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Cafe/bakery with backyard seeks compromise, as it seeks wine/beer license

Faye Hess and Jonathan Stirling at 51st Bakery & Cafe

Faye Hess and Jonathan Stirling at 51st Bakery & Cafe

April 24, By Christian Murray

The operators of a café/bakery that opened on 51st Street in December seek a wine and beer license—yet face long odds.

Jonathan Stirling and Faye Hess want a wine & beer license where they are still permitted to use their rear yard. They want to operate it until 8:30 pm each day. However, they are pushing the envelope, since Community Board 2 has rejected virtually all Hunters Point applicants seeking a liquor license accompanied with a yard in recent years. The reason cited: noise.

Faye, whose business is located at 5-33 51st Avenue café and is aptly named 51st Bakery & Cafe, said she is in search of a compromise. She wants to set up 4 outdoor tables, accompanied by 16 chairs, through to 8:30 pm.

Stirling and Faye live four doors down from the café and have been residents of Long Island City for the past 18 years. They once owned a café—called LIC Brick– where Café Enrique is today.

Hess said that the couple has 250 signatures supporting their quest for the wine and beer license, with 38 signatures coming from the immediate block. Hess said she is almost always on site, working there more than 70 hours a week.

“I’m not interested in creating a space that causes any kind of ruckus,” she said at a recent community board meeting. “I’m too old to ever have a late night place.”

The application has left the community board in a bind and the members want to review it further.

“If anyone seems like they are not going to be a problem, it’s them,” said Patrick O’Brien, who is the chairman of City Service/Public Safety Committee who oversees licenses. “Small place, closes at 8:30 pm, good track record, seem serious and responsible,” he said.

However, “We strive for consistency and we have to treat people fairly,” O’Brien said. “The community board is here to reflect the community as a whole and the community as a whole has spoken,” he said.

“This [policy] is the product of multiple public hearings and all kinds of inflamed discussions,” O’Brien said. “Until the tide turns it is kind of difficult.”

Hess said that the tide is turning as people learn about the issue. She said that many people don’t know anything about the issue or about the community board. “Therefore, there are a few well-heard voices who are speaking for the majority of us, who go to the meetings,” she said.

“I feel bad for the people on the [community] board who have to make these decisions while all the change is going on in Long Island City,” Hess said. “It can’t be easy.”

However, Hess said that she is confident that she will be able to reach a compromise with the board. She said that she will be in discussions with board in early May.

Rear yard (winter photo)

Rear yard (winter photo)



Gourmet food store and urgent care facility to open on 50th Avenue

50-01 2nd Street

50-01 2nd Street

April 24, By Christian Murray

A large gourmet food store and an urgent care facility will be opening on the ground floor of the newly-developed Gantry Park Landing complex, a 199-unit apartment building located at 2-14 50th Avenue.

The gourmet store, to be called Urban Market, will be leasing about 7,500 square feet and will offer fresh meat and seafood, pastries, prepared foods and other items, according to a press release issued by The Lightstone Group, the developer. The market is expected to open by the end of this year.

Meanwhile. an urgent medical care center– North Shore-LIJ– is expected to open early 2015.

The building will contain three commercial tenants in total. An upscale coffee, tea and wine bar– called Beans, Grapes and Leaves– is expected to open this year, taking a small space within the complex.

Residential apartments in the building are also now fully leased, according to the developer. The apartments went on the market in July, with rents starting at $1,875 for a studio, $2,450 for a one-bedroom and $3,250 for a two-bedroom.

“The draw for a more boutique community on the waterfront was quite evident,” said David Lichtenstein, Chairman and CEO of The Lightstone Group, in a statement. “We also designed it to include commercial space as an amenity to the building to help bring together this integrated lifestyle concept.”


Dog Island City to leave Hunters Point, moving to Court Square

Dog Island city

April 23, By Christian Murray

Dog Island City, which has been located at 5-29 50th Avenue for the past five years, is moving to Court Square.

Lidia Lozovsky, the owner of Dog Island City, said she is moving in order to be in a much larger space. Her current store is about 600 square feet, while the new space at 27-18 44th Drive will be about 1,000 square feet, she said.

The move, which was first reported by LICCourtSquare blog, is expected to take place in June. Lozovsky doesn’t believe there is a new tenant to take over her current 50th Avenue space once she departs.

Lozovsky said she sells general pet supplies and offers grooming, doggie day care and cat sitting.

Her new location will on 44th Drive near the corner of Jackson Avenue, by the Burger Garage. The space is currently under construction.

“I’m excited by the move,” Lozovsky said. “I think I’m moving to the up-and-coming section of long island City.”

Next door to Burger Garage

Dog Island City moving into site next to Burger Garage (pre demolition)

Vernon Blvd pizzeria opening next month, without use of backyard

Tom Blaze inside L'

Tom Blaze, owner of L’inizio

April 22, By Christian Murray

The owner of a new Vernon Boulevard pizzeria said he plans on opening by the end of May.

Tom Blaze, who is opening L’inizio at 47-23 Vernon Boulevard, said he would have opened sooner had he not spent time landscaping his backyard space that he later discovered he was not permitted to use.

Community Board 2 opposed him using his yard, fearing noise, and he was obliged to comply or else the board could have tried to block him from getting a wine and beer license.

Blaze, who had put down paving stones in his yard, was also told by the board to keep his rear doors and windows closed so noise couldn’t escape.

Blaze said he was disappointed with the board since he had 1,300 signatures in support of him using his backyard, including signatures from the property owners who surround him. He said he had also obtained the signatures of most of his surrounding tenants. Those he didn’t have, he said, were because he couldn’t track them down.

However, at a public hearing in Long Island City last month on the use of his backyard, Beth Garrett, who was in attendance with her husband William Garrett, told the board that she had a petition with more than 200 names on it opposed to it. In fact, the majority of the 100 or so who turned up at the hearing were opposed to Vernon Blvd restaurants using their rear yards.

Members of the community board have often said that their decisions are largely based on this type of feedback.

However, several business owners claim that those who oppose back yards are well-organized from years of fighting restaurant owners such as Lounge 47. As a result, there is discussion among some of business owners to form a group to blunt the opposition.

Blaze, who was not aware of any group, said he is now focusing on renovating the interior of his pizzeria, which will feature industrial steel, exposed brick and modern fittings. There will be a 1950s mural hand painted on one of the walls, he said.

“When I open it will be all about pizza,” he said. Then he said he would starting selling panini, cheese platters, cured meats, salads and sandwiches.

Blaze said he will have a designated space for a charcuterie and an area for a mozzarella bar.

Blaze said he will approach the community board in about six months—after he has proven himself to the neighborhood– to see whether it would reconsider allowing him to use the rear yard.

“I want people to come here and see the establishment and to come to their own conclusion as to whether the yard would be a positive thing for the neighborhood,” Blaze said.

“I live down the block and have been in the neighborhood for 49 years,” Blaze said. “I am advocate of the neighborhood and I love this neighborhood, and it hurts me that they are against it when they don’t even know about me or the place.”

Back yard

Back yard (pre-landscaping)

ups advertising sunnyside post-1

Laughing Devil Comedy Club sold, likely to have a new name


April 21, By Michael Florio

The Laughing Devil Comedy Club has been sold and the establishment is expected to undergo a name change.

Paul Italia, Cris Italia and David Kimowitz, who own The Stand Comedy Club & Restaurant in Manhattan, have been managing the 47-38 Vernon Blvd. club for the past month and are in the process of taking ownership of it.

They will be taking the club over from Steve Hofstetter who started the club at the end of 2011. Hofstetter, who left to go to Los Angeles about one year ago, will retain a small share in it.

Paul Italia said the establishment is about to undergo an upgrade–such an interior renovation.

“It is a small location that can seat 45 to 55 people and the layout will remain that way,” he said. “But we want to infuse a lot of what we do at The Stand into this venue.”

“The quality of shows will increase,” Paul Italia said, since he will invite many of the comedians that perform at The Stand. Comics such as Tracy Morgan, Pete Davidson, Jim Gaffigan, Bill Burr and many others have performed at their Manhattan venue.

Over the past month, Italia said some changes have already started to occur, as they have already made slight changes to the menu and have scheduled new comedy shows, with bigger named comics.

“Customers are already getting a taste of what will be coming up,” Italia said.

The three new partners are just waiting for their names to be on the liquor license. Once that is done, they will start the renovation work and roll out a new name. They will host a series of events to kick off their launch, which should come within the next 30-60 days.

Italia and his partners have been in the comedy business for more than 10 years. In 2004, they helped form Cringe Humor, a blog that would promote local comics. That grew into C.H. Entertainment, which would book shows across New York City for up-and-coming comedians.

In the fall of 2012, the three of them opened The Stand. The comedy club can seat 90 people, while the restaurant can seat 55 people.

Hofstetter, who knew them from the comedy business, approached them about the Laughing Devil, which was starting to decline since he had moved out of state, Italia said.

“They started to focus a lot more on amateur shows,” Italia said. “People felt the comedy got a little stale and the quality of the entertainment fell a little bit below what it should be.”

That will no longer be the case, Italia said. He said that they will be well-positioned to bring in quality comics.

“Ideally, I want to put on shows seven days a week,” Italia said. “If I have the shows and the demand then I will have more room for something different.”

A lot of this will depend on the neighborhood, which Italia believes will provide a lot of demand.

Italia, who grew up in Ridgewood and lived in Long Island City from 2005 through 2009, said his Queens background made him realize that the club would work. “We believe in the area. We want to give it everything.”

LIC cabbie crosses RFK Bridge 3,000 times without paying, DA alleges

cabbieApril 18, By Christian Murray

A Long Island City cab driver has been charged for crossing the RFK Bridge more than 3,000 times without paying a dime in tolls.

Rodolfo Sanchez, 69, who faces up to seven years in prison, was been able to get around paying the toll by tailgating the vehicle in front of his cab, which allowed him to pass through the toll lane before the barrier came down. The incidents all occurred between 2012 and 2014.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said that Sanchez had effectively stolen more than $28,000 from the MTA by failing to pay the tolls.

MTA Bridges and Tunnels Chief of Security Donald Look said, “This type of behavior is egregiously unfair to the millions of honest, motorists who pay tolls every day, and we will continue efforts to root out toll evaders and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”

Sanchez has been charged with third-degree grand larceny, theft of services and fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property.

Sanchez, according to the complaint, allegedly had an inactive E-Z Pass in his vehicle that had been reported lost in 2010.

The pass, however, still emitted signals while Sanchez went through the toll, prosecutors said. That’s how investigators discovered that he was getting a free ride.

Investigators looked through security footage and noticed his cab drive through tolls without paying.

MTA unveils Long Island City marketing material


April 17, By Christian Murray

“Experience New York City’s Best Kept Secret.”

That is the slogan touting Long Island City that is going to be plastered on subway trains and in stations for much of this year, while No. 7 train weekend service is down. It will be part of the public service announcement notifying No. 7 train riders that they will be required to use shuttle service on weekends.

The MTA is about to put the public service announcements up at every No. 7 train station and on each No. 7 train , according to Marisa Baldeo, a MTA spokeswoman. It will also be putting the posters up at a number of other stations and on a variety of different train lines, although Baldeo did not know which ones.

The posters–which also refer to Long Island City as “on the grid, under the radar”– are currently at the printer and have not gone up yet. The posters include pictures of MoMA PS1, The Chocolate Factory, The Noguchi Museum, Alobar and LIC Living.

However, the campaign has kicked off online, with marketing material found on the MTA website as well as on screens at stations.

The campaign is the result of a number of local business owners and leaders calling on the MTA to help aid the commercial district. while service is down. The business owners claimed that they would suffer on weekends, since many of their customers could not be able to get to their stores/restaurants.  The MTA agreed to help.

However, the MTA has not provided the community with a shuttle bus—that goes to Grand Central– that has been requested for years.

However, the agency did change its work schedule on the weekend of May 17-18, so people can get to LIC Springs!, the LIC Arts Open and the LICFlea & Food with greater ease.

TF Cornerstone starts leasing latest building, rents range from $2,200 to $6,000

46-10 Center Blvd.

46-10 Center Blvd.

April 17, By Christian Murray

TF Cornerstone has just begun leasing 46-10 Center Boulevard, its sixth and final luxury building on the Long Island City waterfront, with rents ranging from $2,200 to $6,000 per month.

The 26-story tower, which curves around LIC’s famous Pepsi sign, features an array of amenities and outdoor space.

The building, which has 584 units, comes with a fitness center, a landscaped terrace and private garden area. The apartments feature stainless steel appliances, glossy white cabinets, custom closets, wood strip floors, and floor-to-ceiling windows.

However, these luxuries do cost.

Studios are going for between $2,200 to $3,010; Studio Alcoves $2,990 to $3,200; 1 Bedrooms $2,800 to $4,100; 2 Bedrooms $3,890 to $6,100; and 3 Bedrooms $5,705 – $6000.

“The opening of this building is a significant milestone in the history of the New York City waterfront and is a true sign of the area’s immense residential transformation since its days as an industrial hub,” said Sofia Estevez, Executive Vice President for TF Cornerstone.

TF Cornerstone developed and owns 4540, 4545, 4615 and 4720 Center Boulevard.

It also developed 4630 Center Boulevard, a condo building known as “The View.”

Halal cart rolls into Hunters Point, future unknown

street vendor

April 16, By Christian Murray

A bright orange Halal cart set up shop on the sidewalks of Hunters Point this week and it has already drawn the attention of police and one resident.

Navid Ahmed, an Afghani immigrant, rolled onto Vernon Blvd Monday and started cooking gyros—as well as lamb over rice.

However, by Tuesday, he was told by the police that he wasn’t allowed to operate on Vernon Blvd and moved to the corner of 49th Avenue and Vernon, near San Remo Pizza.

Ahmed had operated his Halal cart in Jamaica until he arrived in Hunters Point this week. He said he knew of Long Island City from his days driving a cab and said: “I believe it is a great place for business.”

Ahmed plans to stay in his Vernon Blvd/49th Ave location for at least two weeks and if he does well he will stay. “I plan to be open from 12 pm to 9 pm every day,” Ahmed said.

However, Ahmed has already got detractors. One resident was photographing his license on the side of his cart and said she was going to call 311 to complain.

“That pizzeria pays thousands of dollars in rent each month and he just sets up there,” said Pat, who refused to provide her last name. “I have lived here my entire life and that is not right.”

Meanwhile, Community Board 2 Chairman Joe Conley said that he had not had an opportunity to check out the cart and did not comment on its legality.  However, the board has been very strict in interpreting the laws governing such vendors. Recently, the board was instrumental in forcing many food cart operators out of Sunnyside.

Woodbines, which took over from Lounge 47, to construct an extension over rear yard space

47-10 Vernon Blvd

Woodbines, 47-10 Vernon Blvd

April 15, By Christian Murray

Woodbines, the gastropub that took over the space that was once home to Lounge 47, has plans to expand.

Pat Burke, who opened Woodbines last August, said he wants to build an enclosed space that covers the entire rear yard, which was once used as a backyard space by Lounge 47.

When Burke opened Woodbines, he agreed that he would not use the rear yard space, given the long war that raged between fans of Lounge 47 and William Garrett, who lives next door, about noise.

Burke now has plans to spend a significant sum to enclose the entire rear yard, which will add about 1,000 sqf. to his existing 1,300 sqf. bar– and seal it from noise. With the addition, Woodbines will have a second bar, 48 additional seats and two more restrooms.

Burke said that there will be no windows with the new enclosure so neighbors such as Garrett will be shielded from noise. He said it would be constructed out of 8 inch thick masonry block with sheet-rock interior walls. Furthermore, he said he would put sound-proof insulation in the ceiling.

Burke, who has to alter his liquor license with the addition, spoke to Community Board 2 last Wednesday about his plans.

At the meeting, Pat O’Brien, who heads the committee overseeing liquor licenses, read an e-mail that William Garrett had sent to CB2 Chair Joe Conley (which copied Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer) outlining his concerns. Garrett, via e-mail, said he was concerned about “inferior construction” and said that the extension would lead to more patrons standing outside smoking and making noise.

The board dismissed his accusation about questionable construction after Burke provided details as to how the extension would be built, along with plans from his engineer. Furthermore, additional pedestrian traffic from more patrons did not seem to raise questions.

However, while the community board appeared to have a favorable view of the plan, it did want to check in with one neighbor to ensure that it would not completely block her window before giving it the thumbs up.

Construction, if all is approved, would start in about two months. The extension would take about four months to build.

Burke said that construction would take place Monday-Friday (during conventional work hours) and that the bar would remain open the entire time.

Rear garden

Rear garden

Two Il Mulino chefs to open LIC Italian restaurant

Il Falco

Il Falco

April 14, By Christian Murray

Two long-serving chefs from the upmarket restaurant Il Mulino will be opening an Italian restaurant in Long Island City.

The restaurant will be opening at 21-50 44th Drive where Da Gianni’s Ristorante was located, next door to LIC Market.

The restaurant, to be called Il Falco, is likely to open in July or August, according to Segundo Tinishanay, a co-owner. It will serve northern and southern Italian food.

Tinishanay and his business partner Bolivar Perez come with a great deal of high-end Italian experience.

Tinishanay, who immigrated from Ecuador, has spent the past 30 years working at El Mulino (since he was 17), where he has risen through the ranks to be a chef.  He also trains the kitchen staff at other El Mulino restaurants in Miami and Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, Perez, who has worked at Il Mulino for 20 years, started as a line cook and worked his way up to become a chef. Perez has cooked for former president Bill Clinton as well as President Barack Obama.

“We have worked in the restaurant business a long time–since we were both very young,” Tinishanay said. “We want to open a place of our own and we feel Long Island City is a good place to do that.”

July 4th fireworks return to East River

source: aroundthisworld.com

source: aroundthisworld.com

April 14, By Michael Florio

Things will be lighting up this 4th of July for residents of Western Queens.

Macy’s annual Fourth of July Firework Show will return to the East River this summer, providing a better view for those in Long Island City and parts of Astoria.

In 2009 the firework show moved to the Hudson River, giving New Jersey the prime vantage point.

Now in the East River again, the fireworks will be shot off of barges and the Brooklyn Bridge. The location of these barges is not known yet, but they will be very visible from Long Island City and parts of Astoria, according to State Sen. Mike Gianaris’ office.

“This is a reason to celebrate,” State Sen. Mike Gianaris said.

“For too long, residents of our neighborhoods have been left out of what is not only a citywide, but a national event,” Gianaris said. “Once again, the Queens waterfront will be a participant in the grandest Independence Day celebration in the United States.”