Cornfeld Tenants Association (CTA) works to improve housing conditions for residents in properties owned by Arthur Cornfeld and Alan Fisher in New York City (aka ABC Properties, ABC Realty, and many other LLCs). Our concerns are both in terms of tenants’ rights and our right for security and equity. Goal? To ensure our voices are heard and to stop our landlord from further endangering our safety and our lives.
*Wrought Iron door connecting 2020 Broadway + 143 W 69 St leading to receiving area for restaurants
*Rat Infestation at 2020 Bway + 143 West 69 Street (Notice from New York..
*Food Delivery: Changes
*Cleaning of West 69 Street where garbage piles up in front of 143 W 69 St
*Fire Hazards for all buildings >> update
2020 Broadway: Store formerly known as Tani
The store formerly known as Tani where residents and friends joined hands in our Change.org campaign to keep Tsu Yue Wang from finalizing their lease with ABC properties seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
Although the space was kept unoccupied for one month following our petition to ABC Properties, on Saturday May 16th our landlord allowed their new tenant to take over the space. (See photo of Tani taken on 5/16/2015). (1)
On Monday, an Asian crew claiming not to speak any english began demolition work on the space. See photo taken on 5/17/2015. (2)
Wrought Iron Door Connecting 2020 Broadway + 143 W 69 Street leading to receiving area for restaurants
As can be seen from a photograph taken May 1, 2015 the door has gotten *alot* of attention. (3) This door, which has been left unlocked and open for decades, was finally locked by our landlord ABC Properties.
Additionally, a second door (see photo taken May 17, 2015) (4) was recently installed.
A mesh covering on the bottom of the door has been added, along with a new piece of mesh on the side of the door to keep the rats from running into the garbage which continues to be left on the side of West 69th Street. (See photos dated Mary, 2015) (5/6)
Although many of you have told me: “The Cornfelds only put those measures in place to keep you from taking any more photos and videos of the goings-on in the alley” – it is a victory for us.
WE WANTED SAFETY.
As far as many of us are concerned, it doesn’t matter how we got from point A to point Z. We got there. And now the rear of these 2 buildings is a lot safer.
SO HOORAY FOR US!!
RAT INFESTATION + food Delivery Changes
Noi Due, the restaurant located in the basement of 143 W 69 Street has begun to accept most of their food, according to Golan (the owner), who has demonstrated a desire to be attentive and responsive to tenant issues.
Golan told me personally, as well as discussing the issue with Sue, that there are “no more deliveries left to sit unattended in the alley.”
Deliveries, he claims, are made only when the restaurant is open from 11am to 11pm -- when an employee can meet with the delivery person and accept the food straight into the restaurant.
Additionally, Noi Due has made every attempt at trying to mitigate the rat infestation (and noise) by 1) giving keys to some of the deliverymen who need to deliver food before 11am. And 2) by having deliveries not arrive too early so as not to awaken those of you who are trying to sleep in the rear of both buildings.
ANOTHER HOORAY FOR US!!
FURTHER ON RAT INFESTATION
On May 17, 2015 the Cornfeld Tenants’ Association received the following email from New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene:
**This is an auto-generated system message. Please do not reply to this message.**
Service Request #:C1-1-1079741229 Date Submitted: 03/17/15 3:02:02 PM Request Type: Food Establishment Details: Rodents/Insects/Garbage
Your Service Request was closed.
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has sent official written notification to the Owner/Landlord warning them of potential violations and instructing them to correct the situation. If the situation persists 21 days after your initial complaint, please make a new complaint."
While 2020 Broadway and 143 West 69 Street are not “out of the woods” with regard to the rat infestation, we are certainly on the way.
***REMAINING VIGILANT AND DISCUSSING OUR CONCERNS OPENLY WITH EACH OTHER WILL CONTINUE TO HELP US ACHIEVE OUR GOALS***
CLEANING OF SIDE STREET IN FRONT OF 143 W 69 St WHERE GARBAGE PILES UP
For the first time, the side street is getting hosed down. See photo taken recently. This was noticed by several of you on our infamous “Rat Rally” day. Although it does NOT happen every time the garbage is hauled away – IT IS A START. See photo taken May 1, 2015 (7)
FIRE HAZARDS FOR ALL BUILDINGS
I want to thank all of the people who contacted me after the last email to you regarding GAS LEAKS.
In a previous email to you, we suggested you dial 3-1-1 if you smell gas. This information is incorrect.
YOU MUST DIAL 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency.
We are still waiting on the fire chief and fire battalian chief to make a stop at all buildings that are part of the Cornfeld Tenants’ Association. Those of you who want to be notified WILL BE NOTIFIED prior to a visit. (We have your names, however, if you wish to be added to this *notification list – please advise).
Updates on our news is regularly posted to our website:
Since I have paid for almost everything, if you wish to make a small contribution, there is a “Subscribe” button on the website. Any amount is greatly appreciated and goes toward our flyers, printing, and other events, such as the recent Change.org petition (which was not free).
I am so happy that we have come together. United as one. Neighbors helping neighbors. We have come a long way.
Together we can conitnue to make a difference in our buildings and in our homes.
I am sure I speak on behalf of every one of your tenants
when I say you exercised extreme poor judgment in how you replaced the 15,000
lb HVAC unit on the roof of 143 West 69 Street.
should have been given to tenants 2 weeks before this very dangerous
undertaking. Everyone should have been given the option of choosing to stay in their apartments
OR FINDING ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATIONS for the night IN THE EVENT OF A
track record when replacing small HVAC units in apartments or when making
other “minor” repairs/renovations is exceedingly bad.
remove a 15,000 lb monster during the night through early morning hours
WHILE INNOCENT PEOPLE slept is a risk you were ill-advised to take.
While you may own the building, you do not have the right to
jeopardize anyone’s life.
You do not have the right to endanger even one person’s life
– let alone – the lives of every single tenant in the building.
Your continued disregard for the safety of the people who
pay you rent, month after month, is appalling.
On behalf of everyone who calls you their landlord
everywhere I will, once again, urge you to exercise caution. To respect the
lives of those who unwillingly rent an apartment in one of your properties.
In closing, I will note that I am 100% sure you would not
have exposed either your life, your son’s life or the lives of your
grandchildren. Again, you have ZERO right to endanger anyone’s life.
You owe everyone a huge apology for the night of terror you
inflicted on many.
Kirby Sommers, President
Cornfeld Tenants Association
HVAC unit on roof of 143 West 69 Street. A part was changed as we slept.
HVAC unit that replaced the larger one
Crane going up past my window as we all slept at 5am
Added this as this was clearly illegal.
When a crane is used (in this case to swap out a part of the very heavy HVAC) on the roof of 143 West 69 Street - the top two floors are VACATED.
Once again there has been a fire because of the installation of a new stove performed by a handyman instead of a Licensed Master Plumber as required by law, and as repeatedly pointed out to our landlord.
The fire was contained at 2020 Broadway, Apt #4F last night, May 1st at approximately 10:08pm and reports indicate it was caused by a gas leak.
This is NOT the first time there has been a fire because of a faulty stove installation. Further it is NOT the first time we have gas leaks in stoves installed by unlicensed workers.
If our landlord continues to disregard the safety of his tenants, then we must take matters into our own hands. Our lives literally depend on this.
A few of us will be speaking to an attorney about what we can do to ensure we are not continually put at risk because of ABCs disregard for the law and obvious lack of concern for their residents.
Attached are two photos. One taken on the 4th floor during last night's fire.
The second photo shows the fire escape ladder over Barcibo Enoteca's "APPROVED" outdoor cafe.
We do not know HOW Barcibo was allowed to BLOCK a fire escape, but we certainly intend to find out and try to correct this very serious fire hazard.
Many of you have reported gas leaks in your apartments or vacant apartments.
If your stove has been REPLACED, if you know an apartment was recently "renovated" and know that a new stove was installed by a handyman instead of a Licensed Master Plumber, if you have JUST MOVED IN, or if you smell gas CONTACT CON ED immediately by dialing 3-1-1. They will come to the premises, inspect the stoves and prevent a possible fire .
It is far better to be safe than to have a tragedy occur.
HERE IS A LINK TO AN FDNY Apartment Fire Safety Manual:
Please take a few minutes to review it. I cannot over emphasize how important it is to be prepared in the event of a fire, or how to actively participate in fire prevention.We live in very old buildings. None of them are fire resistant.
RE: THE FIRE DRILLS
The Fire Department has to make sure the fire escapes are in working order and that any of the issues, such as broken, steps, or any of the rusted areas do not cause the fire escapes to detach themselves from the building.
Once this inspection occurs and the fire escapes are PROPERLY FIXED -- then we can begin to try our fire drill exercises. I urge you all NOT to try to use the fire escapes on your own UNTIL THEY ARE INSPECTED.
Please pass this information on to your neighbors who may not be on our mailing list.
Excessive noise and vibrations violate a New York State law known as the “warranty of habitability.” That statute — Real Property Law § 235-b — requires landlords to ensure that all residential rental units are free of conditions detrimental to the occupants’ life, safety and well-being, even when the hazards are caused by third parties (like fellow tenants).
If you have not already done so, document the disruptions (by date and time, etc.) and once you have compiled a log of events, forward a copy of that information to your landlord by receipted delivery. The data you supply can be used by the owner as the basis of an eviction proceeding against your neighbors.
If the conditions persist, and your landlord refuses to require your neighbors to carpet their unit (as required by the lease), then you will be able to assert an independent claim against your landlord for violating the law.
Keep in mind, that should you need to take the matter to court, the problem will be one of “proof.” To increase the likelihood of winning this kind of case, you may want to consider hiring an expert to measure the noise and vibration levels you are experiencing. An expert’s analysis will buttress your position and will likely be more persuasive than your mere recitation of the facts and circumstances.
In addition to withholding rent and asking a judge to award you a rent reduction or “abatement,” you may be able to get an injunction from your local Supreme Court directing the landlord to take all appropriate action to reduce or eliminate this annoyance.
Since there are pros and cons to every option, it’s best to speak to a lawyer so that you can arrive at a strategy that will best suit your purposes.
Sixth Ward Loses Liquor License Amid Complaints About Its Outdoor Patio
(Photo by Gavin Thomas)
The future of The Sixth Ward hangs in the balance after the New York State Liquor Authority decided today to strip the Lower East Side bar of its liquor license. The LES Dwellers, a local community group, said they welcome the SLA’s decision to crack down on the bar, which they say is a “complaint-ridden and illegally-operating” nuisance that contributed to longstanding complaints of noise and general debauchery within the 9-block radius known as Hell Square.
At the center of the complaints, it seems, is the eight-year-old Orchard Street pub’s 90-seat beer garden, which according to the list of charges on theSLA’s written decision did not adhere to the SLA’s rules “in that it did not comply with all applicable building codes and/or fire, health, safety and governmental regulations.” There were also complaints of blocked exits and faulty fire escape ladders — even the food was under scrutiny, as the bar had originally described its menu as upscale vegetarian, but undercover inspectors reported it was now mainly just bar food, including hamburgers. We were unable able to reach the bar’s owner for comment as of Tuesday afternoon.
(Photo by Gavin Thomas)
“Licensed restaurant owners should never be able to morph their business from restaurants into sports bars and nightclubs without the community’s input,” said a spokesperson for the Dwellers, members of which attended the SLA hearing. “While we support and welcome diverse businesses in our neighborhood, those who don’t abide by the rules aren’t welcome. The days of operating outside of approved method-of-operation and ‘bait-and-switch’ tactics are over.” Basically, they’re accusing the Sixth Ward of applying for a liquor license under the guise of being an upstanding restaurant, only to turn it into a bar after the fact.
“This victory happened because residents who were fed up with the constant noise and safety issues spent time researching, investigating, reporting, and advocating the SLA and DOB to scrutinize unlawful operators,” said the Dwellers, who also thanked Community Board 3 for forcing this issue onto the SLA’s agenda. “We are counting on their support in the future to keep our neighborhood safe and help improve quality of life,” the Dwellers spokesperson said.
Rats are equipped with large teeth and administer painful bites when threatened. Healthy rats typically avoid people and prefer to be active when buildings are quiet. However, when cornered, they will lunge and bite to defend themselves. The saliva of some species of rats carries hazardous diseases, such as leptospirosis and Hantavirus. In rare cases, rat bite victims may contract rat-bite fever. Humans bitten by rodents are also susceptible to tetanus infections.
Rat bites may be shallow or deep. Some display single puncture wounds, while others display multiple abrasions. Bleeding often occurs. Although infection is rare, all rodent bites should be promptly and thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Tetanus immunizations may be required for those who have not received them in recent years. Despite common belief, no rodent bites in North America have ever resulted in the transmission of rabies. However, a person bitten by a rat should seek a medical professional.
Signs and Symptoms
The common symptoms of a rat bite are pain, redness, swelling around the bite and, if secondary infection occurs, a weeping, pus-filled wound. Other rat bite symptoms may include those associated with bacterial infections known as streptobacillary rat bite fever and spirillary rat bite fever.
Muscle ache, vomiting, joint pain, headache, fever, and rash are common symptoms of streptobacillary rat bite fever. Symptoms usually occur 3-10 days after an infected rat bites a person.
Symptoms of spirillary rat bite fever vary, but are typically repetitive fever, an ulcer at the site of the bite, swelling, swollen lymph nodes and rash. These symptoms may occur one to three weeks after being bitten by an infected rat.
Rats and mice are very rarely infected with rabies, and their bites are not known to transmit this disease to humans.
Seek professional medical advice or attention anytime someone is bitten by an animal.
Rat bites and scratches can result in disease and rat-bite fever. Rat urine is responsible for the spread of leptospirosis, which can result in liver and kidney damage. It can also be contracted through handling or inhalation of scat. Complications include renal and liver failure, as well as cardiovascular problems.
Lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV), a viral infectious disease, is transmitted through the saliva and urine of rats. Some individuals experience long-term effects of lymphocytic choriomeningitis, while others experience only temporary discomfort.
One of the most historically dangerous rat-borne diseases is the bubonic plague, also called “Black Plague,” and its variants. Transfer occurs when fleas from the rats bite human beings. Fleas transported on rats are considered responsible for this plague during the Middle Ages, which killed millions. From the transmission of bubonic plague to typhus and hantavirus, rat infestations can prove harmful to human health.
Rats also are a potential source of allergens. Their droppings, dander and shed hair can cause people to sneeze and experience other allergic reactions.
Diseases transmitted by rats fall into one of two categories: diseases transmitted directly from exposure to rat-infected feces, urine or bites and diseases indirectly transmitted to people by an intermediate arthropod vector such as fleas, ticks or mites. While the following list of diseases or medical conditions are all associated with rats, most are not commonly encountered in the United States.
Diseases Directly Transmitted by Rats
Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. This is a viral disease that is transmitted by the rice rat. This disease is spread in one of three ways: inhaling dust that is contaminated with rat urine or droppings, direct contact with rat feces or urine, and infrequently due to the bite of rat.
Leptospirosis. This is a bacterial disease that can be transmitted by coming into contact with infected water by swimming, wading or kayaking or by contaminated drinking water. Individuals may be at increased risk of Leptospirosis infections if they work outdoors or with animals.
Rat-bite Fever. This disease may be transmitted through a bite, scratch or contact with a dead rat.
Salmonellosis. Consuming food or water that is contaminated by rat feces bacteria can cause this disease.
Diseases Indirectly Transmitted by Rats
Plague. This disease is carried by rats and transmitted by fleas in the process of taking a blood meal. Domestic rats are the most common reservoir of plague.
Colorado Tick Fever. This is a viral disease that is transmitted by the bite of a tick that has taken a blood meal from a bushy-tailed woodrat.
Cutaneous Leishmaniasis. This disease is a parasite that is transmitted to a person by the bite of an infected sand fly that has fed on a wild woodrat.
Some species of rats such as the cotton rat or rice rat are known carriers of hantavirus. Norway rats and roof rats are not known transmitters of hantavirus. Victims may be debilitated and can experience difficulty breathing. Hantavirus is transmitted to humans when they inhale airborne particles from rodent droppings, urine or carcasses that have been disturbed.
The first symptoms of the virus can be mistaken for the flu. Patients then suffer breathing difficulties that may prove fatal if not treated effectively and immediately.
In order to avoid hantavirus, all mouse feces, nest materials and dead rodents must be removed from the home. Spray suspected areas thoroughly with disinfectant before sweeping to avoid having anything become airborne. Use gloves to handle rodent carcasses or droppings and a respirator must be worn with functioning cartridges. Buildings should be aired out following an infestation. Not all rodents have been found to carry hantavirus. Deer mice, cotton rats, rice rats and white-footed mice are the most common transmitters. However, everyone should use caution in dealing with rodents or rodent infestations and contact a pest control professional. House Mouse Diseases & Hantavirus Video
The following is the email sent to the owners of RIPCO New York, as well as the two agents who brought Tsu Yue Wang as a proposed tenant to ABC Properties (Arthur Cornfeld/Alex Cornfeld) for 2020 Broadway. - Kirby Sommers
JPennington <JPennington@ripcony.com>; ZNathan <ZNathan@ripcony.com>; arthurcorn <email@example.com>; alex <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mon, Apr 20, 2015 12:31 pm
As you have unceremoniously blocked the Cornfeld Tenants Association email account from sending you any emails, we feel we have to reach you via any means necessary.
Please be advised that our Change.Org Petition was a success. We were able to achieve our goal of 100 Signatures for 100 Homes in support of our NOT wanting our landlord, Arthur Cornfeld, to rent the space formerly known as Tani - 2020 Broadway - to Yue Wang Tsu.
Dozens of residents spent the weekend in a state of sheer panic. Not just the women, but the men as well and who reside in both 2020 Broadway, along with its sister building at 143 West 69 Street. I had to personally console over 20 people who contacted me in tears begging me to do anything in my power, in our collective power, to keep this man, and another restaurant from signing the lease.
Can't you find Mr. Cornfeld an "A" tenant?
That you would bring him what seems like a bottom of the barrel-type tenant who will, sooner than later, set the place on fire seems a bit lazy on your part to me. I am sure you have better connections than someone with the horrific history this tenant has. If this is the best you can do, perhaps Mr. Cornfeld should consider hiring another brokerage firm.
We are prepared to continue to fight. And, although we have personally contacted Mr. Wang, it is also your fiduciary responsibility to let him know HE IS NOT WANTED IN OUR COMMUNITY. So, please do so, immediately.
Further, please note: we have been able to gather the support of the Upper West Side community, as well as several organizations -- all of whom are willing to help us in our plight to live without any more rat infestations, fire hazards, and the Mr. Wangs of this world.
What good would come of Mr. Wang's proposed new store if there were to be a boycott?
And, a boycott is what this store would have if they proceed to lease.
It will affect your reputation as brokers, no doubt. It will also affect the other three restaurants who have made our lives hell.
We are not just fighting for quality of life issues (although it is our right). No, as I have mentioned multiple times before, we are fighting for our lives.
I hope you will do what is in the best interest of all parties. Oh, and by the way, the newspapers are biting harder than the rats in the alley to get their hands on Mr. Wang who lives in a mansion while yet owing millions to workers he paid slave wages to. I believe this man had the audacity to pay as little as $1.40/hr and when caught, when prosecuted, he declared bankruptcy. And it is our understanding he owes money to the IRS and to a slew of other companies and people. What a catch!
So, again, no: we don't want him. And we will stop at nothing to make that crystal clear to you, to him, and to our landlord.
The following is basic information on what landlords do in the event of a fire in one of their properties: they pick up the phone and call their insurance companies. And they are ok.
A landlord insurance policy is designed to insure the interests of the landlord. The landlord owns the building and receives rent from a tenant if the property is occupied. In the event of a fire the landlord can suffer losses to include damage to the building, damage to other structures like a garage or shed, loss of rent if the tenant can’t live in the property due to a covered loss, or even a liability claim should someone get hurt on the property and the landlord is found to be negligent. Now lets break down the coverages a little more to make it a little more clear.
Building or Fire Insurance. A basic policy will insure the building for damages resulting from a fire. The fire can be the fault of the landlord, the insured, or something else entirely. Other hazards that may cause a loss are wind, hail, vandalism, malicious mischief, and leaky pipes. Other hazards are not automatically covered on a basic fire policy and may have to be purchased in addition to the fire coverage. If the loss is the result of the tenants negligence the landlord may be covered as long as the policy is written as a tenant occupied property and the cause of loss was a covered peril. Perils can be fire, wind, hail, VM&M, or leaky pipes.
Other Structures. This coverage is for any structure owned by the landlord that is not attached to the house. A detached garage, shed, or fence would be an example of an other structure. All the hazards or covered losses would be the same as the building coverage. Other structures is not always an automatic coverage and may have to be purchased separately on the policy.
Landlords Contents. This would cover contents of the landlord to include a stove, dishwasher, or other appliances or property owned by the landlord and left for the use of the tenant. This property is covered on the contents portion of the landlords policy up to the specified limit. Not always an automatic coverage and may have to be purchased separately on the policy.
Loss of Rent. This is often a misunderstood coverage. Loss of rents provides coverage for the landlord if the property is damaged due to a covered loss and the tenant can not live in the property until it is repaired. The loss of rents pays the landlord lost rents that they can not collected from the tenant because the house is unlivable. The coverage does not provide housing or living expenses for the tenant, only the rents the landlord can not collect from the tenant while the property is being repaired. Coverage for the tenant to provide housing is covered under a tenant or renters insurance policy which we will discuss later in this post.
Medical and Liability Coverage.These are actually two different coverages and are usually tied together. Medical coverage can be thought of as first aid coverage. Provides an injured person with basic medical coverage to the amount stated in the policy which usually starts at $500. It could be more, depends on the policy amount. Liability insurance would be for more extensive medical treatment and/or pain and suffering. This is the amount a person, either the tenant or a guest, could sue the landlord for injuries caused by the property of the landlord. Common lawsuits brought against landlords are for poor maintenance of the sidewalk, driveway, porch, or the home. Cracks, missing rails, or other property hazards can result in a liability claim to the landlord. Even if the person was a guest of the tenant, the landlord can still be responsible for their injuries.
Now, let's suppose there were to be a fire at 2020 Broadway or 143 West 69th Street -- on TOP of collecting insurance, getting paid all normal rents (even though you may be DEAD), they have the EXTRA bonus of having a clear path to any rent stabilized apartments that were destroyed in the fire at any price (as it seems/appears with many of the market rate apartments which had large increases that seem unjustifiable).
If they are lucky (and the Cornfelds seem like a lucky bunch) and the two buildings are destroyed, guess what? They probably would build one large building out of the two, possibly go straight to condo, make themselves property managers and, voila: make a lot more money.
So, our loss of life is possibly (and please, this is an opinion piece) -- possibly this scenario would be the Cornfeld's best dream as they have proven by attempting to install yet a FOURTH restaurant in these buildings. The most recent to a known arsonist: Tsu Yue Wang (who is talked about as a member of the Chinese mob who makes one phone call and suddenly a fire happens.) The latter statement is from things people in the neighborhood have told me...so not my opinion, but the word on the street, so to speak.
We also have chastised the Landmarks Preservation Commission for allowing Arthur Cornfeld to bring a fifth food-related business to our already rat infested buildings full of fire hazards and fire traps.(The fifth restaurant is Andanada, a Michelin star restaurant, that regrettably must be as rat infested as Noi Due, West Side Restaurant, and Barcibo Enoteca.)
It seems our landlord, Arthur Cornfeld aka ABC Properties and the notorious Tsu Yue Wang have signed a lease.
Wang will be opening the new food related (it has not been confirmed that it will be a restaurant, although "food related" is the phrase tossed about) to 2020 Broadway.
It will not be called Ollies -- or any of the other restaurants such as Saigon Grill -- that Wang owns. Wang seems to want to hide who he is with this new venture. It may be Maples.com -- which I fleshed out doing some research.
One of our tenants summed it up beautifully:
“Upper West Side slumlord meets Flushing’s Sweatshop Kingpin who I’ve heard belongs to the Chinese mob and is known for making one phone call before a fire destroys his businesses. This man is not a businessman, he is a thug. Before we know it, our buildings will go up in flames. Seems like Arthur Cornfeld really does want to kill his tenants.”
He obviously wants to remain anonymous.
We are going to continue to fight for the right to live without the fear of dying. Another tenant can't get the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire out of her mind.
In a 34-to-3 vote, the community board refused to grant the request made by the owner, Tsu Yue Wang, citing concerns about the scarcity of parking, the safety of the building and the potential for illicit activity.
Huang had wanted to develop the spa in a two-story apartment building in downtown Flushing. Anyone who seeks to open a health spa in the city must apply for a permit and be reviewed by the city Department of Investigation. The community board is the initial step in this process, ultimately making the recommendation to the borough president on whether to issue the permit. The Board of Standards and Appeals is the final arbiter.
The members of the board were concerned that the spa was to be built within 200 feet of a Roman Catholic church and school. The monsignor, Rev. Edward Wetterer of St. Michael's, told the board members that he was gravely worried that the spa would serve as a front for prostitution. John Watts, the chief of staff for City Councilwoman Julia Harrison (D-Flushing), also expressed similar concerns.
But Don Weston, an architect who spoke for Huang at the meeting, criticized the board's decision, saying his client had met whatever legal burden was imposed on him and that he was simply hoping to branch out into a new business venture.
Before the meeting Monday night, the community board had already held two closed committee meetings during which the application for 136-45 41st Ave. was discussed, said Chuck Apelian, the committee chairman.
Apelian said the first meeting got off on "a concerned foot" when they saw the applicant's last name, Huang. Immediately, he said, the committee thought that the original applicant, Tiffany Huang, was related to Tommy Huang, a Flushing businessman who owns the RKO Keiths Theater on Main Street.
In February 1999, Tommy Huang was sentenced to five years' probation and fined $5,000 for ignoring asbestos contamination in the landmarked theater and for spilling hundreds of gallons of fuel oil in its basement. The judge also ordered Huang to clean up the property, which has been on the market for several years.
Wang swore that neither he nor Tiffany Huang was related to Tommy Huang. Tsu Yue Wang and Tiffany Huang, whose relationship was not immediately clear, were required to file affidavits with the board attesting to that fact, Apelian said.
Apelian also said there were some inconsistencies and errors on the original application, most noticeably that the manager was listed as a tenant of the building when in facthe is the owner. In an interview, Weston called those errors "boo-boos that shouldn't have happened" and accepted blame for them.
The board members dwelled at length on the issue of whether the health spa might simply be camouflage for a brothel. The monsignor of St. Michael's said he had gathered the signatures of nearly 75 out of 3,000 parishioners who objected to the spa.
"We don't know what services or what kind of element would be offered," he told the board members. "If it is somewhat in line with people looking for sexual activity, that would draw an undesirable element."
Watts said both he and Harrison were firmly opposed to the spa for several reasons.
"The owner is a developer," Watts said. "The potential is great that we will have something illegal right across the street from St. Michael's."
But Weston, speaking for Wang, said the city required such an applicant to be investigated so as to root out possible prostitution. "We certainly have no intention to run a sex operation," Weston said in response to Watts' remarks.
Weston said the spa would accommodate no more than 22 people at any given time. The spa would offer patrons a massage parlor, a Jacuzzi, a sauna and a steam bath, he said, with provisions for a kitchen if Huang wanted to build one in the future. Weston also said Wang would employ 12 workers, all trained as masseurs and licensed by the state.
Although Huang had not applied for a liquor license, Weston said his client reserved the right to do so at a later date.
Several board members also voiced concerns about the scarcity of parking near where the spa would be built and about the safety of the building. Because the spa would accommodate 22 patrons or fewer at any one time, the owner would not be required to provide parking, Apelian, the committee chairman, said.
Nevertheless, Weston said his client had made arrangements with the owner of a nearby lot to use six of the lot's parking spots. Weston added that it was a moot point since some 70 percent of the customers would likely walk to the spa, while the rest would take either a cab or public transportation.
Although at least four board members seemed concerned about whether the building was sufficiently equipped in the event of a fire, Weston said sprinklers would be installed in the spa and there were two exits to street level.