Aug. 29, 2016 Staff Report
State Senator Jose Peralta called on the New York State Liquor Authority to stop issuing liquor licenses for the next 12 months to new nightclubs along the Roosevelt Avenue corridor today, in an effort to cut back on crime and clean up the area.
Peralta presented a multifaceted plan to improve Roosevelt Avenue between 74th Street and 114th Street, urging stricter enforcement of cabaret license laws by the Department of Consumer Affairs and additional legislation to increase fines and penalties for violations of those laws.
“The number one complaint I get as I walk up and down this district is ‘when are we going to finally clean up Roosevelt Avenue,’” Peralta said. He explained that the issues he hears about include drugs, gangs, prostitution, sex trafficking, fake IDs, employment agency scams, and rental scams, among others. “The time has come once and for all to clean it up,” he said.
Peralta compared Roosevelt Ave. to the old Times Square, before it was cleaned up in the 90s by new legislation under Mayor Rudy Giuliani. “There is an urgent need for action to be taken, so I hope Mayor de Blasio is listening,” he said, noting he has reached out to de Blasio with letters twice.
“This is not an easy task, there is a plague of criminal activity on Roosevelt Avenue, and cleaning up Roosevelt Avenue is a colossal task. It’s a titanic effort. Words and promises are no longer enough.”
One major factor in criminal activity along Roosevelt Avenue is nightclubs, or any establishment with drinking and dancing, functioning without proper cabaret licenses, Peralta explained.
He said that only six businesses operating along Roosevelt Avenue between 74th Street and 114th Street have valid cabaret licenses. His primary priority would be cracking down on violations of cabaret laws, including introducing new legislation that would allow the DCA to issue fines up to $10,000 and suspend licenses for 60 days. It would also allow the DCA to take in to account past violations when a business applies for a new license.
Peralta’s proposal would also enable the DCA to reject any cabaret license applications if the community board overseeing the area felt that the business “will have a negative impact in the surrounding neighborhood.”
Peralta said that the Roosevelt Avenue stretch has a great deal of vitality during the day. “And then at night it transforms in to something completely different,” he said, citing heavy criminal activity along the avenue.
Peralta said he is preparing legislation that would put together an 11-person commission to examine the issues facing Roosevelt Avenue between 74th Street and 114th Street. The commission would be in operation for five years and would release an action plan within the first year.
The members would include representatives of the 110th and 115th police precincts, a representative from the DCA, representatives from Community Boards 3 and 4, merchant representatives from CB 3 and 4, and representatives from the Department of Sanitation, the Department of Health, the New York State Liquor Authority License and the Fire Department.
“Roosevelt Avenue for the most part is a vibrant, most important aspect of Jackson Heights, and there are just a few operators who really detract from it,” said Giovanna Reid, the District Manager of CB 3, who spoke in support of Peralta’s plan.
“If you’re not doing it right, this is a strong message to you that you’re going to get wiped out, whether it’s in fines, whether it’s in penalties, or whether it’s in being shut down,” said Arelia Taveras of the New York State Latino Restaurant Bar and Lounge Association. “This is for the bad apples that are not operating correctly, for everybody else you’re going to love it because you’re going to thrive, no more liquor licenses to the bad establishments,” she added.
The SLA and Councilman Daniel Dromm’s office did not respond to request for comment by the time of publication.