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Building Dept. closes Cliffs at LIC, leaves owner hanging

Mike Wolfert

Mike Wolfert

Nov. 13, 2013 By Christian Murray

It’s almost enough to push him over the edge.

The owner of the Cliffs at LIC, a gigantic indoor rock-climbing center located on 44th Drive, was ordered by the Department of Buildings to close down his premises on October 25 after claiming that he did not have a valid certificate of occupancy.

Since then, the climbing facility has remained closed and is unlikely to reopen until December.

Mike Wolfert, who owns the Cliffs at LIC, opened the highly-publicized center on Oct. 5, just three weeks prior to it being shut.

Wolfert found it tough opening the facility in the first place.  He had planned to open in May but complications with the building department—including his arrest for allegedly bribing a building inspector– delayed the opening.

However, when he did open, most of those thorny problems seemed behind him. On opening day, 1,000 people showed up to climb the 60-foot high walls and enjoy the music and giveaways.  Several climbers were clipping ropes to the walls and were shimmying up and down the cliff faces.

Wolfert’s recent troubles began, however, when an anonymous complaint was filed on Oct. 23 that alleged The Cliffs was violating city zoning laws. While that complaint was unfounded and dismissed, it led to a building inspector coming to the facility.

The building inspector reported that The Cliffs did not have a valid certificate of occupancy.

The Buildings Dept. now wants a third party structural engineer to issue an opinion on the premises. That report will also review the work conducted by Wolfert’s engineers.  Once that is complete, the Building Dept. will send an inspector to sign off on it.

“That should take a couple more weeks,” Wolfert said.  However, “I doubt we will be open before December.”

Wolfert said that the facility’s members with be credited for days that the Cliffs is closed.

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17 Comments

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A

I found this story published by the Daily News –
http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens/city-shuts-massive-climbing-gym-article-1.1522381

“This isn’t the first setback for Wolfert — who is facing seven years behind bars for allegedly bribing an undercover investigator in April to secure construction permits.
He promised the investigator, posing as a city inspector, “cash or whatever” to take care of a stop work order. Wolfert is accused of giving the investigator $94 in bribes — and then $1,000 more when the problem went away, according to court papers.”

Reply
EJ

It sounds like Anon might be the “anon” who’s been calling in tips to the DOB. From what I understand, the DOB can be extremely inconsistent across inspectors and the regulations are such a morass as to be entirely at the whim of the DOB. No business, especially something perceived as dangerous, like a climbing gym, would want to operate in an unsafe way. They have insurance and presumably the insurance company, who will actually be on the hook financially should anything happen, inspected and approved the facility. Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t have any independent inspections, however, this business is clearly being targeted with selective enforcement and and various other people have it out for them (whoever called in the false violation claim).
I don’t know the owner, and he clearly made some mistakes, but there are a lot of employees who are not working, a lot of people who are not climbing and a lot of tax revenue not coming in because of all this. The DOB needs to act and treat this business like the others. I notice spider man turn off the dark continues to run after multiple actors have been injured. The DOB’s actions are clearly about a political agenda, not about safety or anything else.

Reply
tc

LOL, I love how a faceless forum allows people to be gratuitously insulting. Anon, I hope you in person have a bit more social decorum to not accuse people at first blush of being soft from head injury when you don’t like what they say. Yes, the gym owner made mistakes, yes, he’s suffering for them. But what I am saying is that the city is pursuing this situation with a vengeance, hanging the process up on tiny details, while other builders and businesses profit in a corrupt environment. The details of what is keeping the gym from being open are trivial, details that are readily overlooked by inspectors for other businesses. I don’t know what happened that made this business bear the brunt of selective enforcement. There are standards, building codes, laws, and all businesses should be equally held to them. Here, because somebody in power doesn’t like something about The Cliffs, it stays closed.

Reply
Anon

Again, tc, with the “everyone else breaks the law” argument. You’re accusing the city of dishonesty to stand up for someone who is —- dishonest??

I don’t understand why this is so hard to penetrate through your head (too many rock climbing falls?), but this owner made a decision not to follow proper procedure to open his business. It’s his fault, no one else’s, that he finds himself in a mess. Didn’t learn any tough love, I’d say.

You’ll get your “wicked cool” facility when this guy wakes up and figures out how to run his business straight.

Reply
tc

It seems there were mistakes made but the city is selectively enforcing building code here. What happened that The Cliffs is getting the brunt of every enforcement tidbit, while other (apparently better connected) businesses face no enforcement at all? Selective enforcement is the ultimate expression of corruption, and it’s damn unfortunate that this wicked cool facility in LIC is getting the butt end of that stick. If the city has any honesty left in building inspection it will see the paperwork through quickly so we can go climb. There’s some really sweet kids/school/low income programs in the works as well that aren’t operating as long as doors closed. Too bad…

Reply
Anonymous

on trees you don’t need ropes and can’t fall deeplu.
small business should be promoted and their owners should still be able to do the basic thing: follow the law and get a CO – that’s business 101.

Reply
Chris

Do trees need permits to have people climb on them? Regulation is good sometimes. And a lot of times it’s ridiculous. Laws should be obeyed but dumb laws should be struck down. Can you imagine the settlers waiting for permits to explore or settle? We are such a soft society. Small businesses in a down economy should be fast-passed.

Reply
Ray & Rita Normandeau

His facility is an asset to the entire community.

Why go to Manhattan?

Here in the Queensbridge arts area of LIC you have
restaurants
multiple theaters with live shows
LIC Bar with live music
rooftop bar at Ravel
art galleries

and a rock climbing gym.

Reply
Anonymous

He didn’t have a certificate of occupancy. Period. End of story.

Stop making excuses for the guy.

Reply
Ro

While I understand why being able to report a violation anonymously is a good thing, some people like to abuse it for their own personal vendettas.

Reply
Not so fast

He may or may not be “cool.” And maybe there is some politician out to get him.

I really don’t care. I’m more concerned about a guy who bribes officials and doesn’t do the necessary paperwork every other legitimate business owner must complete before operating their business.

I wonder how quick you would defend some other unscrupulous property owner, especially if their careless business practices result in injuries or to your kids. All he needed to do is follow the law like the rest of us mooks, and he’d not have any problems.

Reply
marie

interesting how this cool young business owner is consistently harrased and G&M realty owner of 5 Pointz can temper with fdny equipment build walls in the middle of the night and so on .. without ever getting in trouble

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