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‘Mona Lisa Cafe’ sitting pretty on 86th Street

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A local watering hole is one step closer to expanding its outdoor cafÉ.

At its May meeting, Community Board 11 voted to support the efforts of Mona Lisa CafÉ, at 1476 86th Street, to increase seating in its cafÉ area from six tables and 24 chairs, to 24 tables and 48 chairs.

The board’s vote came despite objections from nearby residents. Nina DiGregorio, who lives above nearby Da Tommaso, complained about noise and double−parking from patrons at Mona Lisa. “At night, people get together and they talk and yell. The music is fine, but the after−hours serenades are awful. With the buses and the motorcycles, it’s impossible,” DiGregorio told board members gathered at the Holy Family Home, 1740 84th Street.

Angelo Vinciguerra said that he was worried that added tables outdoors at Mona Lisa would result in an increase of wildlife in the area. “Lately,” he told the board, “we’ve started to see a lot of animals coming around. With more food outside, it’s impossible.”

Another man, who said he lives behind Mona Lisa, explained that he was tired of people urinating in my driveway and throwing bottles. I can’t even sit outside,” he complained.

However, Michael Saied, one of Mona Lisa’s owners, denied that his establishment was causing problems. He said that, as far as noise goes, he has someone singing during the summer for three hours in the evenings, but that the entertainment ended at 11 p.m. As for garbage that might attract animals, Saied contended that trash is taken out no more than an hour before it is picked up, “So we never have garbage in the street.”

His application to expand the cafe, Saied said, would not exceed what the prior owner of the cafÉ had. “Before we took the place, the owner had 60 or 70 seats outside,” he recalled.

Frank Segreto, the board’s zoning chair, noted that the tables that Mona Lisa was planning on using were “tiny tables.” The result, he said, would be “a Manhattan−type eatery,” with the tables and chairs extending halfway onto the sidewalk, inside a three−foot high enclosure. The request, Segreto stressed, is within the law. “It’s legal,” Segreto told his fellow board members.

Bill Guarinello, the board’s chair, concurred. He also pointed out that, even if the board voted to oppose the cafÉ expansion, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. “We’re just advisory,” Guarinello stressed.

As for the problems that had been reported, Guarinello opined that stepping up enforcement against double−parkers would significantly reduce that problem. “If people get banged with tickets,” he noted, “I think the double−parking will go away.”

As far as the noise and rude behavior, Guarinello said, “That happens with almost any establishment that’s open. People come out. They’ve had a little too much to drink. They’re not doing it in the establishment, but they are doing some bad things in the neighborhood. Sometimes, it breaks out into fights.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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