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Vernon Blvd pizzeria opening next month, without use of backyard

Tom Blaze inside L'

Tom Blaze, owner of L’inizio

April 22, 2014 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)

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52 Comments

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Mel

Where are the responses? It states 51?
Too bad, a backyard would have been awesome!
Wish you luck!

Reply
Johnny

Thank you Renee, let us know what else we can do to help. A riot maybe? I think we should cut the street so the media will arrive and our protest will get the proper attention need it on national TV.

Reply
Renee K.

@Lic fan

FYI, This petition will be sent to community board 2, Jimmy Van Bramer, Melinda Katz (she appoints the community board members), & Cathy Nolan. However, I will also be sending it to the State Liquor Authority to show that the majority of people in LIC want the businesses in this neighborhood to have use of their outdoor space and want to see bars/restaurants comparable to other popular neighborhoods. I want the SLA to know that rejecting a request for a liquor license hinders the development of LIC and is bad for the real estate market as well.

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licer

“Another pizza place?” Not sure if the pizza served here would be good but all the other restaurants around that serve pizza in lic… bad bad bad!

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r185

Don’t know if this has already been suggested, but perhaps the originator of the petition should stand outside LIC Flea and gather signatures.

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Lic fan

Can the person requesting the petition be signed elaborate on what will happen with it? How/when will it be used?

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Anonymous

For all the trash talk on this site from a few bigmouths who claim to want outdoor spaces, very few of them have the guts to stand out in public and support the pizza guy. Who cares about some stupid online petition? You think that will make any difference?

Big bunch of babies. You get the neighborhood you deserve, not the neighborhood you want. Show up at community meetings and state your arguments and maybe you’ll get listened to.

Reply
charles

Ok. The petition with over a thousand signatures, two days ago, now has less than seventy. Seems like a failure of math but I’m sure it will lead to an opening of a backyard in “Somewheresville”. I wish to move there someday.

Reply
Anon

Yeah, right – 1,200 people.

I will personally buy a slice for every single one of you if you show up at the next community board meeting and voice your support for the owner. I’ll remember that day because hell will have officially frozen over.

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charles

@yesand no,

If a small business owner and his lawyer can’t figure out when a publicly announced hearing on their application is held so they can argue the point they are just not doing their job.

You’re completely correct. He had everything to gain from attending. I had no dog in the fight and went to the meeting to support another owner after seeing the notice on this site and I’m puzzled or dubious of the applicant’s failure to appear.

Looking forward to having a slice and a beer at their eventual opening and wish them many successful years to come.,

Reply
Yes and no

Charles,
You are 100% right.
However, he said that he didn’t know the hearing was on. He said even his lawyer didn’t know.
Whether that is true or not I have know idea.

However, where I sit, I can’t see why he would be lying. He only had something to gain by going.

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charles

I attended one of the CB2 meetings where this was discussed. The owner didn’t appear and no “1,200” signatures were mentioned or submitted (number in quotes as I cry bullshit on the fact that he collected the signatures at all). What was mentioned was the fact that the owner wasn’t there to argue his case. As Woody Allen once said 99% of life is showing up. Same CB2 meeting the Ramen restaurant got applause and a probable cake walk to a 4am license. Stop whining on the internet and show up with your lawyer to argue your case. Really, it work sometimes.

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Lic fan

CB2QUEENS.org hopefully they will announce their upcoming meets, hope to meet many of you there.

Reply
LIC Res

To What’s:

At issue is the precedent CB2 perpetuates: that a business owner’s lawful operation may be restricted due to the personal tastes of board members or a constituent minority.

Reply
LICer

LICers always complaint that we are short on the retails and they need your help! The CB2 should not be only ONE voice and that is hurting what we should achieve to be a better place. Show up next time, LICers!

Reply
ed

If you are as pissed as I am that new businesses cannot use there outdoor space show up at the next meeting and let CB2 know. Signing a petition never has the same effect as showing up in person. I believe at the next meeting some of the new businesses will again be up for consideration of their outdoor space. Say what you want about the Garrets and their cranky friends but they do spend the time by showing up at meetings to get what they want. I’ve never been to a CB2 meeting (heard there are awfully long) but will be there to support outdoor space for 51st Bakery and any other business looking to use their space.

Reply
It is a big deal...

I’ve been in and around the neighborhood for years. The fact that older establishments, like LIC Bar, Creek and Cave, Domonies, etc are able to have their gardens open for reasonable hours and maintain good relations with their neighbors leads me to believe that a responsible business coupled with understanding tenants can happily coexist.

Meanwhile, a certain section of Vernon, which is suspiciously close to certain members of CB2’s homes are not afforded this luxury. Despite the fact that they too pay the same taxes, and god knows what for their real estate. This is what happens when individuals with too much free time on their hands feel they speak for the many. Clearly the number of signatures collected does not reflect this. These morons need stop being selfish, and learn to side with the community. I’m sure they can make a killing selling off their property on Vernon at this point, and would be much happier in the peace and quiet of some place far, far away from here.

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Anonymous

What’s the Big Deal? Very clever.

You know well this isn’t about pizza, and if you don’t well I feel bad for you. Its about the development of the neighborhood, and a certain group that has decided they are all that matter. This has been going on for years. If you consider yourself one of the “old guard” or “I dont care” group that thinks Vernon Blvd will continue to be best served by having four bodegas right across from each other in some areas, and new businesses that have to abide by rules that restrict making this neighborhood livelier and more welcoming in others, go ahead. Small businesses face enough hurdles to success in LIC – having a Community Board and a group of stubborn residents actively working against them while the property values of said residents continue to skyrocket thanks to the arrival of these same new businesses and new residents that would like to enjoy them – its the height of hypocrisy.

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Anonymous

To What’s the Big Deal?

I think the point is that the CB has taken a blanket approach to all garden seating, which is NO. There are no compromises being considered. This is not how the member of a CB should act. One person’s opinion should not set the rules.

There is particular person on the board that lives next to Woodbines and this person has an issue with garden seating. As a result he is using the committee he is part of to block it for all businesses. Since Woodbines (formerly Lounge 47 but closed) cannot use the garden they want to build an addition over the garden space. This same person tried to block it by saying there was going to be inferior construction and that it would lead to more people outside smoking and making noise.

Basically he is just doing and having simply what HE wants (as you put it). I would put Garrett in your overly generalized point more than the folks supporting Blaze and his 1300 community signatures.

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What's the Big Deal?

Since when have we always been able to do and have things simply because we “want” them? That’s what I’m trying to get across. Except for a very tiny, TINY number of restaurants, it’s not a given that you get to eat in a backyard. There are tough standards in New York for outdoor spaces because we’re all living on top of each other. It’s never been an issue for me (and, I think, tens of thousands of other New Yorkers who eat out), so why should I start caring now?

Not to overly generalize, but I will here for the sake of making a point. There seems to be an attitude (kind of childish if you ask me) among some newcomers to the neighborhood that if you simply desire something, then it should happen. That’s never been the world I’ve lived in, certainly not in New York anyway. Maybe that attitude comes with having a shitload of money and permissive parents, I don’t know.

Why not just let it go and suffer through an indoor pizza? Really, would that be so hard to swallow?

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Anonymous

you seem to have missed the point.
nobody is saying that Blaze is doomed to fail since he cant have a backyard.
people understand the fact that most pizza joints dont have a backyard.
yes, most pizza joints are small, not particularly nice to sit in.
we get all that. people are upset at the fact that this guy wanted to do something, but cant, simply because some loser and a few of his friends said so.
Not based on signatures of over a thousand, but based on the voice of a few hundred at the most.

Reply
What's the Big Deal?

So what, the guy isn’t allowed to use the back garden. There are many, many restaurants in NYC that can’t use their gardens. Find another way to direct your anger.

I’ve been eating pizza in New York my entire life, and I’ve never gone in a back garden for a slice. Imagine that. And I’ve had some pretty damn good pizza, usually in places that look much worse than this new place that’s going to open up in LIC. So if this Tom Blaze can serve up a great slice worthy of the best of New York pizza, he’ll make a killing, even with a locked vault on that back door to his garden!

Yeah, it would be nice during good weather to eat a slice outside now and then, but I’m not going to get so worked up over it like lots of you seem to be. There’s an incredible park about a hundred footsteps away near the river. I’ll take my slice and eat it there.

Reply
Ro

Was this a decision reached by the old CB2 members or was this by the new members? I am hoping it was the old members and the new members will be more reasonable going forward.

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LIC Res

The fact no compromise was offered, despite many, many easily imaginable possibilities, suggests the board is not acting in good faith.

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christopher

This is silly. A man who has been in the neighborhood for 49 years, is part of the community and lives in it, should get the benefit of the doubt. He is bringing what appears to be a very upscale pizza place (mozzarella bar!) and will be a big attraction for us that live in the area. I hope he can get this changed. good luck

Reply
Meghan

I agree with Lic fan. Posting anonymous comments on LIC Post isn’t going to change anything. Community members must start showing up at the meetings and be as or more vocal than the Garretts. We are to blame for our complacency – no outdoor dining, no library, no stop lights on busy streets…what’s going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?

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Lic fan

Clearly, those of us who favor these efforts must start showing up at CB2 meetings in large numbers. Maybe the business owners will start organizing a movement. I’m definitely looking up their meeting dates and will be there.

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Henry

Tell Van Bramer to step in ???? Lolololololololol that’s hilarious. Is he even still a council person? Does he do anything anymore?

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LICer

I have messaged about this article to Jimmy and I am encourage all of you to make him aware the anger from us!!!!

Reply
Amadeo

Really getting fed up with the community board blocking neighborhood development progress. Backyard gardens doesn’t mean we’re only steps away from nightclubs and drug deals running rampant in the neighborhood.

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Townie

Thank you, Community Board. Just what I needed. Another reason to detest the people who are running things.

Your days will pass.

Soon is good.

Reply
Doreen

Ronnie, please do not confuse Garrett with the olden days in LIC. He moved here during the beginning of the new neighborhood.

Actually, back in the “olden” days the bars and restaurants had no problems with using their gardens. We all got along with each other.

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Anonymous

Its sad – i was at 51st Street Bakery & Cafe the other day and the owner was asking neighbors to sign a petition for him to open an outdoor space.
I laughed because i knew what he was in for — and he laughed because he knew it was going to be so incredibly difficult to do something that should be so simple.
A bakery opening a backyard to eat pastries outside during the warm months, what a great idea.
At the same time i was there, people who lived next door to the bakery were excited to sign the petition — saying “of course we would love for you to have a backyard”
Its upsetting that 200 people in the community are able to dictate what opens/doesnt open in our neighborhood, especially when most of the comunity is on board.

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Lic fan

These people are unbelievable; the Garret’s and their 200 supporters cannot continue dictating the fate of this neighborhood. They’re bad for business and progress. While they may have lived here longer than some of us, this is not their neighborhood. How many more signatures are needed to get cb2 to do what’s right for the future of our neighborhood?

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Anonymous

I’d like to start a petition to limit the Garrett’s use of the neighborhood in outdoor spaces as of 6pm every night – we will all be better off.

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Anonymous

Garrett was appointed by Jimmy Van Bramer and Kathy Nolan, write to them about these issues.

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Ronnie

Garretts’ seems like they’re stuck in the olden days. If most people in the neighborhood want it, it should be done. I would like to meet these people and find out why they don’t want LIC to grow into a modern community. Idiots!

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Anonymous

William Garret is on the CB2 as a member of the Land Use committee. This committee directly votes on these agenda items. Whoever is appointing his spot on the board needs to be questioned. Garrett is clearly biased.

It appears there is zero tolerance attitude. Nobody on Vernon can use their back yards regardless of any compromise. As doing so would open the opportunity for others. Particularly any business that is within earshot of Garrett.

This guy converts his business space into a residence. Gets on the board and protests actual businesses using their space to grow a business. He deprives the community of a great amenity. This is the guy that is on the Board.

Reply
rick

The Garretts seem to be continually shocked that when they moved onto a commercial street there might be commercial businesses on it. Vernon was a commercial street for more than a century before they moved into their former storefront and lived in it. (BTW, how much has their investment in that building appreciated due directly to the vibrancy of the commercial street?)

They offer no room for compromise. This is NYC – people eating pizza too loudly in the middle of the afternoon should be the least of our worries. CB2 caves in to them every time.

Reply
Sarah

Looks like a lovely backyard with lots of potential. the whole point of opening up an eatery anywhere in the city is to ideally have people linger and have somewhere to commune socially which is key to creating a thriving, vibrant nabe. Seems we need better representation from community/business leaders…ideally members who are both residents of LIC AND business owners who can best balance the complexities of both worlds. If some people are so averse to noise then why on God’s green earth do they choose to reside near a busy business district and are offended or take exception to the rest of us just trying to find a bit of amusement in our community for a few hours instead of heading over to or staying in Manhattan after work. Moreover this issue is not particular to LIC, Sunnyside, Astoria. Manhattan residents and business owners seem to work well together to build exceptional neighborhoods and we can too.

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Anonymous

This entire process is BS – the community board has to be smarter than that.
I understand that there may be a group of people who attend all these events and like to cause problems – opposing things just because they can….but there has to be some common sense and discretion shown on the part of the board. The most important people having to do with this particular opening should be neighbors or others who live close. Just because 100 people show up yelling about not opening up outdoor space doesnt mean that it shouldnt be passed. Certainly the signautures of people who live next door should carry more weight. 1300 signatures is a lot. 200 signatures is not. Mr & Mrs Garrett probably photo copy the signatures on their way out the door to every board meeting. if there are always the same signatures on the list — thats a problem. youd shouldnt be able to block some ‘just because’
Im glad to hear that the restaurants and businesses in the area are looking to form their of group to combat these people.
Best of luck to Mr. Blaze — ill stop by for a slice.
I only hope this works out for him — then he put a picture of this annoying couple up in his restaurant with a big X.
Maybe a pizza special in their name.

Reply
Anonymous

How does the neighborhood organize and fight? Mr. Blaze has 1300 signatures for and there were 200 against.

Marie is correct. There should be compromise. A blanket statement that there is no back yard use on Vernon is wrong.

Van Brammer needs to step in here. This is more harmful to business than the 7 Train suspension. At least the 7 train suspension is temporary and will provide value in the end.

Reply
JPilla

1,300 signatures for opening the outdoor space;
200 opposed;
the board votes NO?
Am I crazy or does this math not work out?

If you live in the immeidate vicinity and do not oppose the outdoor space than there really isn’t an issue…

Best of luck Mr. Blaze.. looking forward to that Mozarella Bar!

Reply
marie

This is so disturbing, there are ways to compromise, and a backyard brunch on sunday from 11 am to 3 pm could have been one, also maybe drinks and food until 9 pm on weekdays and 10 pm on weekends could have been authorised, like it s done at many locations in the city. Whatever happened to compromise ? why is the confort of one connected couple in LIC, dictating the future of thriving businesses… Then we wonder why resident of the glass towers on the waterfront aka ( vertical gated community) are constantly jumping on the 7 trains to head to Manhattan or escape to brooklyn for the cool factor.
This is New York city people , you want peace and quiet , move to PA or upstate New York buy a couple of acres , and try petitionning against deer running through your property or racoon through your trash !

During my involvment in 5 Pointz, I dealt first hand with the never happy let saturday and sunday be quiet type. We always stopped the music at a reasonnable hour 9 pm , and that s why we never had problems with the precinct, and never got shut down despite numerous complains from a few residents… Now let them try to shut down Ps1 warm up …since they won t be able to blame 5 Pointz for the noise ..

The freedom of one ends where the freedom of others start , I truly feel that the CB2 should reconsider and give this business a chance , I m sure that the fact that Mr barett is a member of Cb2 is not helping the business owner’s cause ..

Reply
Jono

I can understand why the board wouldn’t let him set up an outdoor space in the backyard. All those wild late night loud pizza parties keeping the whole neighborhood up. I can’t think of anything worse for LIC than having people enjoy a slice of pizza outside on a nice day.

Either, looking fwd to hopefully a high quality slice of pizza in the ‘hood, without having to go over the Pulaski Bridge

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Anonymous

So annoying – I wish Mr. Blaze would make the restaurant BYOB, open up the back yard and stay open all night long. If the Garrett’s don’t like it tough. Or the CB2 can give him a liquor license with reasonable restrictions like closing the back yard by 8pm.

They are trying to restrict him from opening his back windows! Who the heck is ever going to want to open a business in LIC with these sort of restrictions?

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