Diocesan News

Bay Ridge Locals, Pols Protest Plans for Cannabis Shop Near Catholic Church and School

U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis on June 24 voiced her opposition to a proposed state-licensed cannabis dispensary. Joining her were Assemblymen Michael Tannousis (left) and Alec Brook-Krasny (right). (Photo: Bill Miller)

BAY RIDGE — A raucous crowd of more than 200 people filled the 8400 block of Third Avenue on June 24 to make sure local elected officials heard their voices, loud and clear, in strong opposition to an application to open a legally licensed cannabis dispensary there. 

“Bay Ridge Says No!” was the resounding refrain shouted in response to the comments of U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis and New York Assembly members Michael Tannousis and Alec Brook-Krasny. 

All three of them represent the area of Bay Ridge where RMAN Holdings LLC has applied to open a state-licensed dispensary. The plan calls for a retail spot, about 6,000 square feet, spanning three existing storefronts at Third Ave. and 84th Street, including the former Pilo Arts Day Spa and Salon. 

Their comments echoed a letter they sent to Felicia A.B. Reid, acting executive director of the state’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM). 

Neighborhood residents and the elected officials oppose the proposed dispensary, complaining about its proximity to schools and places of worship, including Bay Ridge Catholic Academy and St. Anselm Church. 

“It’s unacceptable,” Malliotakis, R-South Brooklyn/Staten Island, told the crowd. “We do not want this 6,000-foot cannabis superstore flopped in the middle of Bay Ridge.” 

Legal cannabis licensing and regulation, however, is not a federal issue. Malliotakis urged people to contact local elected officials on the City Council, plus Gov. Kathy Hochul, to register their opposition.

Fellow Republicans Tannousis, of the 64th District, and Brook-Krasny, of the 46th District, vowed to keep hammering against RMAN’s application.

Some people who came to the press conference on June 24 to protest a proposed cannabis dispensary in Bay Ridge later marched on Third Avenue to the offices of City Council Member Justin Brannan, who supports legalizing marijuana. (Photo: Bill Miller)

They also pledged to keep working for changes to the 2021 Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA), which legalized sales and possession of “adult-use” cannabis from state-regulated dispensaries.

They also pledged to keep working for changes to the 2021 Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA), which legalized sales and possession of “adult-use” cannabis from state-regulated dispensaries.

Tannousis, a former prosecutor in the Bronx and on Staten Island, said many of the cases he worked on “were connected to marijuana.” He claimed it is a “gateway drug” to dangerous substances. 

The assembly member said he was new to the Legislature in 2021, but added that soon after, he was debating Democrats over MRTA’s passage. He asserted then that the law would boost black-market sales of marijuana. 

“They told us we were crazy,” Tannousis said. “And as soon as they passed it, the black market went up.”

Tannousis noted the thousands of unlicensed dispensaries that sprang up all over New York City. 

Just two blocks away on 86th Street, the store “Gelato” was shuttered as part of a law enforcement crackdown to “padlock” unlicensed sellers. The storefront bore an orange sign declaring “Closed by Court Order.” 

A similar application for a license to operate in Bayside, Queens, was denied in February. And, like the residents in Bay Ridge, parents of students at nearby Sacred Heart Catholic Academy protested it. 

Queens Community Board 11 then voted to recommend that the request be denied because the desired property was not zoned for a dispensary. 

The store “Gelato” is a couple blocks from the proposed licensed dispensary on Third Avenue in Bay Ridge. It was shuttered as part of a recent law enforcement crackdown to “padlock” unlicensed sellers. (Photo: Bill Miller)

Likewise, Community Board 10 in Bay Ridge voted on June 20 to recommend that the RMAN request be denied, citing its proximity to churches and schools. 

Other nearby schools are Dimitrios & Georgia Kaloidis Parochial School, the Adelphi Academy of Brooklyn, Stepping Stones Nursery School, Public School 185, and Bay Ridge Catholic Academy. The nearby houses of worship are St. Anselm and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church.

State law says licensed dispensaries can’t operate within 500 feet of a school. The nursery school is the only educational location within that radius of the proposed dispensary. 

However, Chris Ellison, who chairs Brooklyn Community Board 10’s Police and Public Safety Committee, said at the board’s June 20 meeting that the application does technically meet the legal requirement for the license.

He explained a school must be the sole occupant of an address in question, according to the law. But this nursery school only occupies part of the address. The rest is rented for other functions, Ellison said. 

He also noted that the OCM has given RMAN a Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) license.

Still, CB 10 voted unanimously to recommend denying the application because an estimated 8,000 youths could potentially travel directly past the dispensary — often on foot — going to and from school or church.

Some people outside the offices of City Council Member Justin Brannan taped their anti-cannabis leaflets to the windows. A few, however, did other things. Brannan responded on X that “while we may disagree (I support marijuana legalization) and we respect your right to protest, pounding on the windows of our office, harassing my staff, spitting at our security cameras, and trying to seal our doors shut is not acceptable behavior for concerned citizens.” (Photo: Bill Miller)

Andrew Cooper, lawyer for RMAN Holdings LLC, told The Tablet that the company has “applied for and received all the necessary permits” to begin renovating the former salon. 

OCM regulators will inspect the site “to make sure we’re fully compliant with the regulations before they would consider giving us final approval to open,” he said. 

The lawyer also asserted that licensed retail cannabis shops help deter unlicensed “pop-up” shops. He said tax proceeds from legal cannabis sales will help build infrastructure in the community. 

Cooper said the owners have demonstrated they want to be “good partners” with the community and to engage in constructive dialog. 

“If the community is proactive, they can participate in the process and help define the way the retailer is going to operate,” Cooper said.

Brook-Krasny, who was born in Moscow, Russia, was first elected to the assembly in 2007. He said the legalization of marijuana in New York is part of an ongoing effort to bring a “socialist” agenda to the state by political means. 

He said he hopes the cannabis dispensary application would be denied. But if not, he added, “We’re going to be here every day protesting it. And they are not going to survive.”

One thought on “Bay Ridge Locals, Pols Protest Plans for Cannabis Shop Near Catholic Church and School

  1. 06/28/24
    The former Gov. Cuomo is RESPONSIBLE for passing the law to allow pot to be legalized. We have the a same problem in Bayside, Oakland Gardens, Queens Village.
    The NYPD is NOT working FAST enought to close these illegal shops. The State has not the manpower to process the paperwork for the License. This type of bussiness are being run by CRIMINALS. Just take a good look of the background of the owner and workers at these shops.
    In our communities they are NYC Public Schools, Churches, etc. within three blocks of these illegal shops. This law should be REPEAL!