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Owner Of BIBA In Williamsburg Says New York State Is Forcing Him Out Of Business As Part Of Park Renovation

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - A Brooklyn business owner who says he contributed to Williamsburg's resurgence says Gov. Andrew Cuomo is thanking him by kicking him out.

His outdoor concessions are part of a park that the state is renovating to honor a civil rights activist.

As CBS2's Lisa Rozner reports, 110 Kent Avenue is the home of BIBA, an event space that thrives off of its backyard patio.

A patio that owner Mark Nagawiecki says state parks commissioners dating back to 2006 asked him to consider beautifying so people had a place to eat, drink and use the bathroom at the East River State Park.

The owner of BIBA in Williamsburg says he's being kicked out as East River State Park undergoes renovations. (Credit: CBS2)

"I spent almost $200,000, and I never recapture a big part of that," Nagawiecki said.

Ever since, he's offered the space to new companies and nonprofits for free or at a reduced price. This year, he got a special permit so Chabad could hold Yom Kippur services there.

"As soon as Mark heard what I'm looking for, he said, sure, whatever you need, whenever you need," said Rabbi Shmuly Lein, of Chabad of North Brooklyn.

That's the same offer Nagawiecki and his business partner, Raffaello Van Couten, made to the state parks department when Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in August he'd do a multimillion dollar renovation on the park to honor Marsha P. Johnson, an LGBTQ rights activist and transgender woman of color who was part of the Stonewall uprising.

"It's a great thing and we got excited about it," Van Couten said.

More: Brooklyn Park To Be Renamed In Honor Of Gay Rights Activist

Renderings show a rainbow flag mural stopping where the outdoor concessions for BIBA begins. (Credit: NY State Parks)

Renderings show a rainbow flag mural stopping where the outdoor concessions for BIBA begins.

But recently, Parks said the mural would need to go through their concession space.

Nagawiecki offered to repaint his property and the furniture to match. He even met with the state parks commissioner, but by email, he was told his concessions had to go by Nov. 16.

The commissioner wrote, "It is coming from me and my leadership team, in close coordination with the Executive Chamber."

Rozner reached out to the governor and the state's Parks commissioner to ask why they can't work together with the business. No one would go on camera. By email, a Parks spokesperson claimed due to the new direction of the park, "a food and beverage service is no longer compatible" with that section.

Renderings show Smorgasburg - a weekly food market - will be allowed to continue operating. (Credit: NY State Parks)

However, renderings show Smorgasburg - a weekly food market - will be allowed to continue operating.

"He was there when the waterfront was quite dangerous. He was there helping to advocate for the space to be cleaned up," said Assemblywoman Elect Emily Gallagher.

"We have no chance to survive," Van Couten said. "I feel sad that we're being overlooked. We're trying our hardest, our damnedest everyday."

Nagawiecki estimates he's lost half a million dollars already. Closing up means he'll never recover that.

The Parks Department claims BIBA was notified back in the spring it would have to close down its outdoor space. Only after Rozner asked more questions on the issue, a state representative added that after construction, it would welcome a proposal from BIBA to get a permit.


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