Knockdown Center embarks on public image improvement

By Eric Jankiewicz

It’s Round Two for the Knockdown Center.

The art center in Maspeth may have gotten a bruising last year when the state rejected its attempt to serve alcohol, but it is not down for the count.

The State Liquor Authority denied the center’s liquor and cabaret license application last year, citing a lack of community support. The center’s administrators are now trying to change their image and gain community support in hopes of reversing that rejection. A new decision on this will be made June 2.

“It is not dark, seedy or unsafe,” said Tyler Myers, a member of the center’s staff. “We do not take the responsibility we ask for lightly, and we do not take the community it is in for granted. It is a large responsibility, but one we have proven we can manage.”

The center, at 52-19 Flushing Ave., holds events ranging from concerts – like last year’s MIA concert – to art exhibitions. And the owners of the center want to be able to serve alcohol to patrons during these events.

Residents of Maspeth have objected to the venue since it began hosting events in the former glass factory with temporary permits in August 2012. But during a recent Community Board 5 meeting, Myers argued that the center’s administrators have been responsive to the community’s concerns. Myers presented a packet of letters signed by various community leaders addressed to the State Liquor Authority.

“During the events hosted by the Knockdown Center, their employees are constantly seen outside the venue maintaining order on the entry lines, removing trash as it accumulates and collecting any litter dropped by persons waiting to gain entry,” the former commanding officer of the 104th Precinct , Christopher Manson, wrote in an open letter to the state agency that controls liquor licenses.

Manson concludes that, unlike last year, he has no opposition to the center’s application.

But several members of the community and an elected official have demanded that the center reduce the number of people who can attend events with alcohol. The center can hold just over 3,000 people, but state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) worries that such a large group will cause trouble for the surrounding community.

“For a while now we’ve been telling them to become a part of the community,” Addabbo said. “We want them to be assets not detriments to the community.”

He would like the cap to be set at 1,000 attendees for events that will have alcohol.

Other community members demanded things like beefed-up security and a shuttle bus to take people straight from the center to train stations. And according to an open letter to the State Liquor Authority from several community members, community board 5received a signed agreement that the management will make these changes.

Robert Holden, a member of Community Board 5, along with others, signed the letter. The board voted unanimously against the Knockdown Center’s application last year and some on the board still are against the application.

“I think that a cabaret liquor license for 3,100 people in our type of low-density neighborhood is out of character with the community,” said Gary Giordano, the board’s district manager. “And it presents potentially significant risks and a disturbance to peace in the community.”

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