of rain in an hour.”
He said that a consultant hired by the Department of Design and Construction recently told him that the $5 million project, which will extend between 54th to 56th avenues, will start in early October. “That’s a big concession we got, that they’ll do Maurice at night,” said Giordano.
The project also includes a major reconstruction of 54th Avenue between Maurice and 58th avenues, including new sewer lines, water mains, concrete base beneath the pavement and sidewalks. “It’s not a tremendously long stretch, but it is a lot of work,” he said. “Maurice is a flat out sewer job.” Work along 54th Avenue will take place between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. The entire project is expected to take a year to complete, according to the DDC.
Woodhaven House Sidewalk Cafe
The board unanimously approved an application by the Woodhaven House restaurant in Rego Park for 28 outdoor tables along Woodhaven Boulevardand Fleet Court. There will be no amplified music, and the board requested that hours be limited to 11 p.m. during the week and until midnight on weekends. However, the application calls for keeping the tables open an hour later.
The tables will take up about half of the 15-foot-wide sidewalks, with 12 tables along the boulevard and 14 along Fleet Court. Board member Tom Rossi noted that the building was rundown until the restaurant opened and said it is “good for the community.”