The Real Deal New York

LIC club sues city to keep its topless rights

June 17, 2009 07:08PM
By Adam Pincus

A large strip club at the base of the Queensboro Bridge in Queens Plaza is fighting the city’s efforts to force it out of its valuable location in Long Island City, a decade after zoning laws pushed it out of another location two miles away, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.

The gentleman’s club, Scandals, at 24-03 Queens Plaza North, is suing the city and the Department of Buildings to stop the government from trying to change the club’s certificate of occupancy, which would make it illegal for the club to remain as is in the approximately 6,000-square-foot location.

Scandals maintains that “its First Amendment and other rights have been
threatened by the contradictory and erroneous positions of the
Department of Buildings,” the lawsuit says.

The city applied, through its administrative review agency, the Board of Standards and Appeals, to remove the authorization for an adult club, Scandals’ complaint, filed in New York State Supreme Court, says.

The suit claims that the city also recommended Scandals waive any claim that it can run a 100 percent adult operation at the location and suggested it convert it to a so-called 60/40 club, which means that less than 40 percent would be available for adult business.

The club is owned and operated by TC Queens Entertainment, which did not respond to a request for comment.

Yesterday, a State Supreme Court judge said the BSA would have to rule
on the city’s application before the lawsuit could continue.

“We
are pleased that [State Supreme Court Justice Louis York] recognized
that Scandals must argue its case before the appropriate administrative
body before it can go to court,” Robin Binder, deputy chief of the
city’s Law Department, said in a statement to The Real Deal.

Scandals is next to the luxury condominium development View59, at 24-15 Queens Plaza North, in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood where 400,000 square feet of new housing has been built, said John Maltz, president of Long Island City-based commercial brokerage Greiner-Maltz Real Estate, who is not involved with the lawsuit.

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“The city has a policy of forcing undesirable uses out of gentrifying neighborhoods,” Maltz said.

But relics of the neighborhood’s racy past remain.

On the other side of Queens Plaza is the strip club Cityscapes, at 27-00 Queens Plaza South. Long-timers said many strip clubs migrated to Queens after the administration of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani pressured strip clubs to leave the Times Square area.

In 1995, the city passed a law generally prohibiting adult uses in residential districts, or within 500 feet of a school, house of worship and other sensitive locations.

In July 2001 the city rezoned Queens Plaza to include a residential component, but in May 2002 the DOB granted a certificate of occupancy to the club to open up. The city said it has applied to change that certificate of occupancy, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Law, the city’s attorney.

Joseph Conley, the chairman of Community Board 2, said the board, which covers the area just south of the strip club, wants the strip club to go.

“We would like to have them all out,” he said.  

Insiders said a strip club in Queens Plaza would likely pay about 25 percent more in rent than a traditional retail or restaurant use in the same space, and was likely occupying the space despite the club’s December 2008 lease expiration through a commonplace feature such as a five-year lease extension.

It was in 1998 that TC Queens Entertainment was forced to move by city zoning laws. Before moving to Queens Plaza that year, TC Queens Entertainment operated a nightclub at 32-37 Greenpoint Avenue about two miles south, but moved when it ran afoul of the new 1995 zoning regulations because it was too close to a cemetery, the filing says.

In December 1998, the strip club owners signed a 10-year lease with Kenbridge Realty, the owner of the one-story building on Queens Plaza North. TC Queens then undertook a gut rehabilitation of the space, which they completed in May 2002. Kenbridge did not respond to requests for comment.

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