Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"Rock And Roll Playhouse": More Details About Peter Shapiro's New Gowanus Venue

Photo credit: Googlemaps.com
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280 Bond Street
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Warehouse building at 280 Bond Street
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View of open garage, which will be used as outdoor space by venue

On Monday,  I posted  about the Rock And Roll Playhouse, a new venture by Peter Shapiro, which is slated to open later in 2013 in Gowanus.  RRPH will feature children's music programing by day, family programing and shows in the evening, followed by evening jazz performances at night. In addition, Blue Ribbon Restaurants will be serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Yesterday evening, I received an email from Shapiro and the Rock And Roll Playhouse with a letter to the community, which provides additional information regarding the new business at 280 Bond Street, between Sackett and Degraw Streets.
I am reprinting the letter in full below.
May 20, 2013

Dear Community,
The Rock and Roll Playhouse (RRPH) is a new business located at 280 Bond Street in Brooklyn, which we expect will open to the public later this year. We are currently under construction on site with a number of improvements to the interior and exterior of the building, and wanted to take this opportunity to share more details about the eventual programming of the RRPH.

The RRPH was created on the premise that all people are musical and that families should have a space where they can enjoy music together. Our team is comprised of people with diverse backgrounds in education and music who have come together with the goal of creating a new and better type of destination for families. Our education team has developed specific programming for RRPH that emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach, using music as the core while simultaneously encouraging cognitive, physical, emotional and language development skills. 
Developmentally appropriate programming has been created for four age ranges: Babies (under 1 year old), Little Rockers (2-4 years old), Rockers (5-7 years old) and Big Rockers (8-10 years old). We expect RRPH will offer over 20 different programs for the different age groups including: Beatles for Babies, Little Rockers, Rockers, and Big Rockers; Reggae for Babies and Little Rockers; Rock and Roll Storytime for Little Rockers; a theatrical Rock and Roll Stories for Rockers; World Music for all age groups; Drawing Rock and Roll; and Introductory programs focused on Songwriting, Guitar, Percussion and Keyboards. 
In addition to such specific programming, the RRPH will also offer an area for children to play in both our outdoor garden and our indoor main space. These spaces will have play equipment from Imagination Playground and Feel Good Designs, which we expect will create a beautiful and stimulating environment for families of all ages. The outdoor courtyard will be transformed from what is currently a concrete truck parking lot to a grass covered lawn with Willow and Juniper Trees.
Family friendly shows will be offered before 8 p.m. to our customers. Those shows will include musical performances, theatrical performances, and special shows presented by the children participating in our programs.
During the evenings, we also plan to host adult workshops and will work with members of our education team to develop programming for adults. Examples of adult programs include talks and workshops led by prominent artists about music, film, and the arts, and we are currently developing the curriculum for an adult version of Rock History Workshop.
Following the daytime activities and traditional family dinner hours, we also hope to use the play space as a seated venue where adults can enjoy jazz and educationalprogramming. The capacity for seated events will be approximately 96 persons (total legal capacity for the building 182). We will not begin the evening jazz performances until after the RRPH has successfully opened and become part of the community. We will work closely with the community on the timing and nature on the evening jazz programming. 
We are also pleased to be partnering with our friends at the acclaimed Blue Ribbon Restaurants to operate the food and beverage at the RRPH. The RRPH will be serving breakfast, lunch and dinner and feature an approachable menu highlighted by children friendly ingredients that allows parents the flexibility to choose healthy meals for their families.
Peter Shapiro, the owner of the RRPH, began development of a family-focused destination for the enjoyment of music two years ago after seeing first-hand how much families enjoy afternoon Family Bowl at Brooklyn Bowl, a business he founded in Williamsburg. A father of two young children, Peter is a both a businessman and an active member of the communities in which he lives and does business. Besides Brooklyn Bowl and the RRPH, he is responsible for a number of businesses which involve music, including Jazz and Colors in Central Park, Relix magazine, and The Capitol Theater. After an extensive search for an appropriate site for the RRPH, Peter signed a lease for the disused space at 280 Bond Street in October 2011. 
We are eager to be good neighbors and work with the Carroll Gardens/Gowanus communities to ensure that the RRPH is a unique and valued asset to the families in the neighborhood. To that end we have identified local vendors and craftsman to assist with the renovation of the space, dialogued with members of the community to understand their concerns, paid careful attention to the layout and structure of the space to ensure that it addresses those concerns, including considerable effort with professionals regarding noise reduction and attenuation construction and materials. 
We are excited to bring this family-friendly space to the neighborhood and appreciate the support we have received from those we have shared our plans with. We look forward to becoming a valued member of the community.  If you have any questions, please email us at: community@therockandrollplayhouse.com. 
Sincerely,  The Rock and Roll Playhouse Team
Because the team stated in their email to me that Peter would be more than happy to answer questions, I took the opportunity to ask him if he would consider using this particular site for music classes and activities for families without the late night jazz club.
His reply:
"Family friendly programming has always been the primary focus of The Rock and Roll Playhouse. "Jazz at The Rock and Roll Playhouse" is an idea we thought would be a fun and positive asset to the community and compliment our Blue Ribbon dinner service when the kids are asleep. When we initially open, we do not plan to host jazz performances at night. We look forward to exploring when to begin hosting evening Jazz performances with the input of the community." 
It's encouraging that Peter Shapiro will seek input from the community. Since the warehouse building on Bond Street abuts residential buildings, the late night portion of Shapiro's plan will certainly impact the lives of the families who live just steps away. Understandably, residents of those neighboring homes have expressed serious concerns about the Playhouse.
They have recently formed We are Gowanus and are currently collecting signatures here.

I forwarded RRPH's Community letter to We Are Gowanus  and asked the group for a response. 
Here is WAG's rebuttal :



May 21, 2013

Dear Community,

Peter Shapiro is talking about childhood education, but he’s building a nightclub. His latest letter shows how disingenuous he really is in dealing with the neighborhood’s valid concerns.

To be clear, his own statements to residents and his Department of Building plans show plainly that a nightclub is exactly what Shapiro will install there, if given the opportunity. To recap what we already know: the 21-and-over nightclub would be open 7 days a week, serving alcohol up until approximately 2am. It will be capable of hosting more than 1500 standing patrons at a time.

Few in the area would quibble with Shapiro about opening a children’s school and small restaurant in the neighborhood. Simply put, that is not what he intends to do. Shapiro, in his letter, makes it seem as if children and families are the focus of his new venue, while the nightclub is an afterthought. In truth, Shapiro has it the other way around.

He has meticulously laid out the plans for his nightclub, while little thought has gone into the supposed education facility he describes as providing classes from morning till night. Shapiro’s DOB plans show no hint that a child might ever grace the door of the Rock & Roll Playhouse for any educational pursuit at all. According to officially filed documents, there are no classrooms planned, only mezzanine offices that propose to hold a maximum of 6 people. It must be assumed then, that instruction will occur interspersed amid patrons consuming food in the Theater space, where they will be offered breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. At 8pm, the 21-and-over crowd takes over and will be served alcohol up to 2am.

In fact, there are no child-sized toilets planned for the venue, nor does anything else seem specifically child oriented in the filings or conversations that the neighbors have had with RRPH representatives. Has Shapiro begun the laborious process of city certification and insurance to open this day school? We have no evidence of that.

The truth is that Shapiro has little understanding of what it would take to open a school in the location because he doesn’t really intend on opening one — except as a wedge to gain a full liquor license for a 21-and-over club. Let’s be honest here. What is the moneymaker for Shapiro, the man who brought New York the famed Wetlands and is currently franchising his deservedly popular and industrially situated Brooklyn Bowl? Is he really aiming to pack 280 Bond with tykes dancing to “Beatles for Babies,” or does he hope for hundreds of 21-year-olds with disposable cash drinking until 2am? The answer seems clear.

If you have any questions or would like to support our organization, please email us at wearegowanus@gmail.com.

Sincerely, We Are Gowanus                                                    




22 comments:

Anonymous said...

This project still REEKS. There are plenty of non-residential areas locally where this will fit, and not be disruptive to the fabric of a community. Good luck to Mr. Shapiro and the Bromberg brothers when they wind up elsewhere.

Mom said...

I think it sounds great! Admittedly, I don't live next door to where it will be, but it sounds like there's a lot of potential for it to be a fun place for kids, families and adults. I am confused about the discrepancy between the info in Peter's email and the response from We Are Gowanus, e.g. capacity of 182 vs. 1500 and plans for outdoor play equipment vs. nothing "specifically child oriented." Bk Bowl is full of kids and Peter welcomes them. This new venture sounds like it will be in line with other local kid-friendly/focused music spots, like Littlefield, Spoke the Hub and the BK Music Factory.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like "We Are Gowanus" is clearly made up of a group of residents who are so caught up in their "Not In My Backyard" attitude and perspective that they are fabricating their own lies in the face of a new neighbor who actually wants to do something interesting and exciting in the neighborhood. Mr. Shapiro has conceived of some of the finest and most respectable music venues in the area with minimal disruption to his neighbors. As a neighbor of Brooklyn Bowl, a parent, and someone who frequents the venue, I am aware of his occasional weekend programming for kids, which has generated tremendous interest and resulted in some really memorable family oriented experiences. It seems totally plausible that Mr. Shapiro would take this concept to the next level and open a music venue and music education program for kids and their families in a neighborhood such as this. I realize it is uncommon in the music industry, but Mr. Shapiro has always seemed like an upstanding business person, and he has given his new neighbors no reason to distrust his motives to such an extent. I say stop being curmudgeons and form a coalition against something more detrimental to our quality of life than a fun and exciting music venue and playspace for families. These people will probably be the first in line once the place opens and they realize how foolishly they have been behaving.

Anonymous said...

There are no juniper trees, only juniper bushes.
Where is he getting all this bs from? Why doesn't he partner with music together? Who exactly are the music educators and when did they begin designing this "school"? Who are they and what are their credentials? How does blue ribbon expect to make money serving breakfast ? I can't see anyone just dropping their kid off without any information?
More info like a business plan. Music teachers? It's all too vague.

Anonymous said...

better start fighting this now -- especially permit for alcohol sales.

Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic concept.. and why would anyone invest in something like this in a "non-residential" area? how is that productive for giving the kids something safe and close to home? the only thing this page supports is putting poop tanks in our playgrounds..

Anonymous said...

Music Together is a bore. I have a feeling this is going to be great. All the skeptics and naysayers and chronic complainers can join together in their state of incurable misery while everyone else in the neighborhood and their kids are enjoying themselves. Is this Brooklyn or the Upper West Side? Get over yourselves!

Anonymous said...

Most of my best teenage memories happened at the Wetlands. I'm very excited that this project is coming to my neighborhood, and that I will be able to share it with my daughter.

Anonymous said...

Pete Shapiro is a decent guy. Businessman? Yes. Out to harm families or communities? Not the guy I know. All neighborhood concerns are valid but don't start by parsing everyone of his and his project's statements for 'gotcha's'. Or do that, but it doesn't really help, unless you want to feel clever.

Anonymous said...

If it is in fact a kids venue, then there is no reason for him to be applying for a liquor license or staying open until 2am.

musical mom said...

The idea of a music venue is great, but there are plenty of spaces available to create such a place and still preserve the quality of life that we all enjoy. Why Mr. Shapiro decided to create this venue in the middle of a residential block? It will be open 7 days a week until 1:30 and 2AM. How many families and kids will not be able to get a good night sleep? Why not choose one of the many interesting industrial buildings around Union and 3rd street.

It is silly to think that we cannot have both.

musical mom said...

The idea of a music venue is great, but there are plenty of spaces available to create such a place and still preserve the quality of life that we all enjoy. Why Mr. Shapiro decided to create this venue in the middle of a residential block? It will be open 7 days a week until 1:30 and 2AM. How many families and kids will not be able to get a good night sleep? Why not choose one of the many interesting industrial buildings around Union and 3rd street?

It is silly to think that we cannot have both.

Anonymous said...

Sure. Music for kids is fun. Who could complain about that? This neighborhood is full of families and would welcome a daytime place to go with the kids. That's not the point. The proposed venue is a kid place by day and a nightclub by night.

280 Bond Street has been in a residential zone since the early 20th century. Peter Shapiro is able to build a commercial business--a late-night restaurant and live music venue--only because the building is "grandfathered" in because of a prior non-conforming (i.e. non-residential) use. (Most recent use was as a daytime-only plumber's shop.) Basically, he's slipping this into a desirable, residential area because of complicated loopholes in the zoning rules.

As other posters have said, there are much more appropriate places for such a venue. Even across the street, which has a different zoning designation, would be better because it would not not be right next to existing houses.

"Not in my backyard" is right. It should not be in anybody's back yard. It's really as simple as that.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if it is a NIMBY thing or not but for sure this M. Shapiro is not honest. the initial letter sent to the residents (in the earlier post) doesn't mention a music venue at night. Using the excuse of kids classes to instead do business with 21 y o +, this is all but honestly.
if he was so into being a good neighbor I guess he would have put his projects upfront.
Let him do those kids classes. Just don't give him a liquor license. We will then see if he is really into doing business in the neighborhood!

Anonymous said...

That location has at least a dozen homes that will back up to that building both on DeGraw and Sackett Sts. During the day the ambient noise is rather high anyway. But those 30-40 families will have to forego the simple pleasure of opening a window at night and getting a spring or summer breeze or endure music until 2am. Yes the area could use a business infusion but not at the expense of its neighbors. This coming from someone who has been here before Smith st became the "restaurant row" it is now. Along with this vibrant business comes drunks fighting at 3am, people urinating on my stairs, smoking weed. Sounds like a diminished quality of life to me.

Anonymous said...

Peter Shapiro's track record spans nearly 2 decades. He has proven repeatedly that he an upstanding member of the community who is honest and decent to his neighbors. I just don't get why some posters on this blog automatically assume that he is lying and acting in bad faith.

When The Rock and Roll Playhouse opens and it is as Shapiro said it would be, i.e., a music space for families, and not a 1,500 person night club, will my neighbors who call themselves "We are Gowanus" have the decency to apologize to Peter and his colleagues for all of their caustic, false and irresponsible accusations?

Anonymous said...

I live in the area and am honestly trying to look at both sides of this issue. I do not understand where the jump occurs from Shapiro stating the capacity is from 96 people seated - 182 total and We are Gowanus stating 600 seated to 1500 standing. Where is WAG getting these numbers from?

Anonymous said...

The Bell House on the other side of the Gowanus is approx the same size and only has a capacity of 500 people total (in both spaces).

Anonymous said...

I'm not 100% sure, but I believe the WAG numbers for occupancy come from the DOB filings. What I do know is that the people behind the WAG group are not anti-development, or even anti-bar or restaurant. what happened here was that they were told one thing -- children's space -- and then when they dug deeper (looking at DOB filings and meeting with Shapiro) they learned of the "music 7 nights a week" (per Shapiro) and request for 2 a.m. liquor license. I was on the fence about this issue but now really believe that what Shapiro is doing is wrong. Choosing to locate your bowling bar in an industrial part of Williamsburg was clearly a good idea. Deciding to put a late night bar on a SOLELY residential block? If he didn't expect major blow-back, he's gotten a bit too cocky.

PM Stanton said...

There is a very false ring to most of the supportive anonymous posts on this thread. Having significant experience with staffs assigned to pretend to be concerned citizens in the past, I wonder why these "neighbors" would oppose questioning unsupported claims by a business changing their story with each new revelation. THere is no limit to new construction, businesses, and growth in the neighborhood, with little NIMBY concern. It is not unreasonable to ask for proof that this is an educational space, that the hours/caoacity/intentions are reasonable, and that previous venues in industrial zones are any justification for a mid-block, residential location for a disco eith more attendees than Studio 54.

Anonymous said...

I also do not think it is unreasonable to ask where WAG is getting the information that this is going to be a 1500 person nightclub. There seems to be no one willing to answer that. And like I said, I live in the area... I do not have anything to do with Mr Shapiro. But I would like to know why everyone is automatically assuming the worst.

PM Stanton said...

I agree that we need to be certain about the 1500 number, but in a careful reading of the letters, it seems they could both be true. Rock & Roll Playhouse's letter states "legal capacity for the building 182" (which sounds like INSIDE) and WAG states "capable of hosting more than 1500 standing patrons" (which sounds like OUTSIDE). If they are both "factual," WAG's complaints are reasonable and R&RP is trying to delude us. But again, that 1500 documentation (or even 500+) would confirm the negative risks.