BY JON CRONIN
Community Board 5 voted last week to approve the rezoning and expansion of the popular restaurant and bar O’Neill’s in Maspeth.
The neighborhood mainstay, located at 64-21 53rd Drive, has been in business for 85 years, and during last week’s CB 5 meeting, the board held a hearing on the eatery’s proposal to add a second-floor dining room that would act as a catering hall and include valet parking.
The new second floor will provide space for 140 people and increase the height of the building to from 14 feet to 25 feet.
Danny Pyle, a manager at O’Neill’s, said that he has an open-door policy and welcomes feedback from the community on any parking or quality of life issues that the restaurant’s upgrade might cause.
Christine Isherwood, a neighbor of the restaurant, said she was upset because she was not notified of the addition and found out about it through Facebook. She noted that people do not respect the city’s parking rules and that it is already difficult to cross the street at the site.
“A catering hall does not belong in a neighborhood,” she said, noting that she has a petition with more than 200 signatures against the expansion.
Tom McBride, another O’Neill’s neighbor, said that the restaurant contributes to the neighborhood with fundraisers for Little League sports, cancer research, and those affected by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He rebutted those complaining about parking by stating that many Maspeth residents rent out their driveways and garages to commercial vehicles.
Walter Sanchez, the chairman of CB 5’s Land Use Committee, said that the board heard from numerous residents on the subject. He added that the board received petitions from both sides of the issue and each had more than 200 signatures.
Sanchez said that there were concerns that the zoning change could lead to new owners building residential properties that might strain parking and the sewer system. But since the owners of O’Neill’s are willing to create a deed restriction that would prevent such a thing from happening, the committee voted in favor of it.
The community board voted 32-8 in favor of the zoning change.