Now, owners of the recently converted art space are feeling pressure after their request for a permanent liquor license at the last Community Board 5 meeting in September.
Owner Tyler Myers said they have been paying for Temporary Place of Assembly Permits (TPA) for beer and wine service for events at the facility, but would like a permanent license.
“This is a multi-use art center,” Myers explained. “It treats live music as an art and also presents a wide array of things and becomes a center of the community.”
The 2.5-acre property has operated under a “trial period” over the last year, hosting weddings, corporate events and meetings, art exhibits and one or two live music events per month.
However Myers said he now wants it to become a permanent space with more events and a possible restaurant. He said they would one day even like to have car shows in the parking lot.
“This is a unique and massive space, and we think it’s an opportunity to be able to show things that wouldn’t be shown in the city,” he said.
Community Board 5 chair Vincent Arcuri is skeptical this is the right plan for the property.
“My first instinct is that is shouldn’t be there because it’s an industrial site,” Arcuri said. “They shouldn’t take away industrial property when the city should be introducing different businesses to that site.”
Jean Tanler, CB5 member and coordinator for the Maspeth Industrial Business Zone (IBZ), agreed with Arcuri that the space should be slated for industrial use.
“I have concerns because this is an issue with the zoning, because there are some non-industrial uses allowed in the zones as-of-right,” she said. “Once those types of commercial establishments set up in the IBZ, it causes speculation in the market.”
Myers noted the Knockdown Center would have roughly 30 employees when they open with plans to expand to an upwards of 100 workers over the course of the first year in operation.
He said the art space also preserves a historic building rather than destroying it.
“Most of the interest they were getting were people who would want to knock down this building, which is 110 years old, and put in one big warehouse,” Myers said.
While Myers says that several prospective buyers would have knocked down the facility to build a warehouse, Tanler explained that there are incentive programs available that could potentially avoid the dilemma.
“There are incentives to modernize those spaces,” she said. “The demands right now are high, and there are businesses scouring the city, looking for a big lot like that.”
She added, “I think what they’re doing is great, I just don’t want to see that happen in an IBZ.”
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley praised Myers and the center for their work with job creation.
"The Knockdown Center can bring much needed jobs to our community by bringing the growing film industry to our community,” Crowley said. “As they look to expand into art and cultural events, we must make sure that they are good neighbors, and I am confident they will work with the community and bring jobs to the area."