Queens Community Board 5 votes to oppose proposed locations for cannabis dispensaries due to proximity to schools

queens community board
Photo by Anthony Medina

Queens Community Board 5 (CB 5) officially voted to oppose all three applications for legal adult-use cannabis dispensaries during its meeting at Christ the King High School in Middle Village, on Wednesday, Nov. 8. 

As a follow-up to the Community Board 5 Liquor License and Cannabis Committee meeting held last week, board members heard again from the public regarding the proposed sites for the state’s conditional adult-use retail dispensary applicants and moved to vote on the matter once and for all. 

Once the Liquor License and Cannabis Committee report was shared with the board, a motion to oppose the proposed dispensary sites was forwarded by the committee chair, who specified the reasoning for the opposition. 

Community Board 5 Chair Vincent Arcuri, Jr. called what the CAURD applicants were doing “blockbusting,” considering the dispensary owners come from a real estate background. Photo by Anthony Medina

The proximity of the proposed location for dispensary applicant Da Vinci Leaf LLC, located on  70-24 Myrtle Ave., to Forte Preparatory Academy Charter School — where Redeemer Lutheran School operated for years at 69-26 Cooper Ave. in Glendale — was the reason for the opposition.

Much of the opposition shared regarding this location, both from the public and the board, also made mention of the McDonald’s located right next to the proposed site — a traffic hub for both cars and pedestrians. 

For the applications for proposed cannabis dispensary sites on 64-01 Grand Ave. and 63-09 Flushing Ave. the community board voted to oppose based on the proximity to St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy, located at 61-17 Grand Ave. in Maspeth.

The three applicants for 56-40 Myrtle Ave., which were also listed in the committee meeting’s agenda last week, had withdrawn their applications ahead of the committee meeting, according to District Manager Gary Giordano. All three applications were from one family with the same last name. 

According to Giordano, after contact was established with the property owner through the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District, it was discovered that the owner was not interested in offering the site to the dispensary applicants. Furthermore, there were no discussions with the property owner regarding renting the building to those applicants. 

Giordano also called the locations “ridiculous” and sided with the committee’s recommendation to oppose the proposed dispensaries. 

Community Board 5 Chair Vincent Arcuri, Jr. also asked the board to fight against the proposed sites and called what the dispensary applicants seem to be “blockbusting.”

“If you listen to the people who came to the public meeting last week, all these guys are in the real estate business. It sounds like an old-fashioned blockbusting move —  to get all you people upset so you sell your houses — because no one’s selling their houses now,” said Arcuri, Jr. “We live in too great of a community. Affordable public transit is there, we have all the highways and everything, so it sounds like they’re trying to do blockbusting through a new way.”

The community board’s decision to oppose the state’s applicants for cannabis dispensary sites comes after months of deliberations. Attention from members of the public and local legislators alike has brought to question the state’s Office of Cannabis Management and what sort of regulations are being kept. 

Council Member Robert Holden condemned the placement of cannabis dispensaries in his district, citing key issues with their placement in the proximity of schools and religious institutions. 

“The legalization of recreational cannabis by the State brought forth a new era of commerce and personal freedom, yet it’s imperative that we, as a community, retain a strong voice in determining the location of these shops,” Holden said. “When we have proposed dispensaries within a stone’s throw of our educational institutions, places where our young ones learn and grow; adjacent to houses of worship, the bedrock of our communal lives; and along the main paths that our teenagers and children traverse daily, it is our duty to say ‘not here.’ The sanctity and safety of our community’s spaces must not be compromised.”

Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar, Council Member Joann Ariola, state Sen. Joesph P. Addabbo, Jr., and Holden all signed a letter against the proposed dispensary on 70-24 Myrtle Ave. in October. The letter calls onto the reason why the board voted to oppose and also mentioned the location’s proximity to P.S. 91 and PS/IS 119. 

Holden would also pen a letter in October regarding the two locations on Flushing and Grand avenues, with emphasis on their proximity to Saint Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy and the Mosaic Pre-K Center. 

Ahead of the businesses regarding the dispensaries, which generated a larger crowd than usual on a meeting night, was a presentation given by regarding the City of Yes for Economic Opportunity City-Wide Zoning Text Amendment proposed by the NYC Department of City Planning.

In the presentation given by Derek Jasmin, from the Department of City Planning, one of the goals of the agency includes removing restrictions on where businesses can be located. The agency claims the removal of these restrictions for businesses would make it easier for businesses to establish themselves in commercial and residential areas. 

Board members shared concerns over the city’s plans, with those who spoke claiming the impact on the quality-of-life for heavily populated residential neighborhoods would be substantial. 

The City of Yes will be discussed further in the community board’s Land Use Committee meeting expected to take place on Monday, Dec. 11, but the public is encouraged to check the CB 5 website for further information. 

One stand-out suggestion from a board member during the meeting was the implementation of a possible Social Media Committee, which could see the board becoming more active on social media platforms. The board’s Executive Committee would need to review the suggestion before it’s put to a vote. 

The next CB 5 meeting will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 13.