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City Reviews Ruling for 'Rock and Roll Playhouse' in Gowanus

By Nikhita Venugopal | January 14, 2014 5:19pm
 Renderings for the Rock and Roll Playhouse, a proposed bar and music venue at 280 Bond St., in Gowanus.
Rock and Roll Playhouse
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GOWANUS — Residents fighting a controversial “nightclub” and children’s music center won a small victory Tuesday — after the city agreed to examine new evidence that could prevent the proposed business from becoming a reality.

The Board of Standards and Appeals determined that more evidence was needed to decide whether 280 Bond St., the proposed site of the Rock and Roll Playhouse — a venue that plans to offer daytime music classes for children and jazz and theatrical performances for adults in the evening — was zoned correctly. 

In August 2013, the Department of Buildings issued a permit to allow a theater, eating and drinking establishment and a non-commercial art gallery at the site, according to city records. 

The site currently has “non-conforming use” zoning status and therefore is considered a legal exception to the current, residential zoning district, according to the DOB.

The status would allow the Playhouse to be built and operated at the Gowanus site, which is surrounded by private residences.

“They want to put in a nightclub with loud music,” said Jack Lester, the attorney for the residents opposing the plan. “It would be literally right outside their windows.”

A range of evidence, through documents and testimonies, shows that only minimal business activity has been conducted at the site for years, according to residents, who have formed a group called “We are Gowanus.” They argue that this should force the DOB to revoke the non-conforming status.

“Based on this new evidence, we agree with the board that more evidence of continuous use is required,” said a DOB representative who spoke at the public hearing on Tuesday.

“If the evidence is not good enough, we can obviously issue an intent to revoke [the zoning status],” he said.

But Sharon Ackerman, who has owned the property since 1982, claims that her husband’s heating and plumbing business has been operating at the location for years.

Ackerman said she has collected documents, bills and other evidence confirming the business’s presence. Lester countered that he had not seen these records.

The BSA scheduled a second hearing for March 25, after additional evidence would be submitted and reviewed.

Brooklyn Bowl’s Peter Shapiro signed a lease for the space in October 2011. He plans to operate a 21-and-over club with nighttime music shows and a late-night bar, residents say.

"We look forward to addressing the concerns raised at today's hearing, and to allow this process to take its course," said Amy Striem, executive director of the Playhouse in a statement.

"[W]e strongly believe that by continuing to work with local residents and city officials, we can create a welcoming place for families, children and the entire community."

Neighboring residents have said in the past that they feared the Playhouse would ruin their extremely quiet block.

"This is going to impact a quiet block," a 15-year Sackett Street resident testified at Tuesday's hearing.

“You can hear birds chirping in our backyard,” she said. “I have robins outside. Bluejays, cardinals in my backyard. It’s really quiet.”