'Rock And Roll Playhouse' For Kiddies Or Adults? What's Peter Shapiro Really Planning In Gowanus?

280 Bond Street
280 Bond Street, between Sackett and Degraw Street
Main building of 280 Bond Street
View of open garage space, which will be used as outdoor space by venue.
View of residential homes abutting the open garage on Degraw Street
View of 280 Bond Street's side and back wall, 
which abut residential homes on both Sackett and Degraw Streets.
Construction on 280 Bond Street (foreground) has already started
Photo courtesy of Anthony Erice
Photo courtesy of Anthony Erice
280 Bond
Letter sent by Burda Construction to residents whose property abut 280 Bond Street
Screen Shot 2013-05-18 at 5.01.19 PM 
                                                                         Zoning Map of area
Photo credit: Googlemaps.com

Map provided by We Are Gowanus via Eymund Diegel

"Rock And Roll Playhouse"
Music School For Kids Or Noisy Over 21 Jazz Club?
What's Peter Shapiro Planning In Gowanus?

At the end of April, home owners on Sackett and Degraw Street, whose properties abut 280 Bond Street, an 5,650 SF industrial warehouse, received a certified letter from Burda Construction Company regarding upcoming renovation to the building. According to the letter, the work would involve alterations to the existing warehouse into The Rock & Roll Playhouse (RRPH). The letter noted that the Playhouse would include a restaurant and "daily programming and classes for children 10 and younger."

In order to better understand the plans for the building, several homeowners contacted The Rock & Roll Playhouse and spoke to Amy Striem, the company's executive director. During the conversation, according to residents, Striem again highlighted that the Playhouse would be family-oriented and kid-friendly.

The 'Playhouse' would be a children's music school by day, sit-down restaurant with musical entertainment at night, Striem explained to the homeowners. When pressed though, she admitted that the Playhouse’s owner was none other than Peter Shapiro, who is known for several large clubs, including the Brooklyn Bowl, a bowling and live music performance space in Williamsburg.
Shapiro, she said, would be applying for a full liquor license as well as a Place Of Assembly Certificate.

Sensing that the plans for this location were very different and more involved than those represented by Striem, residents asked for a meeting with Shapiro.

The meeting between residents whose properties abut 280 Bond Street and Shapiro, Striem, Larry Burda of Burda Construction and Devlin Goldberg, the Children's Program Curriculum Director, took place on May 14th, 2013. Father Robert Powers of nearby St. Agnes Church was also present.

However, rather than alleviating concerns, the meeting raised even more questions.
Yes, kids 10 and under would be welcome during the day for classes like "Beatles For Babies" and "Drawing Rock and Roll.” But the main thrust of the new operation is to be a late-night music venue featuring jazz and also possibly other types of music seven days a week. After 8 pm at night, the club will only be open to those 21 and older. According to Shapiro, the venue will feature a full bar. During the week, the last call will be around 1:30 AM, 2 AM on week-ends.

Shapiro plans on installing large doors between the building and an outdoor space. The yard will be used for dining.
No parking will be provided for the hundreds of patrons expected each night.

The residents in attendance were stunned to learn that there are no plans to soundproof either the inside or the outside walls of the brick warehouse, though the building extends deep into the backyards of several homes on Degraw and Sackett Streets. To make matters worse, the music stage will be placed at the back of the building, closest to the residential buildings.

It is important to note that the entire Carroll Gardens neighborhood was rezoned in 2009 from R6 to R6B (residential) and some areas of R6A. Although the previous non conforming uses in the residential zone are grandfathered and allowed continuing use under certain specific circumstances, no change in use, occupancy or egress is allowed without approval by the Department of Buildings, which is tasked with enforcing the zoning resolution.
The DoB has been notoriously lax in enforcing the zoning and overlooking defects in self certified applications and it is clear that they are unconcerned with quality of life issues. They appear to have swung quite wide of the mark here in determining that this change of use is compatible with a residential district. Not only is the proposed club surrounded by residences on this block, but it is probable that the opposite side of the street will be rezoned in the near future to encourage more residential development. It would be difficult to find a worse location for a busy and loud concert space than what is being proposed.

Understandably, the neighboring residents are concerned about how The Rock And Roll Playhouse will affect their quality of life. Most are families with young children. In response to the initial misrepresentation of the project and of Shapiro's disregard for their concerns, they have joined together and have formed We Are Gowanus.

From a statement issued by WAG:
"In response to RRPH's plan for 280 Bond and due to the general concern about the lack of planning being considered for commercial development along the Gowanus Canal, area residents have banded together to form WE ARE GOWANUS (WAG). This is not a NIMBY fight. We are pro-development of the Bond Street corridor. many of our members own businesses in the neighborhood and elsewhere. But we will fight to keep development on Bond Street consistent with the intent of city zoning regulations and in keeping with the historic residential neighborhood that runs its length. We are property owners and taxpayers and we support the many reasonable low-impact developments along Bond Street that will benefit the community overall and will burnish the efforts to revitalize and beautify Gowanus. The Rock and Roll Playhouse is not one of those developments; instead it will provide an un-needed service in a badly planned location, one that is inconsistent with the neighborhood and detrimental to all in the tight-knit community of Gowanus."
It would certainly appear that Peter Shapiro is not being forthright with the community. A music school
for kids is a totally different business than a late night jazz club.   Shapiro, who also owns the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, and once operated the notorious Wetlands Preserve, is known as an impresario of big music venues, not as an operator of children's programs.

You can reach We Are Gowanus via their new website here.

You can find the group's new Facebook page here.

And if you would like to sign their petitions, click here.