Heated Discussions As Community Board 1 Breaks Up For The Summer

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Bklyner/Olivia Oldham

WILLIAMSBURG – On Tuesday evening Community Board 1 convened for the final session before the summer break and community members scrambled for seats in the fluorescent-lit meeting room of Swingin’ Sixties Senior Center in Williamsburg; some were left to sit on the floor. On each table, among vases of fake flowers labeled ‘Do Not Touch’, print-outs of THE CITY article “Brooklyn Community Board Roils Over $26,000 SUV Splurge” were scattered. 

The board heard a number of applications regarding local development, including a liquor license application from event space The Secret Loft and a BSA application for a building at 19 Maspeth Avenue. The main event of the evening, however, was the open session, where members of the community spoke in criticism of Board Members Gerald Esposito’s purchase of a $26,000 SUV.

Lilly Wolfson and Alex Neuhausen, co-owners of the Secret Loft, a performing arts space located in Greenwich Village, presented an application for a liquor license. The two are looking to expand the venue into a location at 90 Scott Avenue with a capacity of roughly 350 people. Their proposal was met with criticism from the board, with Board Member Tom Burrows questioning the safety of converting the area into a hub for venues, referring to it as a “hellhole of a location.” The application has been postponed until the SLA Review & DCA Committee Meeting convenes on June 25th.

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An application for a zoning variance at 19 Maspeth Avenue was also met with a critical response by the Board. Joe Caputo and Paul Scarola, co-owners of the New York Heating Corps, presented a BSA application alongside two representatives from Slater & Beckerman. Caputo owns a triangle-shaped lot on 19 Maspeth, which he wished to make into a six-story building with a commercial ground floor.

Board members criticized the lack of community resources the building would offer, one saying: “You should come here with something for the community if you want a variance.” Caputo, a Williamsburg native, protested, saying that he had previously provided jobs to those in the community, as well as housing to the community. The applicants were asked to consider including affordable housing units in the development before further action by the board.

Bklyner/Olivia Oldham

The open session was the final act of the evening. Board members and locals spoke against what they deemed a ‘wasteful’ use of community board funds: The purchase of a $26,000 SUV by CB1 Manager Gerald Esposito. The purchase went through no rigorous decision-making process and Mayor Bill De Blasio has ordered the Department of Investigation to look into the purchase.

Meeting attendees complained that the money was part of a grant that was meant to be spent on a new complaint system for the CB1.

The meeting adjourned after an evening of heated discussion, dealing both with questions of Williamsburg’s commercial and residential future, as well as CB1 expenditures. The board will not meet in July and August.

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