Williamsburg Community Group Working to Prevent Neighborhood From Becoming the “Next Ludlow Street”

Chicken fried steak basically begs for an alcoholic accompaniment. photo via Pies 'n' Thighs
Chicken fried steak basically begs for an alcoholic accompaniment.
photo via Pies ‘n’ Thighs

Much of Williamsburg these days feels more akin to the Meatpacking District or the Lower East Side than to the rest of Brooklyn in that, much like those once gritty Manhattan neighborhoods that went through rapid and dramatic changes, Williamsburg often feels like little more than a tourist trap catering only to liberally spending, heavily drinking transients aka NYU students, European tourists, and finance folks in their post-MBA/pre-Westchester years. But what is there to do, right? How to stop this incessant wave of binge-drinking-induced vomit from flooding the streets of the Northside? Is it even possible? Well, maybe. Maybe!

Gothamist reports that on Tuesday night, at the Community Board 1 meeting in Williamsburg, the SLA Review & DCA Committee “strongly recommended” upcoming arrival Black Tree, not be allowed to obtain a liquor license. This recommendation came following the tireless work of a Williamsburg community group—the Fillmore Place Historic District Association— that “feels that Williamsburg has become dominated by the young and frivolous, and that it’s time to push back.” One member of the group spoke to Gothamist, explaining, “We have a problem with what is fast becoming the next Ludlow Street.”*

The group is pushing for the attentive observation of a law which dictates the denial of “full liquor licenses to any new establishment that falls within the ‘500-Foot Rule,’ in which no more than 3 liquor licenses can be within 500-feet of each other, unless there’s a community benefit.” And although, as Gothamist points out, “Community Board liquor license recommendations are purely advisory… the SLA often defers to the board’s judgement.”

So what does this mean for you? As of now, it’s hard to say if this vote will have much of an immediate, or even long-term, impact, or even if the current targets of the community’s wrath are the correct ones. But it’s hard not to feel hopeful about the fact that people are still invested in trying to preserve the elements of their neighborhoods that are worth saving, and are not afraid to challenge invasive entities (including those like Black Tree that are Guy Fieri-approved and cater specifically to “bros“) that have long felt unstoppable. Lest you ever feel completely helpless in the face of rampant development and dramatic change in the neighborhoods you’ve inhabited for years and years, never forget that there are ways of making an impact and there are things you can do and outlets you have to vent your grievances. As one member of the Fillmore Place group warns: It’s up to us to prevent all of Brooklyn from becoming a “nightmarish ‘entertainment district.'” Let’s keep Brooklyn livable.

*Sunny Chapman, a member of the Fillmore Place Historic District Association, commented below that Pies ‘n’ Thighs—a restaurant the group loves—was NEVER a target and that its inclusion in the Gothamist article was an error. This article has been changed to reflect this error, by removing the inclusion of Pies ‘n’ Thighs and The Randolph (also erroneously reported upon). The headline has also been changed to better represent the community group’s mission, which is definitely not to reinstate prohibition, only, as we wrote, to prevent much of Williamsburg from truly becoming “the next Ludlow Street.”

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen


  1. The best way to decrease the excessive use of alcohol is to provide fun alternatives.

    For example, the games store Twenty Sided Store on Grand and Marcy is exploding in popularity because of the daily Magic: The Gathering events they host. Everyone has a great time and no alcohol at all is needed.

    If you’d like to learn how to enjoy this game, by the way, check out my e-book How To Enjoy Magic Cards.

    But there are obviously lots of ways to provide alternatives to alcohol (or at least to its consumption in excess).

    Social games are a good start – since excessive drinking is frequently tied to the frustration of not knowing how to casually meet strangers. If the bar has a game where you get someone’s name at random and you have to find that person, for example, people could talk more and drink a little more slowly. It’s very very very simple (although games can be more complex and still be fun as well).

    You could also turn down the music, and even let breaks with no music exist (research has made it pretty clear that loud music increases drinking – and frustration).

    Finally, there may be an opportunity to take steps towards a sensible drug policy. If we give people the drugs they like, they won’t turn to alcohol as much. I know it’s not easy to oppose the war on drugs, but with brilliant, sensible people as our Mayor, our Governor, and our President, now may be the time to start.

  2. I remember when the neighborhood didn’t have this problem in the 70s and 80s because there was too much crime here and the streets of Williamsburg were dangerous. Instead of regulating alcohol use, let’s bring back violent crime. My neighbors and I are working on this. A few murders should thin out the crowds of night-trippers. Say, did you hear about the dead nun found on Conselyea Street? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikkjKkRLuI0&list=PLTDFn4AcXBznXDIZHs9yzpHfhLwllVjAA

  3. I’m really afraid that this ship has sailed. i wonder how many of these residents who have lived “years and years” can’t count those years before 1995? 20 years is a long time, but That’s about when the writing was on the wall and if anything was going to be done to temper the forces of gentrification, that was the time to get it started. But when all these entrepreneurs come up with all these creative and innovative ways to serve food and drinks and market used clothes, who i going to stop them? How can you tell them no? Most of those businesses in that first wave are out of business now, and the succeeding waves figured out how to make a living, meaning a lot of the more creative elements were weaned out for more calculated efforts.

    As much as I hate it, as much as I miss the three-for-a-dollar wings at the bodega (now a gourmet restaurant), the open mikes and live music at Gallagher’s Ship’s Mast Pub (now a clothing boutique), the 99-cents-a-pound ground beef at Tops supermarket warehouse (now a high-end organic food store), the freedom to walk the overgrown, dilapidated waterfront from the Domino Sugar Refinery to Greenpoint, those days are past, lost and gone forever. The best we can do is remember those time with fondness and appreciate the creativity and excitement of it, and let it inspire us to be more adventurous and creative in our lives.

    Any attempt to legislate the neighborhood back to a “quieter time” is only going to put people out of business and take away people’s fun. Then the neighborhood will turn into one of those strict communities that stifles free expression and free enterprise. It will become a theme park of gentility, a word that shares the same root as gentrification. The ideal thing to happen is for the alcohol-serving businesses to make efforts to be “good neighbors.”

  4. Ms. Iverson, I’m a member of the Fillmore group. First of all, Pies & Thighs was not even on the agenda at the meeting. We love Pies & Thighs, we eat there, we have no complaint with them. Gothamist misreported that P&T’s liquor license was challenged, which is incorrect. What the Gothamist reporter heard was a CB3 member reading the notes from a previous meeting at which a person unknown to us complained about noise from P&T patrons outside. Their liquor license is not being challenged by anyone.

    Also, the only item we brought to the meeting was an objection to Black Tree, mostly because there are three existing licenses on the corner where they want to open already. We didn’t address The Randolph at the meeting, I don’t even know anything about it…yet. Thanks for the tip. 🙂

    Lastly, your headline states that we are trying to stop restaurants from serving alcohol. That is completely incorrect, we are not a modern day version of Carrie Nation, all of us enjoy going to local restaurants and bars. We are not against bars, just against massing them in one spot, upsetting the balance and licenses given to places which cater to transients. There’s room for both old and new residents as long as people can sleep and keep loud drunks quiet. If the police enforced disorderly conduct laws and make drunk driving arrests late at night it would work for all. It’s about keeping the neighborhood livable, for everyone.

    • Hello Ms. Chapman, I changed the headline (I never meant to imply you or your group were looking for a return to Prohibition, but I wouldn’t want to cause any confusion) and amended the post to reflect the error in the inclusion of Pies ‘n’ Thighs and The Randolph. I think the rest of the post reflects what your mission is: Rather than a wholesale opposition to the arrival of bars or restaurants serving alcohol, you are looking to, as you say, maintain a balance and keep the neighborhood livable. That’s a mission that I completely support, and I wish you the best. Thanks for commenting.


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