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Gowanus Biker Club May Face Bigger Threat From Real Estate Market Than NYPD

By Leslie Albrecht | February 23, 2017 1:33pm
 Police have been trying for more than two years to shut down God's Only Demons. The neighborhood's hot real estate market could be an even greater threat to its existence.
Police have been trying for more than two years to shut down God's Only Demons. The neighborhood's hot real estate market could be an even greater threat to its existence.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

GOWANUS — Police have been trying for years to shut down a Butler Street biker club — but the neighborhood’s hot real estate market may get the job done faster.

An NYPD raid at the God's Only Demons motorcycle club on Feb. 18 resulted in 24 arrests and the discovery of guns and drugs, police said, but by Wednesday prosecutors had charged only two men in connection with the raid.

Three other men arrested during the 4 a.m. raid were not charged due to lack of evidence, a law enforcement source said. The 19 others were arrested on open warrants, police said.

The NYPD sweep came two years after police filed a lawsuit declaring the club, at 326 Butler St. between Third and Fourth Avenues, a "public nuisance" to try to get it closed for good.

While law enforcement hasn't had much luck shuttering the club, real estate investors may ultimately push the bikers out for good.

The modest brick warehouse where the club rents space is on the market for $4.25 million and the property "will be delivered vacant upon sale," according to the real estate listing.

While the asking price may be a bit steep, the property is highly desirable, said Jakub Nowak, a broker at Marcus & Millichap who focuses on industrial properties.

The asking price also includes the building next door, for a combined 6,600 square feet. That size is in the "sweet spot" for buyers, especially industrial firms that need a centrally located warehouse for their operations, Nowak explained.

Similar warehouses are becoming harder to find in Brooklyn because many have been repurposed into "higher and better uses," he noted. For example, a former warehouse complex on Ninth Street in Gowanus is being renovated into creative office space.

The Butler Street buildings will also appeal to investors and developers who could renovate them and rent the space to higher-paying tenants, Nowak said. Depending on the exact zoning, such warehouses could be converted into offices, retail space, a hotel or a self-storage facility, he added.

Investors are especially eager to enter the Gowanus market because the city is considering a rezoning of the area that could open the door to more residential development and drive real estate prices up.

"Everybody knows there's some sort of rezoning looming, and there’s definitely upside to be capitalized here," Nowak said. "Everybody is looking to land grab and position themselves to take advantage of that for the future."

A representative for Cushman & Wakefield, the firm handling the sale of the biker club building, declined to comment. Property records list the owner of the building as Frank Puma, who could not be reached for comment. 

When police raided the club earlier Saturday to search for guns, they found five firearms on the premises, the NYPD said. Officers discovered a .380 caliber Llama pistol, a Ruger semi-automatic pistol, a .380 caliber FEG semi-automatic firearm, a Tommy gun, a BB gun and "assorted ammo," the NYPD said.

Marijuana, cocaine and drug paraphernalia were also found in the clubhouse, police said.

Anthony Rosario was charged with criminal drug possession and Victor Vazquez was charged with criminal possession of a firearm, a spokeswoman for the Brooklyn District Attorney's office said.

A man was shot to death outside the club in 2012, and the next year a 16-year-old passed out and was hospitalized after being served alcohol at the club.

But some neighbors told DNAinfo New York in 2014 that the club's menacing name was the most dangerous thing about it, noting they had attended baby showers there.

God's Only Demons isn't the only biker club in Gowanus facing real estate pressure.

Alloy Development has said it wants to build a creative office complex at 234 Butler St., currently the headquarters of the Bridgerunners Motorcycle Club.