Tag Archives: violations

Cheap Shots on the rocks: SLA to vote on liquor license


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) will vote next Tuesday to either cut off a problematic college bar in Queens or let the drinks keep flowing.

Cheap Shots, at 149-05 Union Tpke., has racked up numerous noise complaints and at least 10 violations since it opened in March 2010, mostly for disorderly conduct and alleged underage drinking, SLA records show.

Rowdy customers constantly break out in fights outside, and some have even been spotted urinating and vomiting on the street, 107th Precinct Community Council President Carolann Foley said.

The SLA’s licensing bureau will decide the bar’s fate on March 11 — either approving or rejecting Cheap Shots’ request for a license renewal — after a full board meeting, an authority spokesperson said. Its current liquor license expired Feb. 28.

“I fully expect the SLA to protect our community and revoke Cheap Shots’ liquor license,” said Councilmember Rory Lancman, who called the site near St. John’s University a “magnet for criminal activity.”

In January, Community Board 8’s Liquor License Committee unanimously shut down Cheap Shots’ renewal application during a heated meeting with bar owners. The advisory vote was meant to urge the SLA to follow suit.

Bar boss Louis Abreu said he has since hired another security guard to keep a handle on commotions on weekends, bumping the total detail to five.

“I’m a small business owner trying to do the best I can,” he said. “We’ve been keeping the noise down. I’m still willing to work with the neighborhood.”

 

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Willets Point business owners expect to reopen


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Nearly one dozen Willets Point business owners who had their auto shops abruptly shut down by the city two weeks ago said they expect to reopen in a few days.

“We all have families,” said Wais Mohibi, owner of Discount Muffler in the Iron Triangle. “Don’t just come in without warning, without anything, and just shut us down.”

The city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) issued partial vacate orders two weeks ago to five businesses at 38-01 126th Street for “illegal, unsafe construction,” according to a department spokesperson.

About five other shops at 37-11 126th Street were also shut down. Vacate orders had been in effect at those locations since 2009, the DOB said.

The businesses were hit with violations for working without permits and for having improper lightweight steel, called C-joist, installed at their sites, according to the department.

The DOB said C-joist construction without proper shoring affects the structural stability of buildings and can cause collapse. Such conditions led to the death of one Brooklyn construction workers last year, the department said.

Most of the business owners dealing with vacate orders are working out deals with the city to sell their property. However, they said they did not expect to be forced out of their jobs so quickly. They added that the vacates left them with nothing.

“All our equipment is inside. We can’t do anything,” Mohibi said. “That’s not fair at all. We’re basically going to be in the street.”

Marco Neira, president of the Willets Point Defense Committee, said business owners expect their stores will temporarily reopen by Monday, June 3.

He said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras’s office has been in touch with the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), which will handle repairs to the stores.

According to an HPD spokesperson, the repairs will be funded by the city and will begin in the next few days. The spokesperson added that there is no timeline yet for the project’s completion.

Ferreras said those owners should be able to return next week at the very latest.

“The city has to treat us as human beings,” Neira said. “I know they want this land. They can have this land, but not in this way.”

According to the DOB, business owners have to submit new design drawings, obtain permits and install proper shoring before their shops can reopen.

The establishments are located at the heart a $3 billion city project to transform the area into a major commercial hub.

“This is obviously harassment by the city of New York because this area is slated for redevelopment,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “It’s death by a thousand cuts.”

 

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Weprin fined for comptroller campaign violations


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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A state legislator was penalized thousands of dollars after the city determined his run for comptroller was fraught with violations.

According to the city’s Campaign Finance Board (CFB), Assemblymember David Weprin owes $28,184 in total penalties and $325,561 in public funds repayments for a dozen violations his failed election campaign for comptroller committed in 2009.

The offenses include accepting over-the-limit contributions and donations from corporations and unregistered political committees, the CFB said. The campaign also failed to file daily pre-election disclosure statements, did not provide bank statements and did not report or document transactions and credit card expenditures.

Weprin’s 2009 camp was fined close to $4,000 alone for making improper post-election expenditures and $100 for failing to demonstrate that spending was in furtherance of the campaign.

Jen Berkley, a spokesperson for the lawmaker, said the campaign entity and its funds no longer exist after more than three years have passed since the unsuccessful bid.

“This kind of came down to a very small amount of money, not that it shouldn’t be repaid if there is a proper entity to repay it. The issue here is that there is not,” she said. “It’s the downside to an investigation that takes close to four years. We’ll do whatever we can to accommodate and cooperate with the Campaign Finance Board.”

Weprin and his 2009 campaign treasurer are still jointly liable for settling the $28,184 debt for penalties, said CFB spokesperson Eric Friedman, even in the absence of a campaign committee.

The assemblymember will not have to repay the $325,561 in public funds out of pocket, Friedman said, but as long as he has a financial obligation to the CFB, he cannot receive public funds for another citywide election.

“We audit every campaign carefully,” Friedman said. “These are things we take very seriously, and that’s reflected in the results.”

Douglaston home destroyed by fire had $1,000s in violations


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence Cullen

A Douglaston home under renovation, ravaged last week by a three-alarm fire, had incurred a laundry list of complaints and racked up thousands of dollars in violations, according to city agencies.

The 39-12 Douglaston Parkway dwelling received 44 complaints since March 2008 from callers saying the ongoing construction work being done at the site exceeded the scope of the approved permit, according to the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB).

All complaints were listed as closed, according to the agency, but homeowner David Wei Huang was also pinned for two violations from the DOB and 17 from the Environmental Control Board (ECB). Of those violations, nine were still outstanding, according to the DOB, and were related to the ongoing construction.

Huang was issued a $2,500 fine when construction at the site was found not to be in compliance with approved plans and another $1,200 for failing to safeguard the public and his property. There were other violations for working with an expired permit, the DOB said.

Permits were first issued by the DOB to extend the building horizontally in September 2009, the department said.

The unoccupied home went up in flames last Tuesday, August 14 at around 7:30 p.m., the FDNY said. No injuries were reported.

Bystander Thomas Perrino said he heard three explosions from inside the house, which he said sounded like gas tanks exploding.

The entire building was already swallowed in flames before more than 100 firefighters from 33 units extinguished the blaze by around 9:30 p.m. The infrastructure of the home’s second floor had completely caved in at that point, said the FDNY.

The fire was deemed accidental, according to a spokesperson for the fire department, and was caused by construction work being done with pipes and torches.

Huang could not be reached for comment.

— With additional reporting by Terence M. Cullen

Health Department fines frustrate Queens restaurant owners


| bdoda@queenscourier.com

Photo by Bob Doda

While the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) officials are cleaning up restaurants throughout the city, restaurant owners are claiming their wallets are being cleaned out at the same time.

Starting in July 2010, the DOHMH made it a requirement for restaurant owners to post the letter grade results of their sanitary inspection.

The grading system is intended to bolster aptitude toward being as clean as possible, but many restaurant owners believe that the frequency of inspections and number of fines received are becoming increasingly unfair.

According to the DOHMH web site, when a restaurant improves between initial inspections, the department reviews it less frequently.
“In about a year, they came three times even though we had an ‘A,’” said Dina Amatuccio, manager of Cascarino’s in Bayside. “The codes change and they don’t tell us. It’s aggravating because they come here when it’s really busy and it takes away from being able to pay attention to the customers. It’s annoying.”

Other restaurant owners in Bayside reported similar experiences with inspectors who, according to the DOHMH, are randomly assigned to specific eateries. One owner said that while an inspector may be paying attention to one area of violations, the next will concentrate on something completely different. A DOHMH spokesperson said that fines usually range from $200 to $2,000 based on severity of violations.

“We are just trying to survive here,” said one Bayside owner, also displaying an ‘A’ in his front window.

He said that despite the grade, he has had to pay violations twice over the past six months.

“The way they change the rules, I had to hire a guy just to make sure everything is perfect. I know they are trying to look out for the customer, but they should be more worried about places that have ‘B’ or ‘C’ ratings.”

Inspection cycles are individual to each restaurant, based on its pattern of cleanliness, according to the DOHMH. Some inspections are based on customers’ complaints or re-inspections from prior violations.
“The overarching goal of the restaurant letter grading program is transparency and food safety, not revenue or fines,” said a DOHMH spokesperson. “The Department is now inspecting restaurants that perform at ‘C’ grade levels about three times each year, ‘B’s twice, and ‘A’s, once per year. Each time a restaurant improves its score on its initial inspections, it can reduce the frequency with which it is inspected, and thereby decrease its potential to incur violations and pay fines.”

One Long Island City restaurant owner who received a ‘B’ inspection grade believes that the system is too ambiguous for customers to understand.

“They see a low letter grade and they automatically think the restaurant is dirty,” said the owner. “We have a ‘B’ because we didn’t have the appropriate paperwork on file. Consumers see the grade and they think the worst . . . Personally, I like the grading system. I think restaurants should put out high-quality food that is safe for the public and is held to a certain standard. I thought it was great until I saw the way they were doing it. They come in for an inspection, find something, fine you and then another inspector comes in and doesn’t inspect what the last guy inspected. He just finds something new and fines you for it.”

During the 2011 fiscal year, revenue collected for fines from food service establishments reached $42.5 million dollars, according to the DOHMH. The Health Department anticipates a five percent reduction in fines collected each year for the next two years going forward.

In January, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a fine relief program designed to reward those who got an ‘A’ grade on initial and re-inspections with no fines.

Still, restaurant owners have a different take on inspections.

“I think there’s a lot of miscommunication on the inspector’s end,” said Chris Evans, co-owner of Press 195 in Bayside with an ‘A’ grade. “You’ll get a story that something is wrong and we’ll correct it. Then, another inspector will come and say that’s not how it should be done. You’ll be told to do one thing and they fine you for it the next time.”

“Inspectors are really going rogue at this point,” said the previously-mentioned Long Island City restaurant owner. “I think the bottom line is that the city needs money . . . for us small places, these fines are killing us.”

Restaurant grades throughout the city, including all recorded violations as well as statistics from the first year of grading implementation, can be found by visitingwww.nyc.gov/health.

–With additional reporting by Melissa Chan and Steve Mosco