By Sarina Trangle

Maspeth wants to halt the hipsters.

In response to an art center’s application for a cabaret and liquor license on Flushing Avenue, residents began circulating a memo headlined “Warning, up to 5,000 drinking hipsters are coming to Maspeth.”

After using temporary permits to host events in the former glass factory, at 52-19 Flushing Ave., Knockdown Center has applied for a permanent liquor and cabaret license and taken steps to receive a public assembly certification authorizing the admission of up to 5,000 people.

Knockdown Center management said the facility would host classes, residences and exhibits featuring work from several mediums, as well as rent out the venue for private parties. Its temporary events have included everything from a “bring your own beamer,” which invites attendees to bring a video projector, and showcase films, to the opening of a mini golf course comprised of sculptor-commissioned holes.

Before voting to send a letter opposing Knockdown Center’s application to the state Liquor Authority March 12, Community Board 5 members said they feared the venue would draw young partiers from north Brooklyn, grow too noisy for nearby residents and infringe on the Maspeth Industrial Business Zone.

“Anybody in the community that lives in that general vicinity should be alarmed. This is a blueprint for disaster,” said Robert Holden, a CB 5 member and president of the Juniper Park Civic Association.

Soon Maspeth residents were deriding the project as a hipster magnet on Facebook.

The term “hipster” is often associated with gentrification, particularly in neighborhoods like Brooklyn’s Williamsburg and Bushwick, where an influx of younger people have ushered in more bars and restaurants while edging out traditional inhabitants and manufacturing sites.

Myers said he thought “hipster” did not have a common definition and had evolved into a general pejorative.

“I don’t think pejoratively about our potential clientele,” he said, noting that Knockdown sought to attract people of all ages and backgrounds. “It’s part of our mandate to make sure we reach whatever audiences possible.”

He said the cabaret and liquor license would permit Knockdown Center to serve beer during literary readings or host openings modeled after the MoMA PS1 museum, which feature DJs and wine.

The permits would be necessary for Knockdown Center to host weddings and private parties, which Myers said would help finance the group’s philanthropic work. Knockdown Center plans to collaborate with Queens Council on the Arts to offer artists free studio space.

Myers anticipated the venue reaching its capacity once or twice a month.

Although Knockdown Center is in the Maspeth IBZ, which was established in 2006 as a way for the city to protect manufacturing districts by pledging not to alter the zoning and using tax incentives to lure in new businesses, Myers said the project would not require any zoning changes.

The city Department of Buildings has signed off on Knockdown Center’s plans to expand the bathrooms and add entrances and exits to accommodate more people. If the construction meets DOB standards, Myers said the department would issue a public access permit for 5,000 people.

Because IBZs seek to secure prior zoning, areas like the Maspeth IBZ, which are in M-1 districts, may still house warehouses, truck terminals, storage facilities, private clubs, fraternal organizations, lodge halls, offices and other venues not traditionally considered industrial.

The breadth of construction potential in IBZs can motivate owners to profit by selling to residential developers.

Jean Tanler, coordinator of the Maspeth Industrial Business Association, said she thought the Knockdown Center’s role as an entertainment center with a liquor license did not comply with the mission of the IBZ.

“Since many manufacturers can’t keep up with speculative real estate prices, they are frequently pushed out of the city, taking good, well-paying jobs with them. The Knockdown Center undermines the city’s industrial policy, driving businesses and jobs with career mobility out of the city,” she wrote in an e-mail.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@cnglocal.com.

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