Residents demand closure of Schenectady site, scene of fatal shooting


SCHENECTADY – Residents in the Schenectady neighborhood where a man was killed outside a nightclub on Labor Day weekend want the place to be closed, claiming it is a “Danger to safety and a nuisance in our community”.

Thirty-four residents of the neighborhood surrounding Tropic’s Restaurant & Bar, where E-Shawn Amir Berkley, 23, was shot and killed in the parking lot on September 5, signed and submitted a petition to city council calling for official action.

“After prolonged efforts and unsuccessful representations to the landlord and the police, we are left with no other options,” said the petition, submitted Monday under the banner of the Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association.

The petition describes what residents claim to be a list of problems associated with the 201 S. Brandywine Ave. restaurant, which turns into a nightclub at night, including “loud music, revving car engines at 2 a.m., broken bottles on the sidewalk, loud vulgar language and lately gun violence that has (led) to death. “

“We believe that since the establishment has not taken steps to address or address community concerns, it should be closed,” the petition says.

The majority of those who sign live near Strong Street and Duane Avenue.

Tropics Restaurant & Bar owners Mavis and Vakanand Diaram sent a lengthy statement protesting the petition, saying they were being unfairly targeted in the petition.

While calling Berkley’s murder unfortunate, the Diarams said the quality of life issues were generated by a nearby gas station and predate their involvement in the business.

“This incident, according to our images, took place by someone who did not frequent the Tropic restaurant and bar at all tonight,” the Diarams said in a statement.

Loud music, loitering and other problematic behaviors are prohibited both inside and outside the venue, which they recently purchased and aim to turn into a neighborhood asset – one they say particularly necessary in the middle of the economic city center caused by the pandemic.

Chronic illicit behavior hurts many business owners, Mavis Diaram said.

“It’s a family-oriented place where people bring their children,” Diaram said. “If you take us off the board, you’re not just hurting Tropic, you’re hurting the community.”

City police must step up their presence to curb criminal activity, she said.

The owner of a neighborhood business, Mohamed “Chris” Gadwah, echoed Diaram’s concerns.

“I don’t know why they are trying to do this,” Gadwah said of the shutdown effort. The Diarams, he said, are an asset to the neighborhood, organizing many community functions.

“They are great members of the community,” Gadwah said.

The Berkley murder, the city’s first homicide in 2021, remains unsolved and is under active investigation, said Patrick Irwin, spokesperson for the city’s police force. The place has generated four police calls since the shooting in the early hours which left two others injured and “about” 25 total calls since the start of the year, Irwin said.

Police Chief Eric Clifford said Council Chairman John Mootooveren had contacted him to discuss next steps, which will include a meeting with Mayor Gary McCarthy on Thursday. Clifford will ask department officials to help him analyze the area on how to prevent criminal behavior.

Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association president Marva Isaacs downplayed the importance of the document and said residents did not want the site to be fully closed, but rather only on Fridays.

“People don’t want the place to close – only on Friday nights,” Isaacs said. “The shooting pissed off people, they keep calling the police at night. “

The murder sparked an investigation by the National Liquor Authority (SLA), which is still ongoing, the agency said on Wednesday.

Tropic’s permit was issued on August 16, just three weeks before the homicide.

The previous license had been issued to “Caribbean Fast Casual Inc.” doing business as Tropics Restaurant & Bar, “according to documentation provided by SLA.

This licensee, who is not the current owner, was charged on October 16, 2017 with paying unlicensed employees and security guards, according to the state agency, and offered a conditional fine without dispute of $ 2,500 which was accepted by the SLA Council on November 21, 2017.

The same licensee was again charged on June 19, 2019 with “becoming a focal point for police attention” and did not plead any dispute, with the agency imposing a fine of $ 10,000 as a result.

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