Under the license, the center can serve alcohol at no more than 6 events with a maximum of 1800 people, which must take place within the next 6 months. After this period, some regulations might be augmented. The center can hold an additional 60 events with attendance up to 500 people, and 60 events with attendance between 500-1,000 people.
The license also comes with strict hourly restrictions for events. Events with more than 1,000 attendees can only take place on Friday or Saturday and must wrap up by 2 a.m., and events taking place on other days of the week cannot have more than 1,000 people and have to end by midnight.
“Very little surprises me at this point in the process,” said Tyler Myers, manager of the center, on Tuesday. “We’re pleased we’re being given an opportunity to prove ourselves. We’re pleased that our fate is in our hands. We’re disappointed there are so many rules, but we’re happy to oblige and are excited to show the community how we can be a positive force to the neighborhood.”
The decision comes after Community Board 5 twice voted not to grant the center a license, first in May of 2014, and in a second vote last week ahead of Tuesday’s hearing.
"I am extremely disappointed at the SLA's decision to grant a full liquor license to the Knockdown Center," said Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan in a statement after the hearing. "Queens Community Board 5 has consistently voted down this liquor license due to the possible noise and quality of life issues that may arise from this establishment. I share in these concerns as well."
Despite continued community opposition, tensions appeared to have tempered a bit in recent months. The vote at last week's CB5 meeting stood at 29-12 against granting the license, while in 2014 Community Board members voted unanimously not to grant the license.
That shift could be attributed to the advocacy of various community figures, including 104th Precinct former commanding officer, Captain Christopher Manson, who threw his support in favor of granting the license in a letter addressed to the SLA, which Knockdown Center employees distributed during last May’s CB5 meeting.
That packet also included a letter from community organizations Citizens for a Better Maspeth, Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET), and the Juniper Park Civic Association listing a number of stipulations to be included on a potential liquor license, to which the center has explicitly agreed. These provisions were added onto the SLA's final license.
If fears of community impact appeared to have receded a bit recently, during last week’s CB5 meeting, community members appeared concerned about the liquor license presenting a threat to the future of manufacturing businesses in the area.
“This board has the budding reputation of not being a place that is protecting its land-use basis for manufacturing,” said board member Paul Kerzner during the June meeting. “We’d rather make it residential or some other use that’s convenient or sexy at the moment, like the Knockdown Center.”
He cited a decision by the board last year in favor of a zoning variance at 176 Woodward Avenue from manufacturing to residential, which allowed developers to move ahead with construction of luxury units in an area long-utilized for manufacturing.
“If this were an isolated incident, I could very easily vote for [the license],” he added. “It can do good. But look at the precedent you’re all continuing to set with Woodward Avenue.”
Board member John Meier also voiced concerns about the impact a liquor license could have on manufacturing, citing a Consumer Reports article this month detailing an uptick in domestic manufacturing jobs nationally.
“We are increasing manufacturing,” he said. “Can New York City do that? Not if we take the property away from that usage.”
Meier and Kerzner also voiced concerns that granting the liquor license could lead to a transformation in the community, similar to that which neighborhoods in Brooklyn have experienced.
“They’re bussing in people from Williamsburg,” said Meier. “This shows our community is not the main audience.”
Ridgewood resident Caitlinn Shann echoed this sentiment, saying potential audiences for events at the Knockdown Center could change the makeup of the community.
“What happens when you have liquor licenses popping up all over the neighborhood is you bring in a crowd of people who are looking for a destination to party and to drink and not to live,” she said.
However, some board and community members also showed support for the license, citing the center’s performance during events in the last year at which alcohol was served.
“I was there with the captain and he said it was the most controlled atmosphere he’s been in since he’s been on the police department,” said board member Mike LoCascio. “I live a half-mile from there and I work a quarter-mile from there, and I think it would be a good thing for the community.
“I don’t think there’s going to be 3,100 drunk people running around the neighborhood at the same time,” he added. “All the negativity I’m hearing, I want to know where it’s coming from.”
Bishop David Benke, a former resident of Ridgewood and teacher at Martin Luther School, whose nephew was married at the Knockdown Center, also advocated on the center’s behalf at the meeting.
On Tuesday, Myers said he felt relieved to have made headway after working for years to secure the license.
“It’s a relief we get to move to the next stage,” he added. “I think at each stage we’ve won people over, and we look forward to continuing to win people over.”
He said the center did not have immediate plans for events.
“We just got the decision today, so we certainly don’t have anything ready to go,” he said. “We weren’t going to take any chances.”