Maspeth residents divided on destroyed O’Neill’s

A five-alarm fire gutted O'Neill's Pub last week, taking away both a neighborhood legend and a source of irritation. Photo courtesy Carol Colmone Chase
By Joe Anuta

The five-alarm fire at O’Neill’s Pub in Maspeth took away a legendary gathering place for some residents of the neighborhood last week, but for others the fire also brought some peace and quiet.

Many of the residents who lived near the storied bar did not want to give their names since they are neighbors of George O’Neill, the owner of the bar who has lived in the neighborhood his whole life and eventually took over the establishment his father opened in 1928.

But the complaints were relatively similar.

“Living here, three blocks away on a Saturday night in the summer with the windows open at 2:30 a.m. with all the yelling — it’s not fun,” said one resident. “I know he was approached about it and nothing has been done.”

Broken bottles lined some of the sidewalks near the bar in the mornings, he said. In one case, the bottles littered the sidewalk along a young family’s home.

“[O’Neill] was not always responsive to complaints,” he said. “He might say, ‘I can’t help the clientele when they leave here,’ but he could stop serving them when they’re drunk.”

But the man also conceded that the pub was also a cultural hub of the area.

“I had my daughter’s bridal shower there,” he said. “But there is two sides to the coin.”

But Frank Klich, who has lived in the neighborhood for 25 years, said he never had any problem living near the bar.

“I don’t think there were any problems,” he said. “Even people from out of the borough would come here.”

Klich said that “wing night” at O’Neill’s drew large crowds.

And all those people would have to park somewhere, which is what irritated another of O’Neill’s neighbors.

“They have valet parking,” said one woman. “They park everywhere on the street.”

At a 104th citizens meeting earlier in the month, another resident complained that his street was used as a parking lot and impromptu bathroom, and nothing was done when he called the police.

But Lou Picciano, another longtime resident of the neighborhood, said that parking is an issue everywhere.

“There were sometimes complaints about the parking,” he said.

But Picciano had no problem living near the bar, which hosted countless celebrities over the years along with regulars from the NYPD, FDNY and the city Sanitation Department.

“I’ve known O’Neill’s for over 50 years,” he said. “Georgie is a great guy.”

Picciano even played in a big band group that performed at the bar, and in the 1990s he played a show in honor of Glenn Miller, a prominent big band musician who lived nearby.

“I’m the band leader that opened up playing in there,” he said. “Georgie had me up to play for a tribute.”

The bar was also a favorite hangout of the New York Mets and served as the venue for a party after the team won the 1986 World Series.

But the neighborhood watering hole burned to the ground after a grease fire broke out the night of May 1, according to the FDNY.

O’Neill said he plans to rebuild.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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