Astoria bar’s application for sidewalk cafe spurs debate about congestion on Ditmars Blvd.

Photo courtesy of Instagram/The Pomeroy

A request for an outdoor cafe permit at a Community Board 1 (CB 1) meeting in Astoria turned into a larger discussion about the congestion along Ditmars Boulevard on Tuesday.

The Pomeroy, a bar and grill located at 36-12 Ditmars Blvd. and co-owned by Lady Gaga’s childhood friend Bo O’Connor, requested approval for an unenclosed sidewalk cafe consisting of eight tables and 16 chairs.

After receiving numerous complaints from nearby residents including excessive noise, trash such as cigarette butts and vomit littering the sidewalks and patrons blocking entrances to nearby apartments, the board agreed that owners must agree to stipulations, including meeting with the 114th Precinct Community Affairs Unit every three months, before making a decision.

“We want to be good neighbors so [the stipulations are] not unreasonable,” said co-owner Michael McGuire.

Other business owners and residents expressed concern that the already-crowded Ditmars Boulevard would not be pedestrian friendly if this application were approved.

Nicholas Vagenas, the owner of American Woodworking Company at 36-10 Ditmars Blvd. for 42 years, said large crowds gather outside of the restaurant every night, creating excessive noise and littering in front of his business.

He collected 20 notarized letters from businesses, property owners and tenants opposed to the application, including the owner of Magic Nails at 36-14 Ditmars Blvd., the owner of the Fabric Center at 36-04 Ditmars Blvd. and the owner of the building at 36-08 Ditmars Blvd.

“They would be ruining the serenity and changing the value of our neighborhood,” the letter read.

He distributed pictures to the board of crowds congregating in front of the restaurant.

“Look at the crowds,” Vagenas said. “They’re smoking at the door until 3 or 4 in the morning.”

There were also concerns about the size of the storefront and the owner’s ability to fit eight tables on the sidewalk.

The owner of the Fabric Center at 36-04 Ditmars Blvd. said the board should recommend to deny the application because the proliferation of unenclosed sidewalk cafes make it harder for pedestrians to get around.

“It’s very crowded,” he said. “By allowing so many restaurants to put tables outside, pedestrians cannot walk in because it’s crowded.”

Sheila Morris, a lifelong Astoria resident, asked board members if they have recently tried walking down Ditmars Boulevard.

“Have you been there lately?” Morris said. “You cannot even walk.”

CB 1 board member Mary O’Hara said the board should step back and think about the number of applications they recommend to approve. On the same night, the board approved two other applications for unenclosed sidewalk cafes for Ditmars Boulevard.

“I’m afraid from this night’s activity and approvals we’re declaring war on our pedestrians,” O’Hara said. “We have so many people — the elderly population, walkers, carts, strollers with young children. I just think that at this point we have to kind of stop and step back.”

The board recommended to approve an amended application — instead of eight tables and 16 chairs, they recommended four tables and eight chairs.

“I don’t want to obstruct the sidewalk and I don’t want to obstruct my neighbors,” McGuire said. “That’s not good for business.”

One resident, Blake Rice, who lives upstairs from The Pomeroy, said the owners have been good neighbors.

“The owners introduced themselves to myself and my roommates and they said if there is ever any noise we’d love to work with you. We can do whatever you’d like us to [do] to be quiet if we’re ever too noisy,” Rice said. “That hasn’t been the case ever.”

The Department of Consumer Affairs will ultimately make the final decision whether to deny or approve The Pomeroy’s application.


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