STATEN ISLAND — A plan to open a liquor store in New Brighton has drawn criticism from local residents and community groups that think it will hinder efforts to revitalize the struggling neighborhood.
Community leaders think that the store, which sources said is expected to fill a vacant storefront at 411 Jersey St. near Winter Avenue, with liquor bottles and bulletproof glass partitions, would exacerbate the drug and alcohol problems the community already faces.
"This is a neighborhood that has really struggled with drug use and gang violence," said Rev. Terry Troia, executive director of Project Hospitality and a member of the New Brighton Coalition of Concerned Citizens.
"To have a liquor store which would provide easy access to liquor, for a population that's already struggling with drug use issues, is not helpful to support the recovery of the community."
The coalition wants to breath new life into the neighborhood, especially on Jersey Street, and feels that adding a liquor store to the stretch will derail efforts to build up the community's economic base, said Rev. Dr. Victor Brown, founder of the group.
"[The store] is antithetical to what we're seeking to do by way of revitalization," Brown said.
The coalition became aware of the plan from a concerned business owner at its last monthly meeting.
The group contacted the building owner, confirming the plan and hoping to dissuade him from renting the space to the store, Brown said. But the owner, reached through a phone number posted on a sign outside the store, was not receptive to the groups, Brown said.
The owner of the building refused to comment for this story.
The group also contacted local politicians, and received support from them in fighting the store's liquor license.
"To have a liquor store, with the glass cages, selling the small bottles at all hours of the day, it's just a bad idea," said Assemblyman Matthew Titone. "I will fight with the community to ensure that this liquor store will not happen."
While the coalition won support from the local community board, liquor store licenses do not have to be approved by them, like bars or restaurants, a spokesman for the New York State Liquor Authority said. The SLA requires the owner to notify the community and will hear concerns from groups and residents before approving the license, the spokesman said.
According to the SLA's website, no application has been filed to sell liquor at 411 Jersey St.
Titone said he plans to fight the application when it is submitted and intends to reach out to the potential tenant to dissuade them from moving in.
Brown said he understands the building owner's need to make money, and he's glad to have him investing in the neighborhood, but the group would rather have a different establishment take the vacant storefront.
"We're not opposed to him being a profitable man in our community," he said. "We're opposed to the nature of the business he wants to bring in."
Brown said he would like the owner to work together with the group to spur development in the area, which would help residents and the owner.
"He really doesn't lose by partnering with us to help make the whole community better," he said. "If we do better, he does better."