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Hunters Point civic group calls on community board to compromise on backyard space

The rear yard at L'anzio, which the owner elected not to use in order to get a beer & wine license

The rear yard at L’inizio, at 47-23 Vernon Blvd, which the owner elected not to use in order to get a beer & wine license

May 20, 2014 By Christian Murray

A Long Island City civic group is urging Community Board 2 to be more flexible and allow restaurants and bars on Vernon Boulevard to use their rear yard space—at least on a limited basis.

Brent O’Leary, the president of the Hunters Point Civic Association, said, “The consensus of our members and a large part of our community is that the policy towards use of rear yards is too restrictive. “

O’Leary’s group, which was founded in 2012 and meets monthly, said the organization sees “no reason why establishments should be prevented from using their yards as long as reasonable hours and noise restrictions are adhered to.”

The group’s formal position on the matter comes just one week after it held a monthly meeting at the New York Irish Center, where the majority of the 30-plus attendees said that the community board was being too rigid and needs to compromise.

Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer had representatives at the meeting. Both acted as observers and did not speak on the topic.

The group’s position comes at time when the community board is creating some guidelines that will apply to new applications for rear-yard open spaces in Hunters Point.

The community board has been able to stop bar/restaurant owners from using their backyards by threatening to block their liquor license applications if they keep them open.

Patrick O’Brien, the chairman of the Community Board 2’s City Service/Public Safety Committee that oversees liquor licenses, said that he is working on a general policy that aims to recognize the rights of all parties, which he will present to the City Service committee at its June meeting and then to the full board.

However, many of the guidelines—which will aim to tackle the thorny issues of noise—will still remain open to interpretation.

O’Leary’s group calls on the board to take into account the changing tide in favor of rear yard space.

“We ask our community board and the liquor authority to take into account the large part of our community asking for rear yard use,” O’Leary said. “We ask them to note the petition to allow rear yard use in the neighborhood signed by 632 people.”

O’Leary, speaking on behalf of members, contends that while “complete silence would be nice, we accept the fact that we live in a city, in close proximity to each other and that certain noise is unavoidable. Rear yard dining is enjoyed in every other neighborhood in New York and can be handled reasonably in Long Island City.”

“The businesses have indicated that they are amendable to reasonable restrictions as to hours of use and noise level and we welcome this discussion to allow all parties to come to a compromise,” the statement read.

Brent O'Leary

Brent O’Leary

However, at last Wednesday’s monthly City Services Committee meeting, O’Brien was not convinced by these arguments, which had become part of the public discourse.

O’Brien said that New York has a public policy where people have the right to the quiet enjoyment of their property, while people who run businesses do so under a license. “Licenses are not rights but are privileges,” he said.

O’Brien questioned the petition. He said that many of the 600-700 who signed it did so anonymously, so it is difficult to tell how close they are to the bars and restaurants in question. “We want to see names and addresses,” O’Brien said.

Furthermore, he said, recent data indicates that there are 7,000 to 8,000 residents in Hunters Point so while 600-700 is a good number it doesn’t reflect the majority.

O’Brien said that the guidelines might call for a bar/restaurant owner to reach out to all residents within a certain radius of where the backyard space would be. The bar/restaurant owner would then be required to ask the residents to fill out a standardized form stating whether they favor it, oppose it or do not have an opinion on it.

“If you live right above something [a restaurant] your opinion will carry more weight that someone that lives 2 miles away or even 3 blocks away,” O’Brien said.


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Hi Tanya, it’s called “Free The Yards” on Facebook. Just type that into your FB search tab and it should come up. I look forward to “meeting” you online and hopefully at the next CB2 meeting!


Hey, is there a link for that Facebook group? Like…Maybe I’m daft, but I couldn’t find it while searching. Thanks!


A compromise can, and will, be achieved if both parties stop with the zero sum game. Lounge 47 was a late night disaster with no respect for the neighborhood and screwed it for those that followed. Alobar and L’Inizio seemed to have some bad advice regarding how to appeal to CB2 ( show up at meeting, don’t lie about 1,300 petition, don’t lie about no neighbors). Try something different. Demonize the guy Garrett who complained all you want. He’s working within the system and achieved his desired outcome. Try it for yourself and you’ll be surprised how quickly something will happen.

See you at L’Inizio for a slice and a beer when it finally opens.


Maybe we don’t accept the “accusations and innuendos…as fact.” This is the internet. Maybe we’re not morons.

we’re not just SAYING we want fair representation. We actually do want it, duh.

What’s tomorrow’s thought?


Today’s thought:

Maybe personal accusations or innuendos by anonymous posters who do not furnish any proof, should not be accepted as fact. People say they want fair representation. Doesn’t that include being fair to those you disagree with?

LIC Resident2

While I agree and I think you have a solid point to keep both sides respectful, the truth of the situation is that this one particular person really does have MUCH more influence than one person should have in this matter. The truth is there IS something shady going on with how much pull he has had in the past. So naturally people tend to emphasize this point more than the larger debate at hand.


Thoughts of the day:

To point at one person as the lone opponent to back yard seating is a foolish idea because one person cannot have that much influence and power.

But more important it marginalizes and diminishes the importance of the many neighbors who either oppose or just want reasonable limits.

How about some respect for all sides of the debate?


WG did whine about music?
Let’s open the yards. If L’inzio is rude, it speaks for them.
Also the immediate neighbour shouldn’t have more right than all of the community, especially if it’s WG. Let him live in a bar deserted land where he needs to drive to everywhere to get something.

Anthony D

CB2 “sound engineer” wasn’t happy with the music on Vernon for the block party. I can’t believe he had the nerve to approach some of the volunteers and complain. Enough is enough already!


Anonymous, I wonder if Riverview will eventually end up like Rebar in Dumbo…not paying rent is definitely a sign of something fishy going on…


It’s partly true. The person directly above Alobar has an apartment that doesn’t stretch all the way to the back. If you walk into Alobar, the apartment ends half way into the restaurant and they have no windows facing the back.

And the person living at the top floor is the landlord of the entire building and supports Alobar’s quest to open their rear yard.

There is a moratorium on outdoor seating from El Ay Si all the way to Alobar as well as any restaurant that has a rear yard opening in the post-Lounge 47 age. The exception is for those bars/restaurants that were able to obtain the liquor license with outdoor seating privileges BEFORE William Garrett cried a river about it (i.e. LIC Bar).


Two comments from someone who supports limited back yard use.

If you go to the SLA website in the video for Alobar the owner represents that there are no residents anywhere around them. Not a great strategy to stretch and twist the truth and probably why they lost.

They also claimed they needed a back yard to compete with other restaurants but at the same time claim that CB2 has a moratorium on back yards. So who is their competition?


Who elected the community board? Or are those positions appointed? How do we the community that is interested in developing the neighborhood join or apply to be apart of the community board?

Sonny L.

I am a neighbor of all those restaurants but William Garrett has spoken for me. I did not ask that of him.

My voice and those of most of the rest of LIC, are being silenced by a few people claiming they have more of a right, are more entitled as a neighbor than the rest of us. I did not ask them to speak for me. We who wish to be heard are being silenced by the few.

Nevermind The Haters

^^^cool story bro^^^

It’s a good thing decisions aren’t made based on rumors and tall tales.

Sonny L.

Dear LIC – don’t speak in tongues. It undermines your credibility. Say what you mean. It is a pay to play system for sure. That is what has been created by the referendum.

Sonny L.

While optimism is wonderful:

– the SLA meeting was moved last minute
– Mr. O’Brien (to whom I’ve personally written) ignored opening these back yards at that meeting and snidely dismissed the petition for the open space use in LIC as folly
– YET prior to that, HAD welcomed revisiting opening back yards personally at the previous CB2 meeting before the community
– there is a backroom correspondence between some restaurant owners and board members scrambling to make certain nothing opens (perhaps the competition would be too great? who knows?)

This situation must be hashed out together as a community. The neighbors are restless, and by neighbors, I include those who live ALL OVER the neighborhood near or far from the Vernon Moratorium.

This trite situation is pathetic and a reflection of the cogs that stop the machine of progress and growth for our community.

The more the CB2 fights to oppose growth in our community, the more parochial and antiquated their persona becomes, which undermines both the direction of our growing and changing demographic and ultimately will result in Van Bramer’s term limits going into effect (as other CBs seek to do so with limits on whether politically seated folks can recommend Board members).

It is simple, close the yards, lose business and revenues, cut job creation, and create general dissent among the LIC population. Economics 101 says it is the fast track to killing growth ~ i ask you, is that what the CB2 is about? or will their egos move aside to make way for some prosperity our neighborhood so desires and deserves?


I will repeat this one more time- after the obnoxious, loud, rude behavior of the staff and owners of I’inzio at a local restaurant last Saturday night (3 tables asked them to keep it down, which prompted a ton of nasty cursing and yelling of “NO F%^KEN RESPECT” – the restaurant gave us half our meal for free due to these “cafione”) I would be hesitant to have any of L’Inzio’s neighbors subjected to what we went through for two hours.


Cool Your Jets, are you a member of the Facebook group, “Free The Yards”? If not, please join so you can stay up to date on all the news regarding this movement along with info for upcoming CB2 and Hunters Point Civic Association meetings.

It looks like change is in the works and the rest of the community is finally being heard over the grossly over-amplified voices of that very small minority.

Hopefully Mr. Van Bramer’s visit to L’Inizio during the LIC Spring Stroll last weekend will help convince him to vote in favor of changing the rules and also gain the support of the rest of the board so we can all finally put this issue to bed.

It would be an absolute shame to see this backyard space in particular go unused…they are growing their own tomatoes, red bell peppers, zucchini, and basil, just to name a few.


I think that as a member of CB2 Patrick O’Brien, the chairman of the Community Board 2’s City Service/Public Safety Committee that oversees liquor licenses should revisit and look at currently outside patios and consider an investigation when business owners pay a lot of money for licenses and play by the rules when 1 local business owner isn’t looked out to be playing by the rules. All the new places that have opened places to dine work with each other in a beautiful community that is growing. Sadly there is the 1 location who abuses the system and hurts those businesses within LIC.

Cool Your Jets

Actually, the majority of the signatures do have names. One of the key people involved in helping the restaurants acquire the use of their rear space lives right on Vernon. The petitioner lives right off Vernon and behind a restaurant with a rear yard. So there goes that argument.

FYI, I was one of the anonymous signatures.

And as long as we’re talking about numbers, the NIMBY’s counter petition only has 55 signatures. Some of those signatures are from people out of the country….


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