Below is an insightful comment left by former Community Board Member 6 and fellow blogger Barbara Brookhart on the post "Community "Business" Board 6 Sticks It To Hoyt & Bond Residents." It adds a very interesting viewpoint to a discussion that is long overdue between the C.B.6 and the community it represents.
I was a member of CB# 6 for many years, and have nothing but respect for the Board. But a lot of very knowledgeable people with a lot of service to the Board were purged recently, including myself; so I haven't had experience with the current Board and members. I do think that complaints from community groups should be taken seriously and receive a fair hearing by the Board.
Since I started attending Board meetings as a community member in the late 80s, my major complaint was that sometime members could be pretty arrogant when the public didn’t understand their complicated procedural rules. Often, the public thinks that they can go to a general board meeting to speak about an issue that they just heard about, and when they get there, they are frustrated to find that they are not allowed to speak. And it was too late to express their views at the appropriate committee meeting where they are allowed to speak.
To make the approval process for liquor licenses more transparent, I recommend: firstly, that the Board, which has little to no experience approving liquor licenses, develop guidelines so that community groups know upfront what criteria they are using to approve/decline a liquor application. Other boards throughout Manhattan have been approving liquor licenses for years and may have guidelines. I know that Manhattan Community Boards 4 & 6 have a full page of licenses that they approve each meeting.
Secondly, I think that the previous use was a "community faculty" type of use such as a doctor's office. This is a quite different use than a bar and restaurant, which will soon come to the Board to request outdoors tables.
Thirdly, isn't this a residential block that already has a bar on the corner with outside tables. Why is allowing a second bar on a residential block an appropriate use?
Fourthly, the applicant is certainly a pioneering restaurateur on Smith Street, but all of his restaurant have outside sitting areas, either in front or the backyard, with people outside on the sidewalk smoking and talking, and the backyard serving area being adjacent to residential buildings.
Fifthly, the vote became personal with CB6 members. The block association wrote a letter to the Board objecting to the process and that they concluded that the rules that the Chair established to run the meeting were not uniformly applied to all participants. Many CB6 members took this letter as an insult to the committe char and the Board and made reference to this letter as a reason not to consider community concerns.
Sixthly, the community board needs to consider how bar and restaurant noise and smoke affect the adjacent residents, residential property values. Who would buy a house adjacent from the Gowanus Yacht Club?
CB6 members suggested that there are other eating establishments with full liquor licenses at other similar locations in the area (Henry St.) that seem to work well in the community. But there are also bars such as the Gowanus Yacht Club in a courtyard with a commercial on the corner of Smith and President Streets, which abuts a residential area. The Club, which I believe is also owned by the liquor license applicant, is a totally outdoor venue in a courtyard with no indoor seating, and is not an appropriate use for that corner. I realize it is popular, but it is not only noisy with people outside on the sidewalk smoking, but its beach club motif is totally out-of-character and inappropriate in a brownstone neighborhood.
Seventhly, it appears that the Board gave more weight to a few residents that approved having the restaurant and bar, than the block association's petition of about 300 names against the approval of the license.
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