Residents Cry Foul Over Noisy Basketball Court Behind Bar

By Nigel Chiwaya on October 16, 2012 6:59am 

QUEENS — Forest Hills residents are using a full-court press to oust a newly constructed basketball court behind a Queens Boulevard bar.

Locals said the half-court behind the Cobblestones Pub, near 78th Avenue, has made their lives miserable, generating noise, litter and vandalism since it opened in June.

Residents aired their complaints at the Community Board 6 meeting earlier this month, demanding the removal of the court, which hosted three-on-three summertime tournaments that would stretch well into the night.

Now they're circulating a petition to close it down.

"After the games, the players and spectators spill onto our residential streets," said neighbor Stephanie Lin, who was joined at the meeting by more than a dozen fellow residents.

"They yell profanities at each other and they’ve even fought physically with each other on our streets. We no longer feel safe in our neighborhood.

"This is not the community we want to live in."

Since the court opened in June, residents along Kew Forest Lane, behind the pub, say they've had to deal with noise from crowds, the destruction of property, and beer bottles and other litter strewn on their sidewalks.

At least 11 complaints against the establishment have been logged in the city's 311 system since June, according to an online database, including seven for loud talking and one for loud music.

Cops have also responded to the address several times after the games, but no action has been taken, sources said.

One resident, C.P. Garg, said that he measured the crowd noise on his iPhone with an app on several occasions throughout the summer, with the noise often topping 100 decibels.

Garg, who has lived in his Kew Forest Lane house with his wife, Munju, for more than 20 years, said that the noisy crowds frighten his family.

"We are scared. We don't want to go and confront them," said Garg, 60, whose backyard and living room are directly behind the basketball court.

"These are big strong guys. What if someone comes and throws a brick in our window?"

The residents said that the players wreak havoc late at night, past midnight on a couple of occasions, shouting and walking around with cups in their hands.

The staff at Cobblestones Pub denied the residents' charges. The schedule for the court, which does not have any time restrictions, in mid-August to September showed games being played from 6 to 8 p.m.

"No one's allowed [on the court] after 8:45 p.m.," said one worker.

Peter Massaro, the watering hole's owner, said the bar does not serve alcohol to players on the court and that players are not allowed in with beer.

"All of these accusations are very much unfounded," said Massaro, who has owned Cobblestones for more than 25 years. "Why would I risk my liquor license?"

But residents said that even if Cobblestones doesn't serve the players alcohol, it has invited people who drink on the streets and litter.

"Now they're waiting for the games to start, and walking on our driveways," said Lin, 33.

Lin, a student at St. John's University School of Law, said she has complained to the community board and to city Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz about the court multiple times.

Koslowitz said that she, along with community board manager Frank Gullusico and the 112th precinct, met with Massaro about the complaints during the summer.

While she asked Massaro to end the games earlier, she said that he is within his rights to keep a court behind the bar.

"The only thing that would be illegal would be if they're playing after 9 p.m. If they're drinking within the premises that's not illegal," said Koslowitz.

"The only thing I can possibly do is talk to the owner and ask him to be a good, nice neighbor."

Massaro said that he has complied with Koslowitz's request and that the residents, who have started a petition for the court's removal, are being unreasonable.

"The city asked to end the games by 9 p.m., I said 'OK,' " said Massaro. "I'm in business to make people happy, not be a nuisance."

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