South Bronx Board Blocks Booze at ‘Bronxlandia’ Event Space
Hunts Point icon Majora Carter says Community Board 2 has thwarted the long-pending liquor license application for her new venue.
Bronxlandia will have to wait a little longer before customers start popping bottles, after the state yanked the eclectic Hunts Point performance venue’s liquor license last month.
Majora Carter, a longtime community and environmental justice advocate once honored with a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” for her work, says the setback is part of an ongoing campaign by Bronx Community Board 2 to thwart her attempts to get New York State Liquor Authority approval.
“I feel like we’ve done everything we needed to do,” the Hunts Point-born Carter told THE CITY at the Boogie Down Grind Cafe, which she has owned and operated for six years. The cafe is two blocks away from Bronxlandia on Hunts Point Avenue. “But they’re making it seem like just because we didn’t show up and follow their process, that somehow or another we’re wrong.”
Carter, with her husband and business partner James Chase, bought the historic Hunts Point Rail Station from Amtrak for $1 in 2016 and, after a renovation, opened Bronxlandia in late 2021. The sprawling cultural space has since hosted a TEDx event, private birthday parties, professional development conferences, flea markets, music performances and even pro wrestling matches.
Carter set out in March 2022 to get a license to serve liquor but quickly ran afoul of the local community board. At a meeting with CB2 the following month, board members told Chase they would only support a license for the establishment if it installed airport-style walk-through metal detectors, gave the NYPD’s 41st Precinct access to its security camera feeds, stationed security personnel at entrances, gave notice 30 days notice before any event, and shut down at midnight.
Under standard State Liquor Authority rules, businesses that have a license to serve alcohol can stay open until 4 a.m.
Later that month, CB2 sent a letter to the authority stating that the board reserved “the right to request that the NYSLA revoke the license if stipulations are not followed.”
Building the Block
A third-generation native of The Bronx, Carter is no stranger to Hunts Point, where she founded environmental justice nonprofit organization Sustainable South Bronx and
helped launch worked at The Point CDC, an arts, culture and community development hub in Hunts Point.
“I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years. This is my record and all of my projects have been built to provide pretty significant quality of life improvements for my community,” Carter said. “I’m not about to stop now. I’m three generations strong, deep into this community. Why would I do something different?”
Carter said that CB2 Chair Robert Crespo also demanded that she attend board meetings regarding the license. Previously, Chase had attended on behalf of Bronxlandia when Carter was out of town.
“Crespo did indeed demand my presence and declared they would not continue with our application until I personally appeared before the subcommittee,” Carter wrote in a March 2023 letter to the NYSLA.
Crespo could not be reached for comment.
After the May 2022 meeting with CB2, Carter said, she decided to avoid the board altogether because their opinion is only advisory when it comes to liquor licenses. The state authority ultimately makes the final call.
This past June, the Liquor Authority approved Bronxlandia’s license on the condition that Carter add a second bathroom to the premises, which she accommodated within a week.
But the SLA rescinded that approval in July because they notified the wrong community board about the hearing, according to an NYSLA spokesperson.
Carter holds CB2 responsible for the reversal. “We didn’t violate a damn thing,” Carter said.
“When a municipality or community board opposes an application, the matter goes before the Full Board of the State Liquor Authority for a determination so the positions of the business and the municipality may be heard,” SLA spokesperson Patrick Garrett told THE CITY in a written statement. “The Board reviews each application on a case-by-case basis, weighing the merits of the individual application while placing due weight on the recommendations of elected officials, community boards, residents, and local law enforcement.”
The SLA board will meet on October 18 to reconsider Bronxlandia’s liquor license.
To attempt to muddle through without a license, last year Bronxlandia put on between 10 and 12 events using temporary permits through caterers that did have liquor licenses. That ended in August 2022, after CB2 got word of it, according to Carter. The state liquor authority notified her it was because the permits circumvented the liquor licensing process.
Chase estimated that they have lost between $15,000 to $20,000 in revenue because they have waited for a liquor license and are unable to hold catering events.
“When you actually put those numbers out there,” Carter said — “it’s depressing,” Chase finished.