Tensions brew between bar owner and Community Board 11 members

At a time when businesses are struggling to survive and many have been forced to shutter, two Community Board 11 members are making things difficult for a bar in Pelham Parkway.

Kirvens at 736 Lydig Ave., has been in the neighborhood for three years and is quite popular. When Governor Andrew Cuomo banned indoor dining owner Marissa Davis created a 48-foot outdoor dining structure with approval from her landlord and the Department of Transportation.

However, not everyone was a fan of its size. In December 2020, District Manager Jeremy Warneke received the following complaint : “[Kirvens’ outdoor structure on Lydig Avenue] covers the front of at least 4 other stores and takes up at least 3 parking spaces. Traffic is already bad and this is not helping. This structure seems bigger than the bar itself.”

Because of a communication failure, he did not contact DOT about Kirvens until Jan. 21. That same night was the CB 11 Leadership Committee meeting when a molehill grew into a mountain. Board members Hazel Miura and Andrea Siegel decided that it was their place to attack Krivens.

“I don’t know if this is the right place to bring it up, but I have to say it,” Miura said. “I don’t know if any of you have been to Kirvens, but your favorite bar Kirvens has built a monstrosity on the street that’s bigger than the bar itself,” she said. “It’s an eyesore. I’m hoping she’s breaking some laws here.”

Siegel supported her and they both asked Warneke to look into the matter.

On Jan. 25, DOT responded to Warneke’s query with the following: “The Open Restaurants seating can only be as wide as a parking lane (8 ft) and can only extend the width of the restaurant or bar’s storefront, unless they have written approval from their neighbors to extend to their storefronts.”

Their inspectors issued a 24 hour notice to correct the following: unfilled plastic water barriers around structure, structure fully enclosed, no reflective tape installed and no snow sticks installed.

Davis told the Bronx Times those problems were fixed by the next day.  So, one would assume this drama was over.

But it was not. That night was the 49th Precinct Council meeting and Miura and Siegel, who are members of the Council, brought up Kirvens again.

Siegel asked the police if this large outdoor structure was allowed and the captain said he would contact the Departments of Buildings and Consumer Affairs. Miura then chimed in said Kirvens had warnings from DOT, the structure could not be bigger than her storefront and needed permission from her neighbors.

“If she’s breaking the law, she’s breaking the law,” Miura said. “When I tell you that I’m on top of this I’m on top of this.”

Meanwhile, resident Diana Finch supported Davis.

“I don’t think this is the forum for us to criticize and accuse her of doing illegal things,” Finch said at the meeting. “There are many people in the community who like the establishment and feel it has done a great deal for the community.”

Finch told the Bronx Times she is disgusted with how Davis’ business was spoken about.

“Sadly, the board members’ antagonism appears racist,” Finch commented. “They are all older women who have lived in the area for a long time, and appear uncomfortable with the reality that there are now many younger people of color including now many Black people who live, own businesses, work and socialize in the community. “

At this point Warneke had received several complaints about the issue.

Having heard her name tarnished for a week, Davis had her chance to speak on Jan. 28 at the full board meeting.

“I have comments for Hazel and Andrea,” Davis said. “These two women decided to snicker about Kirvens being their favorite bar and proceed to say how we’re building such a monstrosity,” she said. “They sound hateful. They sound like bigots. They sound like people who are not here for their community.”

Davis did not stop there. She called the woman nasty and could not believe that people are trying to tear down a business during a pandemic.

“I’m a black woman who invested here and I’m simply trying to survive,” she said. “It saddens me this type of commentary would come from elders who are supposed to be an example. They are a disgrace. Shame on you Hazel, shame on you Andrea.”

Siegel replied and told she has nothing against Kirvens, but several people have complained about the “monstrosity.”

The two ladies began to argue and Warneke broke it up and said this issue will be escalated to the ethics committee.

Davis told the Bronx Times she does not understand why these ladies are out to get her or why this was brought to the NYPD. She questioned if it was because of her skin color and really feels attacked.

“These women need to be thrown off the board,” Davis shouted.

On Feb. 16 the CB 11 Ethics Committee met and it was determined that the community board will not take action as the two women were not speaking for the board, but rather themselves.

The report issued by Ethics Chair John Johnson stressed that any complaints about on street dining falls under the jurisdiction of the DOT, not the community board. It further stated that board members are advised that they not use their position as a member of the community board to unfairly influence any action not pertaining to community board business.

“We’re not the restaurant police,” Johnson said to the Bronx Times.