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Brewing over bars

The State Assembly may be in summer recess, but Assemblymember Vito Lopez (D-Williamsburg, Bushwick) has been spending a busy summer meeting with his constituents in Williamsburg to hear their concerns over public safety.

The most common complaints? Graffiti and urination.

“There are too many bars in this neighborhood,” said Williamsburg resident Rita Finkelstein.“They do drugs in front of my house.They pee.From one to five o’clock in the morning, I can’t sleep.”

Lopez has been holding neighborhood forums in his 53rd District on a series of topics.The latest one, held at St. Francis of Paola Church Auditorium (219 Conselyea Street) in the largely Italian section of Williamsburg, focused on crime, truck traffic, and quality-of-life issues, including the proliferation of bars off Graham Avenue.

“Bar licenses, that’s a state issue,” said Lopez.“I will have the State Liquor Authority do a study about how many bars are in the neighborhood.If you want to form a neighborhood association and meet every two months, we can have the SLA here.”

Residents brought up other public safety concerns to the assemblymember and three officers from the 94th Precinct.

To a resident’s question on guns and gang violence, Lopez pointed to his work nine months ago with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office and local Catholic parishes to remove 474 guns from Brooklyn streets.

“One guy brought in an assault rifle and another brought in what looked like a bazooka,” said Lopez.

To a question from a 20-year-old resident about drugs being bought in neighborhood bars, which have nicknames based on which kind of drug is readily available at those establishments, Lopez urged residents with knowledge of illegal activity to provide information to the police.

“People know who the kids down the block who are doing graffiti, they know them, and they should come forward,” said Lopez.

To a question from a Neighbors Allied for Good Growth member on the high amount of truck traffic and the need to have a comprehensive transportation study for the neighborhood, Lopez chided the organization for not being consistent regarding zoning throughout North Brooklyn.

“I’m very concerned about downzoning around Graham and Grand Avenues. If you go to south Williamsburg and the Broadway Triangle, people from your organization voted against the downzoning,” said Lopez.“It can’t be over here we don’t want zoning and over there we want 30 stories.”

Lopez also commented on the substantial changes the neighborhood has seen with respect to luxury development along the Williamsburg waterfront and lamented the loss of jobs when the Pfizer and Domino plants closed. Both sites are on track to be developed into housing, though Lopez wants the areas to remain affordable for North Brooklyn residents.

“Some people say I made a deal with the church and think I did it to go to heaven,” said Lopez.“There’s a saying my mother used, some people complain and don’t do anything.They just walk through the raindrops.”

Of the dozen or so issues that Lopez resolved to follow-up on, including help launching a neighborhood watch and an anti-graffiti plan, one of them was to hold another meeting in two months, preferably after the Democratic primary, to discuss progress on quality-of-life issues. Lopez believes that with the help of local Catholic parishes and neighborhood residents, many of the “broken windows” crimes that are nettlesome to the community could be effectively mitigated.

“I need people to help other people. You get stressed out, you get burned out and when you put your two cents in, you get beaten up. I know you understand that,” Lopez said to members of the crowd, who nodded in agreement.

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