With her infant daughter in tow, state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) led a protest in Woodtree Playground last Thursday against a proposed bikini bar within a minute’s walk.
“We do not want any adult establishments in this area,” Simotas said.
The bar called Racks is set to open at 19-26 Steinway St. in Astoria. While the area is industrial, it is less than a block away from 20th Avenue, which is home to many homes and playgrounds. The location led to Community Board 1’s decision to unanimously reject its application for a liquor license, but the owners, known as 8G Inc., are planning to appeal to the state Liquor Authority.
Flushing attorney Kerry John Katsorhis, speaking on behalf of 8G Inc., said they were disappointed by the reaction the bar had received from leaders. The president of 8G Inc. is Nicolas Metracos.
“We think it’s unwarranted,” Katsorhis said. “Yet everyone has a right to protest and express their views. We welcome that.”
Simotas, whose daughter Eleni Evangeline Katsantos was born Aug. 7, said she lives nearby and often walks near where Racks will open with her daughter. She said she sometimes comes to Woodtree Playground, at 38th Street and 20th Avenue.
“I don’t want to be taking her in her stroller every day and passing by a bikini bar,” Simotas said.
The assemblywoman also said multiple gropings and sex crimes have been reported in Astoria recently and that a bikini bar would lead to a more hostile environment against women. She also said the community had no assurances that the bikini bar would not later become a topless bar or a strip club.
“It just doesn’t belong here,” said U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights). “This is like a scantily clad Trojan horse.”
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said many children live in the area and not only go to the playground, but also go to IS 14l a block and a half away.
“This is the last kind of element we want them exposed to,” he said.
Gianaris also argued that apartments were planned for the same block, although Katsorhis said construction on the site, which is overgrown with weeds, has been ongoing for years.
“It’s zoned. It’s commercial,” Katsorhis said of the spot. “There isn’t a family living within hundreds of yards of it.”
CB 1 member Tony Meloni said the site, once a bus depot, was going to be an apartment complex, but the then-developers needed to do site remediation from oil leakage and, due to the extra cost and the economic crash, stalled on the project. It has not changed for four years.
District Leader Carol Scarano said the community had once protested against a pornographic store in the area until it eventually closed up and the owners should take that as a warning.
Katsorhis said community members should not pre-judge the location before it opens.
“My people, or the people that I represent, want to be good neighbors and we want to do everything we can to prove to people that we can be good neighbors,” he said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cn
©2012 Community News Group
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