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Liquor license fight is no Polish joke at community center • Brooklyn Paper

Liquor license fight is no Polish joke at community center

Irene Piontek (left) and Irene Dabrowski serve it up at the Polish Slavic Center cafeteria in Greenpoint.
Photo by Tom Callan

Hold the Zywiec!

A handful of Polish activists want the state to withdraw a Greenpoint cafeteria’s liquor license application because selling booze would foster alcoholism and “destroy” the eatery’s family-friendly atmosphere.

Organizer Mark Wysocki believes that the Polish Slavic Center is “sending the wrong message to the outside world” by selling alcohol.

“We cannot forget about the values that created our community,” said Wysocki. “We cannot put profit from the sale of alcohol over the impact on our community’s public health.”

But the center’s CEO, Bozena Kaminski, bristled at the campaign and ridiculed her opponents as “poor and evil people.”

“This is not a bar,” said Kaminski. “The people who are complaining about it don’t eat at the cafeteria and don’t want to participate in our activities. I don’t know why they even started this racket.”

Greenpoint has some of the highest binge-drinking rates in Brooklyn.

Between 17 and 31 percent of residents consume more than five drinks on occasion in the past month, according to the Department of Health.

That’s one reason why Wysocki and others circulated a petition demanding that the center’s license be revoked. It has about 200 signatures.

The center’s stripped down cafeteria, which closes at 7 pm and on Sundays, is a favorite of foodies and Polish immigrants who go to enjoy its homemade and affordable soups, blintzes and pierogies.

Kaminski applied in January for a license to sell beer and wine in the cafeteria — and Community Board 1 approved it a month later, But that’s when the center’s members revolted, putting pressure on the State Liquor Authority, which has the final say and is expected to weigh in next month.

The Polish Slavic Center has provided immigration and public health services to its 40,000 New York-area members since 1972 — but its leadership has long been a source of controversy for the insular Polish community.

Sources in the Polish community say the faction is mainly opposed to how Kaminski has managed the center in the past 10 years.

“It’s all politics,” said one source. “People are dissatisfied that they are not really doing any social programs for the Polish and Slavic communities.”

Opponents are even moving to dissolve the board and change the organization’s bylaws — a threat which Kaminski brushed off.

“Even if they’re not happy about getting a liquor license, how does that make any impact on what we do and what we operate?” said Kaminski. “We’re just doing this to benefit our membership that comes and have their meals and our cafeteria.”

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