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BP Backing More Williamsburg Liquor Licenses, Despite Local Opposition

By Serena Dai | August 6, 2015 12:18pm | Updated on August 7, 2015 6:29pm
 Mozzarella Holdings LLC has been trying to open an Italian restaurant on the ground floor of Bridgeview Towers at 26 Broadway.
Mozzarella Holdings LLC has been trying to open an Italian restaurant on the ground floor of Bridgeview Towers at 26 Broadway.
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DNAinfo/Serena Dai

SOUTH WILLIAMSBURG — Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is throwing his support behind another neighborhood nightlife venture that's been repeatedly opposed by hundreds of locals — a move that some say undermines the community's role in the process

Mozzarella Holdings LLC has been applying for a full liquor license for an Italian restaurant in the Bridgeview Towers Condominium at 26 Broadway for nearly to a year, a bid that more than 400 residents in the immediate vicinity petitioned against due to quality-of-life concerns.

The State Liquor Authority denied the license in July due to a lack of public interest for the establishment. The company responded by applying for a beer-and-wine license.

On Tuesday, Adams staffer Bennett Baruch emailed Community Board 1 chairwoman Dealice Fuller with a letter of support for the restaurant that the borough president penned in June. The email also asked that Fuller help "mediate" any community opposition when the application is reviewed by the board's liquor license committee Aug. 19.

Adams sent the same letter to the State Liquor Authority, after Mozzarella Holdings reached out to him, according to Adams' communications director, Stefan Ringel.

"Since late last year, Mozzarella Holdings has worked diligently to assuage community concerns," Adams wrote in the letter to the SLA. "This team effort, along with the agreed upon stipulations, lead me to believe that the proprieter of the establishment is interested in being a good neighbor and a positive force in the community."

But the borough president's letter, as well as his staff's request for help from the community board, hit a sour note with some members of CB1's SLA committee, according to emails obtained by DNAinfo.

It's not the first time Adams has stepped in to support an individual liquor license the board and hundreds of locals have opposed. Earlier this year, he advocated for the Williamsburgh Savings Bank liquor license without community support.

Additionally, Adams wrote a letter of support to the SLA for Brooklyn Mirage, an expansive pop-up venue at 99 Scott Ave., without first conferring with the community board, committee co-chair Thomas Burrows wrote in an email to fellow members.

If the borough president plans to throw his weight behind licenses without getting local feedback, it renders the board's SLA committee obsolete, Burrows wrote.

"I certainly can do a lot of other things with the 6+ hours we spend each month reviewing licenses, working out stipulations, hearing community input, negotiating compromises and reaching goals that meet everyone's needs," he continued. "If he wishes to be the arbiter of future SLA licenses we should send all community members to his office."

Abe Perlstein, an SLA committee member and co-vice chairman of the board, responded to Burrows in an email agreeing with his assessment.

"Why are we sitting and wasting (not spending) our time, reviewing applications, when at the end they will force it on us?" Perlstein wrote.

Fuller, the board chairwoman, did not respond to a request for comment.

She sent a note to Baruch on Thursday, saying that she forwarded Adams's letter to the committee but not clarifying whether she planned to "mediate."

She did, however, emphasize that the committee members review all applications "with the utmost diligence."

"Voluminous personal time and sacrifice is made by each member of this committee to insure that they achieve the best possible recommendations," she wrote.

Ringel, the borough president's spokesman, said that Adams "regularly reaches out" to the SLA to support businesses he believes will add "good jobs" to the borough. This one fits that criteria while not posing a risk of any violence or ciminal activity related to the business, he added.

Adams's job is to look at the borough as a whole, and sometimes that conflicts with local opinion, Ringel added.

"Sometimes, these views are naturally in line with each other, while other times they may slightly diverge," he explained. "Fortunately, we can disagree without being disagreeable."

Mozzarella Holdings' restaurant would seat more than 120 people and employ between 25 and 30 staffers, according to material sent to the SLA.

Residents of the high-end condos nearby have been out in force for months to oppose a liquor license for the restaurant. They say there's little to no soundproofing planned for the space, making even a little nighttime noise unsuitable for an area filled with families. Locals have also expressed a distrust of the restaurant's owners, claiming they've lied in the past.

Louis Silverman, the developer behind 26 Broadway and one of the restaurant's owners, previously claimed that a nearby commercial space he owned would house yoga studio, only for a Soul Cycle-style gym with amplified music to move in, residents said.

That kind of bait-and-switch has happened several times, they added.

In a statement, Silverman did not directly respond to allegations but noted that he's been a member of the Williamsburg community for more than 25 years.

“We are excited to bring an affordable family friendly restaurant to the neighborhood," he said. "Our team is committed to providing a world class dining experience to our guests, without breaking the bank.”

Adams's support of the license was upsetting but not surprising, noted David Lantelme, a resident who helped collect more than 400 signatures from residents on the block opposing the liquor license.

"The reputation has gone through the street that he really is just constantly promoting any kind of restaurant, bar in Brooklyn, with almost with no regard to community concern," Lantelme said. "It's really, really disappointing."