2002-06-26 / Front Page

Board 1 Seeks Sidewalk Cafe Moratorium

by richard gentilviso

Board 1 Seeks Sidewalk
Cafe Moratorium


Photo Antony Lombardo Santorini Cafe is one of the many Astoria sidwalk cafes.Photo Antony Lombardo Santorini Cafe is one of the many Astoria sidwalk cafes.

Moments after defeating an application for an unenclosed sidewalk cafe of 28 tables and 56 seats on Broadway and 41st Street, the seventh such application it has reviewed since February for a total of 120 tables and 303 chairs in the district, including the latest, Community Board 1 carried a resolution asking the City Council to pass legislation enabling communities oversaturated by outdoor cafes to control their sidewalks by placing a moratorium on the establishments.

The resolution also calls for increased penalties of $500 for a first violation, $1,000 for a second violation and padlocking of the premises for a third violation by owners who violate the regulations or operate without permits. Under current law an owner can be fined $100 per day and repeat offenders may have their outdoor furniture seized.

The decisive votes, 31 in favor, one against, one abstention to deny the application by Galaxy VI at 41-02 Broadway and 28 in favor, two against to approve the resolution for unenclosed cafes, comes after months of testimony by residents, both pro and con, as to the effect they have on the quality of life in the community.

After meeting with the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), District Manager George Delis reported that the DCA said a moratorium would not be legal. However, Board 1 Chairperson Vinicio Donato, who also attended the meeting with DCA, said that was precisely why the resolution was needed. "We’re asking [the City Council] for an oversaturation law," he said, indicating it would over ride current city policy on sidewalk cafes.

Some board members still had reservations. Richard Khuzami speculated that a moratorium on sidewalk cafes would give an unfair business advantage to those already having permits to operate. Also, exactly how the moratorium would apply was not clear.

Delis said the DCA is seeking to streamline the application process for sidewalk cafes. The DCA says permits cost about $2,000 per year for each of the 500 cafes that have permits in the city and agreed that enforcement is their biggest problem. The Sunday City Section of the June 2 New York Times reports sidewalk cafes have been banned along Madison Avenue and other areas of Manhattan, as well as in four areas of Brooklyn and four areas of Queens since 1980 due to sidewalk congestion. The Upper West Side of Manhattan has 150 cafes.

The resolution states that Community Board 1 has the greatest number of enclosed cafes in Queens, and that many create noise problems affecting the quality of life for the community.

Madeline Gillis, chairperson of the Consumer Affairs Committee, said Galaxy VI had already begun to put tables and chairs out on 41st Street as of 6 p.m. on the night of the meeting. In addition, Gillis said, problems with the police and a subway grating that further narrowed the sidewalk, led the committee to recommend denial of the application.

Anna Dominguez, a resident of 41st Street, presented Board 1 with a petition of protest signed by 54 area residents who opposed the application by Galaxy VI because, she said, "it would infringe on our quality of life."

Steven Blauwright, another 41st Street resident, said "This establishment [Galaxy VI] has really been a menance since they opened." Galaxy VI has been in operation as an indoor cafe for the past five years, according to its manager. "They keep us up all night," said a resident of 31-79 41st St.

A second public hearing in which the Department of City Planning proposed a citywide zoning text amendment to increase the vessel capacity limitation for docks for water taxis brought unanimous approval by Board 1.

Jed Weiss of the Queens Department of City Planning said docks are currently limited to 50-passenger taxis, which wasn’t economically viable in the industry. The test change increases vessel capacity to 99 persons and will help alleviate restrictions on other forms of transportation in the aftermath of September 11, according to Weiss. Weiss will get back to Board 1 regarding specifics on parking at dock sites and the locations of docks within the district’s boundaries.

The New York Water Taxi Company has expressed interest in re-establishing water taxi service lining a number of ferry stops and tourist destinations on the Hudson and East Rivers.

A third public hearing of the Board of Standards and Appeals was canceled when the requested permit needed to allow a school within an M1-5 zoned district was granted at the last minute via a special waiver from the office of Mayor Bloomberg.

Our World Neighborhood Charter School, a non-profit organization chartered by the State University of New York in March 2001 will occupy the building at 36-12 35th St. and open its doors this September.

The school will begin with about 450 kindergarten through grade five students, most from within Community School District 30, and expects to expand to grade eight and 650 students when at its capacity.

According to a statement of facts submitted to Board 1 by representatives for the school at the meeting, "Historically, schools in New York have enjoyed a limited immunity from municipal zoning ordinances," because of their contribution to public welfare.

In his report, Delis said work on the Steinway Street bridge replacement over the Grand Central Parkway will begin on July 1. Delis credited Board 1 Industrial and Commercial Committee Chairperson Julian Wager as instrumental in assuring traffic would not be impeded during the $16 million job, which will provide for the replacement of both bridges spanning the GCP.

During construction, all lanes will be open from 6 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. on weekdays. At other times, one lane will be closed in each direction. GCP traffic will flow normally, except at night. The replacement is expected to take 42 months for completion, during nine months of which there be no impact on traffic.


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