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Locals Worry Outdoor BBQ on Gowanus Canal Will Make Neighborhood Gross

 Neighbors are opposed to plans for an outdoor barbecue spot on the banks of the Gowanus Canal.
Neighbors Say Outdoor BBQ on Gowanus Canal Will Bring Noise, Rats
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GOWANUS — Neighbors say an outdoor barbecue restaurant planned for the banks of the Gowanus Canal could make one of the city's most polluted sites even more disgusting.

A group called Bond Against Gowanus BBQ Club says that an al fresco rib joint that the owners of The Green Building want to open on Union Street will bring noise, crowds and rats, and they want Community Board 6 to reject the venue's liquor license application.

“Who wants an outdoor bar/eatery with music til 2 a.m. six days a week across from where you sleep? We don’t," the group said on Twitter. Representatives of the group did not respond to requests for comment.

Akiva Reich, the owner of popular wedding venue The Green Building on Union and Bond streets, wants to open the barbecue restaurant for the summer as a "trial run" through November. He's asking Community Board 6 to support a temporary liquor license application.

Reich has already started building the outdoor eatery on an empty lot overlooking the canal on the west side of the Union Street bridge.

He told DNAinfo New York that he understands neighbors' concerns, because he's one of them. He lives nearby and operates two other event venues on Union Street as well as The Green Building.

Like many locals, he has bad memories of the droves of partiers who flooded the area when an outdoor venue called Gowanus Grove hosted weekly dance parties near the Carroll Street bridge. Some of them even crashed weddings at The Green Building, he said.

Reich's outdoor BBQ spot, to be called Swan Dive, won't be anything like Gowanus Grove, he insisted. Legions of loud customers would have a negative impact on his Union Street businesses, so he wants to keep noise and crowds to a minimum. In addition to The Green Building, Reich runs Sky Gallery and 501 Union, which both host private events.

"My interests are aligned with the opposition," Reich said. “It affects my businesses more than it affects my neighbors. People are paying thousands of dollars to get married [at The Green Building]. I can’t disrupt that.”

As for concerns about rats, Reich said he's just as worried about the critters as neighbors are. A rat infestation developed on one of his nearby properties several years ago when food trucks leased the land and used it as a parking lot, he said. Reich didn't renew their lease and conducted an "intensive cleanup" to prevent rats from gathering there, he said. The experience was one he doesn't want to repeat.

Opponents of the BBQ spot include some of the same residents who sued to stop the Rock and Roll Playhouse — a children's music center, bar and restaurant — from opening at 280 Bond St.

Locals worried about "quality of life" issues in Gowanus also recently convinced the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to scale back a new parole office on Second Avenue.

Reich says he's just as invested in the community as his foes are.

He said he could have created a "cash cow" by opening an outdoor dance club on the site, but instead he wants Swan Dive to be "food-focused" and have "kids programming." The venue won't host live music or DJs because that could jeopardize his other businesses.

Community Board 6 will vote Wednesday on the liquor license for the outdoor barbecue spot. The board's vote is only a recommendation; the State Liquor Authority has final say on the license.

Community Board 6 meets at 6:30 p.m. on May 13 at Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon St.