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Graffiti arts supply store makes noise

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A conflict between a Greenpoint arts supply store and neighbors concerned about excessive noise has led to declining revenues at the store and reportedly several residents moving out of their apartments.

Alphabeta, an aerosol arts supply store on 70 Greenpoint Ave., has developed a devoted following of street artists and graffiti fans, holding events in the large courtyard space behind the store since its opening this past July. Almost immediately after the store opens, the owners received complaints from neighbors critical about the level of noise from weekend events ranging from art openings, to parties, to a jazz concert.

“We met with a neighbor a couple of times who complained to the police,” Leif McIlwaine, founder of Alphabeta, said. “When the police showed up, they just tell us to turn it down.”

Neighbors claim that the events last well past midnight on the weekends and that they are far are too loud, as sound carries straight up from the courtyard whenever a crowd gathers below.

“The problem is that it’s a cinder block structure,” one resident, who refused to give his name, said. “It’s not designed for live music. It’s literally right beneath all the residential windows of an open space.”

The resident said that all his neighbors who had apartments with windows facing the courtyard have moved out after the store opened and that no one has moved into the building since that time. The landlord of the building, Mareck Kaczur, would not answer questions about whether new residents were moving into the building and said that he has not received complaints from residents about the noise.

“This is the first time I’m hearing about this,” Kaczur said. “I don’t know the details of this situation. I live in New Jersey and I don’t put my nose in other people’s business. They do not complain to me.”

McIllwaine said that he enjoyed a good relationship with his landlord and he has made attempts to close art openings and other events drawing large crowds at 11 p.m. to be sensitive to neighbors. Still, the complaints have had a deleterious effect on business. According to McIlwaine, Alphabeta has lost a significant portion of revenue this past quarter, though he won’t say how much. Some concert and event promoters have canceled future events at the space due to the threat of being broken up by police.

Much of the revenue Alphabeta earns has come from these events and suggested donations collected at the door, which has just about met their rent in previous months. This month, the store is struggling, but they are planning to stay on Greenpoint Avenue for now.

“Some of it is the economy, but mostly (the losses) are coming from holding fewer events and having events pull out,” McIlwaine said.

McIlwaine understands that it is in both his and his landlord’s best interests to curb noise issues. According to one building resident, meeting between remaining tenants, Alphabeta, and the landlord could be planned in the coming weeks to try to confront the issue and make it amenable for the parties involved. Alphabeta is also planning to diversify its events and its retail section while cutting the number of large parties down from every weekend to two per month. McIlwaine envisions dance classes, daytime painting and graffiti sessions, bicycle building workshops, stencil drawing, and even yoga. A regular movie night is in the works, occurring every other Thursday, and suggestions are welcome.

“We’re open to people coming to us with ideas and whatever the community is open to and needs” McIlwaine said. “Another bar or club could just move in here. I couldn’t imagine another use for this space unless it was storage.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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