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LIC Restaurant Owner Sues Van Bramer Following Heated Exchange Over Amazon HQ2

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer at an Amazon oversight hearing in January. (City Council)

March 12, 2019 By Christian Murray

The owner of a Long Island City barbecue restaurant is suing Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer for defamation stemming from a series of tweets posted by the politician where he alleged the restaurateur had threatened him.

Josh Bowen, the owner of John Brown Smokehouse on 44th Drive, is seeking damages arguing that he didn’t threaten Van Bramer and that the councilmember took to twitter and filed a police report to discredit him and block his first amendment rights.

Bowen, who has been on a personal crusade to try and lure Amazon back to Long Island City, blames Van Bramer for killing the now-scrapped deal. Van Bramer was an outspoken critic of the e-commerce giant and its plan to open a headquarters in Long Island City.

The incident erupted March 1 after Bowen sent a series of texts to Van Bramer’s chief of staff Matthew Wallace. Wallace, who had known Bowen for years, had lived directly above the smokehouse until recently and they communicated often.

The text directed Wallace to tell Van Bramer to call John Schoettler, vice president of real estate for Amazon, and “apologize” for the collapsed deal.

Bowen had just come back from a trip to Seattle where he had spoken to Schoettler and urged him to reconsider the original plan, which was expected to bring between 25,000 and 40,000 jobs to the neighborhood.

“Call now and I can stop the growing forces that will end councilman VanJobkillers career,” reads part of the text.

“You can be at the back of the parade or in front of the firing squad,” Bowen’s text went on to say.

In the text, he requested that the council member “make the f—ing call. And let me know by four.”

Van Bramer took exception to the texts.

The suit alleges that Van Bramer snapped a screen shot of the texts, cropped them to make it look like they were sent directly to him and then posted them.

Van Bramer described the texts on twitter as “several threats rolled into one.”

“Demanding an elected official make a call to Amazon by a certain time – or else. This is disgusting,” he said, adding, “I don’t respond to threats.”

He later tweeted that the text had been reported to the NYPD. 

The suit says that Van Bramer then retweeted comments from his followers who criticized Bowen, and encouraged his followers to boycott Bowen’s business by retweeting those comments as well.

Bowen, by way of the John Brown Smokehouse twitter account, defended his texts later that day.

John Brown Smokehouse. Van Bramer’s Chief of Staff Matthew Wallace lived above the restaurant for several years (Google)

The suit says that Bowen had not threatened Van Bramer and that he was just exercising his right to free speech. It noted that the texts were not even sent to Van Bramer, but to Wallace—someone he knew well.

Bowen also alleges that Van Bramer characterized his free speech as criminal conduct to undermine him.

The suit says that Van Bramer filed a complaint with the NYPD even though he knew it wasn’t a threat. It references a Daily News article, where the councilmember is quoted as saying “’he doesn’t think Bowen is ‘capable of physical violence.’”

Bowen alleges that Van Bramer tweeted out the texts with the objective of “currying favor and sympathy as a ‘victim,’ and to deflect from the fact that Van Bramer was one of the prime instigators of the Amazon HQ2 departure debacle.”

Van Bramer described the lawsuit as “frivolous, without merit.” He said: “My chief of staff received an aggressive text message directed to me from Mr. Bowen, which I perceived to be threatening. I still do.”

Jeannine Chanes, the attorney representing Bowen, said that elected officials shouldn’t be filing police reports when a constituent says something they don’t like.

She said that she is considering filing a Freedom of Information request to find out how often Van Bramer has filed police reports alleging that he has been threatened by a constituent.

In March 2018, Van Bramer claimed that he was threatened by a bicycle advocate via a tweet. Van Bramer then used his own twitter account to discredit that person.

Meanwhile, Van Bramer was criticized last year by the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project (QAGP) for blocking them on social media. Van Bramer told Gothamist it was not about the first amendment but safety. “Criticism is not what we take exception to,” Van Bramer said. “The Queens Anti-Gentrification project have threatened me physically.”

Chanes said the elected officials should expect to be involved in heated debate with their constituents.

“Why is he so sensitive? I think it is because he wants to shut people up. New York is supposed to be rough and tough,” she said.

Bowen v Van Bramer Complaint With Exhibit by Queens Post on Scribd

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64 Comments

LIC Worker

It seems clear to me: both of these guys are jerks. Reactionary and having a debate that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the complicated issues in this debate. And both of them are acting like little whiny pusses.

“I’m calling the police!”
“I’m suing you!”

Really effective advocacy, you maroons.

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LIC RESIDENT

When did JVB ever volunteer to do anything at the projects, for the projects and the people of NYCHA?? He killed thousands of future jobs, he killed the Phipps Affordable housing project which would have brought over 200 affordable apartments on Barnett Ave near his home, but he shut it down, too close to his house in Sunnyside Gardens. He’s for making his friends rich who control the homeless hotels in LIC and Not-for-Profits who provide these services at inflated prices costing the city over $1.2 Billion last year alone, on the backs of poor families, mostly Black and Hispanic families and their children – not fighting for them to have affordable housing. Jimmy Van Bramer should be investigated for donations to his 501(c)(4) account taking money from developers and other not-for-profit facilitators/operators of area homeless shelters. JVB has been bought and sold many times over. He does not represent the people of sunnyside/LIC anymore. Good riddance and he knows it and he won’t get the Black and Hispanic vote either if he attempts to run for Queens Borough President..

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Little Jimmy’s bot network

Little Jimmy’s bot network are jamming the thumbs down again. They monitor this site day and night searching for any negative comment.

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charles castro

Ouch, don’t hurt him too much, he’ll file charges against you in the 108 pct.

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Jonathan

Josh Bowen is a Queens resident D-bag! Your BBQ sucks, your workers look miserable, and your credibility is worth as much as your crappy burnt ends. Boycott this establishment. What a pu**y.

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Deflection

Yeah that’s it, try to deflect. Try to paint someone who criticizes little Jimmy as pro-Trump. Actually that’s a tactic Trump himself would do. Hey, you don’t happen to be little Jimmy himself? Nice try.

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lol

“Surely a city councilman is paying armies of people to click a button on a small local news website’s comment section”

^ Trumpeters are actually gullible enough to believe this

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Me Too

Actually I hear a group of Parents from Sunnyside are investigating the idea of taking a class action lawsuit against Van Bramer on the premise that he ruined the prospect of their children getting potentially well paying jobs from Amazon and other start up companies that would have followed into LIC. The suit will claim Van Bramer changed his mind for his own selfish political gain when he was elected to represent the people and claimed that the community was 2-1 against the deal. I hope Van Bramer have a good mail server to substantiate those figures.

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Jonathan

I’m sorry, were these kids promised jobs at Amazon? Did Amazon actually guarantee them jobs after they graduate? Did all of the kids in local schools aspire to be Amazon workers? Did other start up companies commit to coming to LIC after Amazon? You sound stupid

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van bramer's mouthpiece

In your haste to reply on any negativity about Van killjob Bramer you overlooked the word “potentially” in the aforementioned . if you have trouble navigating your way around a dictionary, reach out and a few of us will guide you.

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BozosforBezos

Nah. I heard they were happy that the Amazon hipsters were not coming here which would drive rent prices up. Their kids weren’t smart enough to get hired by Scamazon anyway.

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Chas

Great BBQ. Jimmy should grow up. I think It’s because he will be out of power soon.

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Stay Loose

If a public figure receives a threat, then it is proper to turn it over to law enforcement to investigate and determine if it is serious or frivolous. Jimmy Van Bramer did the right thing. The lawsuit is a desperate cry from a whiny crybaby. Jimmy Van Bramer is ten times the man as Josh Bowen.

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Sara Ross

So the one who threatened Jimmy initially now wants to sue? Don’t waste the courts’ time.

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Richard

Jimmy Van Bramer has a reputation of exaggerating and taking advantage of situations like this. His track record speaks for itself. He “conveniently” finds anti-immigration flyers and receives hate mail when he’s facing political pressure and community backlash.
Feb 22, 2018
Bramer “receives” homophobic hate mail. During this time, there is community backlash for the unfinished LIC library that has so far costed $50 mill and 5 years.
http://m.qchron.com/mobile/editions/queenswide/hate-mail-sent-to-gay-council-members/article_2c449a26-8eb8-5bc0-b759-6c2744efed76.html
Oct 12, 2018
Bramer “finds” an anti-immigration flyer while jogging down Skillman Ave. This was just after he embarrassingly failed to gain enough support for protected bike lanes on 43rd ave and Skillman Ave.
https://qns.com/story/2018/10/12/anti-immigration-flyer-in-sunnyside-work-of-white-supremacists-van-bramer/

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Truth

Amazing how that works he does even have a mind of his own a little puppet #votejimmyout

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Charles Castro

Because it’s his right. I know u libs hate freedom of speech and equality , but he has the right sweetie

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crackerjack

This whole thing is just wacky. I am honestly trying to figure out how this is defamation though. Defamation is described as “the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of, depending on the law of the country, an individual, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation.” JVB released the texts and said they were threatening. Reading them, they are, though I don’t think they are threatening him with physical violence. Is that defamation? Doesn’t seem like it to me and I don’t see how this holds up in court.

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Charles castro

Only weak men would find those words threatening. Instead of tell Brown to GFHS, he ran to the police the little batch. Reading your comments, you’re no different. See if you can buy a couple of spines on Amazon you pathetic sissy’s

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you don't use apostrophes to pluralize words

from the childish name calling and difficulty spelling I’m assuming Charles “Fidel” Castro is about…13 years old?

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Charles castro

All this cyber bullying , I’m on the verge of jumping off of a building. I think I’ll use the amazon building. Remind me, where is it again?

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bye Fidel

Wait, you got so angry you replied to the same comment TWICE?! lmao!

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Wow

This is a stickier situation than those plastic checkered tablecloths at JB Smokehouse that haven’t been cleaned in years.

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Anonymous

the JVB bots are out in full force to defend the honor of this useless political hack. Plenty of downvotes for anyone who has the temerity to speak out against him! Yet they denounce bullying behavior. Losers…

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from Sunnyside

Says the dozen or so Republicans and real estate scammers still bitter their golden cash cow bounced under pressure and trolling these comments non-stop.

Hope that psycho Josh’s mouth finally lands him in hail where he belongs.

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Useyourwords

Bowen is a whiny little baby. If he thinks going on Fox News and whining about Van Bramer will have any impact on how QUEENS of all places votes, he’s fully delusional.

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Peter Beadle

This is a pretty outrageous lawsuit. When someone overtly threatens a politician to take a specific stance on a policy issue, that isn’t just constituent grumbling our lobbying, it’s actually a kind of bribe. Bowen offered VanBremer something of value -ceasing the campaign against him- in return for a change in policy position that potentially could benefit Bowen financially. If JVB had acceded to that threat and changed his position it would be quite a scandal. The Councilman had to report this to the police to protect himself.

For Bowen to now double down by bringing suit is shameful, and it’s disgraceful that his attorney would bring this case. I hope JVB counter sues and that law enforcement takes a hard look at Bowen’s attempt to intimidate and bribe a councilman.

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Local Business Owner

I’m glad someone is standing up to JVB and calling him out on his B-S. While I don’t love the way Bowen has behaved, we should hold our elected officials to higher standards. As a longtime resident of LIC and a local business owner JVB is a huge disappointment and I personally will never vote for him in any election.

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Anonymous

Disgusting behavior from Mr. Bowen. It reflects the quality of his career and restaurant.

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WOODSIDER61

Finally and hope counteless other see van bramer needs to go !! He needs to mind his business and don’t cross the boss(Cuomo and Diblasio) which he completely eliminated funding to queens because of the amazon fail deal! Look at our trains falling apart thanks alot

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MRLIC

J. Bowen is a Greed y Steakhouse owner worried only about his business. Speak for your self as you don’t speak for me. JVB is not a good councilmn but here he is right and at lest he stood for what he believed in and it was just in my opinion.

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Skip Seglipse

I bet Amazon brings 10,000 jobs to NYC before Mothership Meat Company opens.

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ROSEY O'GRADY

What the hell difference does it make who Bowen sent the letter to? It was directed at Van Bramer and it was threatening.
JOSH BOWEN is bully and needs to BITCH SLAPPED.

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John O'Reilly

Two facts appear to strongly support Mr. Bowen’s lawsuit. Mr. Van Bramer’s apparent admission to the Daily News that he did not believe Mr. Bowen capable of a physical threat, coupled with Mr. Wallace’s past association with Mr. Bowen, raise the issue of Mr. Van Bramer’s true motivation for the referral to the NYPD. It will be interesting to see how much time passed between when the Bowen texts were received and when and how Mr. Van Bramer called the cops. Secondly, Mr. Van Bramer’s obfuscation of the actual communication of Mr. Bowen’s texts being made to Mr. Wallace and not to Mr. Van Bramer bespeaks of a design to cause harm to Mr. Bowen. This lawsuit has the potential of creating Mr. Van Bramer’s legacy: the NY Court of Appeals formulation of the Van Bramer rule that a legislator cannot use the police to interfere with the rights of a citizen to petition the government and voice an opinion on matters of public concern.

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Term limits

Jimmy Van Publicity Seeker is always doing something to get his name in the papers. At least he’ll be gone soon. What are his accomplishments? Endorsing Cynthia Nixon for governor. She’s as qualified to govern as he is. Term limits are a wonderful thing. Keep an eye on the thumbs down. There’s a group of Jimmy supporters who monitor this website and jam the thumbs down to make it look as if the “public” is replying.

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lol

“There’s a group of Jimmy supporters who monitor this website and jam the thumbs down to make it look as if the “public” is replying.”

^ Trumpeters are actually gullible enough to believe that lmao

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sigh

If only Josh “Mad Cow” Bowen spent as much time explaining why “put you in front of a firing squad” isn’t a threat, as he did into making decent BBQ…

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#WeAlreadyHaveJobsNYC

Some Alt Right group like Boroughs for Business is probably paying for the lawsuit

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D

Pro-Amazon folks apparently are both thin skinned and brutish bullies. The fact that righteousness and threats of violence collide from the far right, in this climate of thin skinned proto fascism, still shocks.
Our electeds stood up to a bully superbillionaire’s corporation, Bezos, who takes a modest salary, paying himself a modest salary, say $88,000 yearly, little personal taxes, while his shares give him yearly undertaxed millions, and whose corporation pays no taxes, somehow.
That corporation would leech off our municipal land, and seize a building housing a ten story Department of Education vital support system—training our infrastructure personnel, bus drivers to DOE bulding supplies for our students, and heave those civil servants who knows where— thugish behavior by any standard—Amazon is revealed to deserve downsizing and to be broken up.
Imagine ten Walmarts moving into the City, down the block, paying low wages, separating execs to a high tower, ordering all life’s need so conveniently, while our local businesses wither and die. With a private helipad to sound the alarm when the great leader descends. How sick is that?
Thugs want ultimate power, a sick, and thinly disguised, fascist fantasy.

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Not Mr LIC

Man up Van Bramer and take your medicine. You sided with an uninformed vocal minority and the smart people who run one of the largest companies in the world called your bluff. Oops.

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Dove Peace Maker

Good luck with this suit. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess the attorney did not take it on a contingency basis.

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Anonymous

So this unhinged restaurant owner who has spent a better part of the past month on a crazy vendetta against JVB has the balls to waste the court’s time by suing for defamation? That fat from all those those spareribs has found a warm home in someone’s frontal lobe.

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Jimmy van Liar

Lock little Jimmy van Liar up.
He played with fire and now he’s about to get burned.
Watch little Jimmy’s cohort jam the thumbs down to make it appear that the “public” is replying.
We’re on to you Jimmy van Liar

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Former Customer

Yeap, same guy made a public spectacle of himself yelling some very racist sounding slurs in front of the media (who for the most part were kind enough not to air that footage).

If his business is down, it’s definitely not because of JVB. It’s because he has literally spent the last month getting in online flame wars with actual customers. Word of mouth spreads fast. The people of LIC have supported his place for years, and the minute a billionaire showed up with big promises, he sold us out and quite literally started insulting customers online – even when they tried to have normal conversations with him.

As someone who used to eat at his place often, I take no pride in saying this, but there’s no way in hell I’m spending another dollar there. I truly feel bad for his workers, but I suspect with his public attitude he’s probably not the best boss in the world either.

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