The strip club, located on 42-50 21st Street, made its second presentation last Thursday, June 23, to Community Board 2’s City Services and Public Safety Committee at the Waterfront Crab House in Long Island City after being denied several months ago by CB2 and the NY State Liquor Authority for a retail consumption license.
The application was filed on behalf of the 21 Group Inc. and its two principals, Elias Sakalis and Lampros Moumouris.
Terry Flynn, the attorney representing 21 Group Inc, handed out a thick new proposal for the strip club, along with photos, featuring an intricate design of the already renovated interior. The proposal included floor plans, support letters, and owners’ bios.
21 Group Inc. added changes to strengthen security by promising to employ more guards and add cameras. No typical advertising like billboards and fliers will be used. And if any change in ownership occurs, CB 2 will be notified. They also plan to come back to the board in six months for review.
The proposal cleverly branded the strip club as classier, elegant and artful, by adding the historical significance of the venue’s name, which comes from the American burlesque entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee, who was known for her striptease acts in the 1940’s.
As to what kind of dancing would go on, they did not specify, but they mentioned private rooms would be available.
“I was offended that they used Gypsy Lee, who was an entertainer and not a stripper,” said long-time LIC resident Rebecca Olinger, who lives four blocks from the proposed establishment.
“[Gypsy Rose] is certainly not a burlesque cabaret,” she said.
Flynn called Gypsy Rose “unobtrusive” and an “improvement” to the industrial area. “The renovations will give the neighborhood a nice building to look at,” he said
“If you go through the proposal you can see we made revisions in the affidavit after hearing the community’s complaints,” he added.
But Olinger fears the “security risks.” “They can’t control what happens outside,” she said. “Patrons drunk driving and parking issues will spill over.”
One concern is that the amount of cars expected on the weekends would take away parking from residents.
Queens Plaza already suffers from daily, congested traffic. Adding another strip club could aggravate the problem, according to Dan Miner, senior vice president of the LIC Business Development corporation.
There are four strip clubs in the area: one of them is Scandals located on 24-03 Queens Plaza North, Queens. The idea of people seeing that upon first arriving in Queens is detrimental for Olinger. “To me that doesn’t represent what Queens is,” she said.
Representatives sent by local elected officials read letters in objection to the liquor license for Gypsy Rose. Some like State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer are ardently opposed.
"We have worked hard to improve the quality of life in this thriving part of our community, and a club like this would take us in the wrong direction," said Gianaris, in a letter sent to SLA chairman Dennis Rosen.
Local business owners also came forward to speak about the lack of investment in the back streets of Long Island City.
Tony Georgiton, owners of Queens Medallion Brokerage remembers years ago when Queens Plaza was a disaster, but it improved thanks to investment opportunities. “I think more businesses should come and invest on 21st street,” he said. “They deserve a chance.”
And some residents were content with Gypsy Rose opening.
“It’s done tastefully and people need options,” said Peter Zotas, long-time LIC resident.
“Not everyone wants to go to the park.”
Gary Kesner is the executive vice president of Silvercup Studios and a Long Island City resident for 30 years. The studio is located directly in front of Gypsy Rose.
Rolex and new hotels in the area are providing investment, according to Kesner, who disagrees with the notion that there is no direct investment or that Queens Plaza was improved by the adult entertainment establishments.
“It’s a designated business zone and I don’t believe it’s a dirty, dingy area,” he said.
Arthur Rosenfield, founder and CEO of OurLIC.com, testified at the last SLA hearing in objection and it was no different this time. “LIC is a community in transition and it has a vision,” he said. “We know that it’s becoming attractive to young couples with kids.”
CB 2 will schedule a special meeting in two weeks with the City Services and Public Safety Committee to vote on the issue, which then moves to the full community board, however the final decision will be made by the SLA.