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Community Board 5 votes against the Knockdown Center receiving a liquor license

Photo by Anthony Giudice

The Knockdown Center in Maspeth received another thumbs-down from Community Board 5 (CB 5) in its quest for a liquor license.

At CB 5’s Wednesday meeting at Middle Village’s Christ the King Regional High School, supporters and opponents of the art venue’s request for a liquor license stated their cases during the public forum before the board took a final vote. The board’s recommendation against the liquor license was forwarded to the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA), which will hear the case on June 16.

Ted Renz, member of CB 5, spoke out against the Knockdown Center, located at 52-19 Flushing Ave., getting a liquor license on the basis that it is located within the Maspeth Industrial business zone (IBZ). By allowing the Knockdown Center to operate with a liquor license, Renz believes it will further damage the IBZ by encouraging other non-industrial institutions to move into IBZ spaces.

“Earlier this month, the Land Use Committee voted 6 to 2 to deny this request,” Renz said. “I want to urge you to vote with the Land Use Committee to not recommend this position.”

Jean Tanler, director of Industrial Business Development at the Business Outreach Center network and coordinator for Maspeth Industrial Business Association, wants to keep the Maspeth IBZ strictly for industrial use.

“New York City has a well-documented shortage of industrial land and inappropriate uses such as an entertainment venue with a liquor license, [spurring] the further loss of industrial manufacturing businesses to speculation,” Tanler said. “I respectfully urge the community board to deny the Knockdown Center’s application for a liquor license, since it would create a competing commercial use in a designated IBZ and undermine the city’s industrial policy.”

Michael Merck, co-director of the Knockdown Center, supported the center’s stance on getting a liquor license.

“Since August of 2012, we’ve hosted over 50 events, projects and exhibitions on temporary permits which in turn support the work of nearly 1,000 individuals and organizations. The reality of all this is that all of our exhibitions and many of our events are free to the public,” Merck said. “And all of our community events, fundraisers, etcetera are free to the presenting organizations, but the cost to us is a minimum of several thousand dollars, with our budgets for special projects often exceeding $10,000.”

Merck believes that a liquor license would allow the Knockdown Center to recuperate some of those funds, and allow the institution to provide even more special projects and events to be shared with the community.

Gianna Cerbone Teoli, president of the board of trustees of the Queens Council on the Arts, believes the Knockdown Center can become a hub of arts and culture in the Maspeth area.

“Understand that you have the power to make this into a positive entity for culture and arts,” Teoli told the members of the board. “The 104th Precinct, there’s no speculation upon this, they’ve actually said that they have handled the first three events amazingly with no problems whatsoever … you have a group of people here with a passion beyond belief for bringing artists from other areas and they are paying for them to come into their facility.”

In the end, the board voted 29-12 in favor of the Land Use Committee’s recommendation against the Knockdown Center’s liquor license application.

Elections for executive committee positions on the board were also held during the meeting. All members of the executive committee retained their positions. Patricia Grayson, Fred Haller, John Maier and Ted Renz were all elected as members-at-large for the board.

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