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Outdoor BBQ Overlooking Toxic Gowanus Canal Slated to Open This Summer

By Leslie Albrecht | April 28, 2015 10:47am | Updated on April 28, 2015 6:29pm
 The Green Building, a popular wedding venue in Gowanus. Owner Akiva Reich wants to open an outdoor barbecue spot on the banks of the Gowanus Canal this summer.
The Green Building, a popular wedding venue in Gowanus. Owner Akiva Reich wants to open an outdoor barbecue spot on the banks of the Gowanus Canal this summer.
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The Green Building

GOWANUS — It's pulled pork meets pollution.

The owners of the popular wedding venue The Green Building plan to open an outdoor barbecue restaurant overlooking the toxic Gowanus Canal this summer, they told a Community Board 6 committee on Monday night.

Green Building owner Akiva Reich said he wants to open the al fresco ribs joint for the summer as a "trial run" to see if customers will line up to eat near a Superfund site. "The idea is to just see how it works," Reich told community board members.

The venue is now under construction in a 10,000-square-foot empty lot next to the Green Building, where Union Street meets the canal. Reich plans to have 22 tables and room for up to 157 people. The space would be open six days a week. The hours would be 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, noon to 2 a.m. on Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

"[The] goal is to make this a place where residents can enjoy a delicious barbecue meal outside in the summer sun," Reich and his partners wrote in a statement to the board.

Reich and his partners came to Community Board 6's permits committee to seek initial approval for a temporary liquor license for the summer. While Reich's lawyer initially described the venue as a "beer garden," Reich later backed away from that label and insisted to community board members that "the focus is primarily on food."

A menu handed out at the community board meeting included appetizers such as deviled eggs, jalapeno poppers and fried green tomatoes. Entrees included smoked ribs, BBQ brisket, a pulled pork sandwich and short rib chili.

Reich's Gowanus Hospitality Group has created a mini empire of venues along Union Street between Bond Street and the Gowanus Canal. In addition to The Green Building, the group operates an art gallery, a "non-traditional" theater space, and 501 Union, a rental hall across the street from The Green Building.

No one from the community showed up at Monday's meeting to protest or support Reich's proposal, but Katia Kelly, the neighborhood blogger who writes Pardon Me For Asking, told board members some neighbors had concerns about noise.

Kelly said Reich's other venues were a welcome addition to the neighborhood, but she said an outdoor venue serving more than 150 people could create significant noise and crowds.

She and board members questioned whether Reich and his partners had done enough community outreach to notify neighbors about the new establishment.

"150 people coming six days a week, gathering ... I don't think it's fair to unleash that on the community without making sure people know about it," Kelly said.

Reich noted that the empty lot he's building on is an industrial area with few residents nearby. He said the BBQ spot won’t have enough room for dancing, and that it would cater to a smaller, calmer crowd than Gowanus Grove, the outdoor venue on Carroll Street that hosted a weekly dance party overlooking the canal until 2013.

The dance party moved to Industry City in Sunset Park because its space was on the site of the 700-unit Lightstone development that’s now under construction.

Board members were split on whether to recommend approval of the temporary license, but couldn't pass an official resolution because they didn't have a quorum. Community Board 6's full board will review the application at its next meeting on May 13.