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Plan to Clean Up Roosevelt Ave. Would Fine Bad Bars $10K, Official Says

By Katie Honan | August 29, 2016 3:01pm
 Sen. Jose Peralta is proposing legislation to limit cabaret licenses and increase fines for businesses
Sen. Jose Peralta is proposing legislation to limit cabaret licenses and increase fines for businesses
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

​JACKSON HEIGHTS — A local pol wants to stop the music on new nightclubs — and increase the fine for illegal bars and clubs already on Roosevelt Avenue in a longstanding fight to clean up the thoroughfare.

Standing just steps from Roosevelt, Sen. Jose Peralta announced new legislation that would push the Department of Consumer Affairs to increase fines from $1,000 to $10,000 for bars violating the cabaret licensing rules — specifically the $2-per-dance bars that line the street, he said.

"We need to enforce current cabaret laws," Peralta said. "We have to hit them where it counts — in the pockets."

The top complaint he hears from constituents, he said, is about cleaning up Roosevelt Avenue. 

He said locals are specifically concerned about bars that operate illegally as dance clubs — which critics have linked to everything to increased crime to sites that encourage sex trafficking.

"It's time to eliminate all the bad actors," he said.

READ MORE: Roosevelt Avenue Is 'Epicenter' of NYC Sex Trafficking, Officials Say

In addition to the fine increase, bars found to be operating illegally would have their liquor licenses suspended for 60 days.

The bill would also encourage the city's office of Consumer Affairs to reject new cabaret license applications if the community board believes it could have a negative impact on the neighborhood.

On a recent walk down Roosevelt, between 114th and 74th streets, Peralta said he and his staff counted around 15 bars that offered dancing.

Only six have cabaret licenses, he said. 

Giovanna Reid, the chair of Community Board 3, said that the block is, "for the most part, a vibrant place."

"There's just a few aspects to detract" from that, she added.

In addition to the stiffer fines, Peralta again suggested a "Commission on Roosevelt Avenue" comprised of the local precincts, the local community boards, city agencies and other representatives to brainstorm ways to improve it.

He's called for the re-creation of this task force for years, including in 2013 after there were two daytime murders within a block of one another on Roosevelt.

The proposal is the latest move in a push to clean up the bustling street, which Peralta calls the "new Times Square."

One plan is the controversial Roosevelt Avenue BID, which plan has been on hold as officials continue to evaluate it.

A main criticism of that plan was that it would further gentrify the neighborhood, a suggestion that was brought up at Monday's press conference.

But Peralta defended his plan, saying it is to encourage more business, especially smaller ones.

"I don't want to gentrify, this is not that at all," he said. "I want to make sure people feel safe walking up and down Roosevelt Avenue."