Council denies sidewalk cafe permit

Avella not convinced that application errors were inadvertent, calls for investigation of architect. The owner of the Delano Cafe Lounge at 29-02 Francis Lewis Boulevard applied to the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs for an unenclosed sidewalk cafe permit. The original application called for 36 tables and 72 chairs fronting on 29th Avenue and Francis Lewis Boulevard. After meeting with Community Board 7, the applicant agreed to reduce the application to 11 tables and 22 chairs fronting only on Francis Lewis Boulevard.

Before DCA’s public hearing, the applicant submitted plans to DCA that reflected the CB7 agreement, but when the matter was scheduled to go before the Council’s Zoning & Franchises Subcommittee, the applicant’s attorney realized that the Subcommittee had been sent the original plans instead of the revised version. The attorney mailed a letter to Chair Tony Avella to withdraw the application; the letter stated that new plans would be submitted shortly.

Upon receiving the second set of plans, Avella told the applicant’s attorney that the plans, certified by architect Gerald Caliendo, were inaccurate. Avella informed the attorney that the width of Francis Lewis Boulevard was not 17ft., but rather 14.5ft. A third set of plans was circulated at the Council’s October 17th public hearing before the Zoning & Franchises Subcommittee, where the attorney testified that the inaccuracies of the first two sets were “honest” mistakes and that there was no intent to “perpetrate a fraud on the Subcommittee.” The attorney added that to “err is human, to forgive is divine,” and implored the Subcommittee to approve the application. In response to the attorney’s comments, Avella noted that the first set of plans did not reflect the CB7 agreement, incorrectly listed the width of Francis Lewis Boulevard, and failed to indicate an obstruction on the sidewalk, and that the second set of plans again failed to indicate the correct width of Francis Lewis Boulevard.

Caliendo, testifying in support of the application, admitted that he had made an “inadvertent” error, and believed that his mistake should not reflect poorly on the applicant. Avella questioned the veracity of Caliendo’s testimony, and noted that the inaccuracies were not corrected after the first mistake was made.

Before the meeting was closed, Subcommittee Member Helen Sears commented that she had known Caliendo for many years, and that “he does honorable work.” Sears recognized that the application was in Avella’s district, but opined that “to malign someone’s reputation is dishonorable in itself.” Avella reminded Sears that the Subcommittee rebuked an architect for certifying plans with false information just a few weeks ago, 5 CityLand 117 (Sept. 15, 2008), and added that he would file a complaint against Caliendo with the State. The meeting closed without a vote.

When the Subcommittee reconvened, Avella recommended denial of the application. All Subcommittee members, except for Sears, followed Avella’s recommendation. Subcommittee Member Melinda Katz explained her vote by stating that since sidewalk cafes were an “extremely local issue,” she usually sided with the Council Member who represented that district.

Council: Delano Cafe Lounge/ 29-02 Francis Lewis Boulevard (October 23, 2008).


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