Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Community Board 6 committee supports arena liquor license with stipulations; Veconi warns that the CB, which didn't take comments, gave up leverage

At the end of a meeting that lasted more than three hours, including perhaps an hour devoted to the controversial Kemistry Lounge application, the Community Board 6 Public Safety/Environmental Protection/Permits/Licenses committee agreed to supports a liquor license for the Barclays Center subject to the same conditions under which Community Board 2 and its committee approved it.

That means that, while the applicant, Levy Premium Foodservice and Brooklyn Events Center, must set up a community liaison and also make sure the arena moves ahead with security, sanitation, transportation plans, there’s essentially no roadblock--not that it was assumed that the State Liquor Authority (SLA) would deny the application.

And while dozens of Prospect Place-area residents showed up to weigh in on Kemistry, there was virtually no one there to comment on the arena application, which provoked huge discussion two weeks earlier. (Those concerned about Kemistry didn't stick around.)

No public comment

Nor was public comment taken. That left Gib Veconi of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, who has argued, for among other things, a cut-off in time for liquor sales, quite frustrated.

At the end of the meeting, Veconi approached committee chair Gary Reilly and said that, while the committee had been “doing a super job,” it was “unconscionable” to not take public comment and to approve a resolution with no enforceability.

“We’ve spent 2.5 years suing,” Veconi said, referring to the lawsuit challenging the state’s failure to study the impact of a 25-year project buildout--a victory for the community groups. (Veconi has been a leader of BrooklynSpeaks, which was established in 2006 to seek greater public involving in the project, avoiding the path of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which had been suing. BrooklynSpeaks eventually filed suit itself, in a lawsuit eventually joined with one from DDDB.)

Reilly, who’d had a long night, essentially shrugged, saying he had been against the arena.

“There’s no point in approving a resolution calling for a plan,” Veconi said, arguing that that gave up leverage.

Some outreach

During the meeting, Reilly told the committee that the applicants had agreed to set up quality of life subcommittee to address neighborhood issues, but the attorney for Levy said such things as a traffic plan are “completely out of their control.”

One board member said that a CB2 member had suggested that it's more effective to disapprove the application unless the conditions are met. Then again, it was pointed out, the SLA was going to approve the application.

“Disapproving it with conditions,” Reilly observed, would “be seen as a thumb in the Borough President’s eye.” Borough President Marty Markowitz, the arena’s biggest cheerleader, appoints half of the board members, and notably had failed to reappoint several after they opposed the arena.

Questions about stipulations

Still, Reilly acknowledged, the Community Board did not know the applicant’s position on stipulations with the exception of the community liaison issue.

One board member wanted to strip the stipulations, suggesting they had nothing to do with the liquor license. Most disagreed, saying that liquor use was connected to sanitation, and and unsafe driving. And, it was pointed out, it's still not known what police precinct will be in charge.

The motion passed with only one vote in opposition. All the plans requested must be presented prior to the arena opening, except for a community task force, which must meet at least once before the SLA’s 500-foot hearing.

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