O’Neills Restaurant is seeking to add a partial second-floor to add a banquet hall that would seat up to 140 people, according to Nora Martins, a land use attorney representing the restaurant. Martins presented the rezoning proposal at last Wednesday’s Community Board 5 meeting.
The expansion would increase the height of the eatery to 25 feet from 14 feet.
The rezoning, if approved, would include six adjacent lots on either side of the restaurant. Some of those buildings are not currently zoned properly, but would be grandfathered into the code, Martins said.
She assured that the rezoning would simply recognize existing conditions and facilitate the enlargement at O’Neills.
“All of this was filed very carefully to ensure that there would be no change or additional change in the area,” she said.
One concern that board member MaryAnna Zero raised was the issue of parking. Martins said the banquet hall will be used to “help with operations,” considering there is already another banquet hall on the ground floor.
“Sometimes, especially with family parties, there’s a lot of overlap with people leaving and coming in. This allows the next event to be set up while the other is cleaned up,” she said. “So I don’t think it will substantially increase the number of cars coming to this facility.”
Nearly all of the public speakers supported the project, including a number of neighbors. Tom Brady, who has lived on 65th Place for 61 years, said O’Neills has been “an outstanding neighbor” since it was first built in 1933.
“We have seen firsthand, over the years, many functions and benefits that are held there,” Brady said. “Although there are many, most noteworthy are the ones they do for the children and widows of the FDNY, NYPD and for St. Jude Children’s Hospital.”
Adriana Carrasco, also a resident on 65th Place, said she considers the restaurant a landmark. She praised the O’Neill family for looking out for the best of the neighborhood and for its charity work.
“I can’t recall a time when we did not consider O’Neills for our many family events,” she said. “I know the O’Neill family will do the renovation in a respectful manner, considering the neighborhood first.”
Deirdre O’Neill, the daughter of owner George O’Neill, described her family’s long list of connections to the community. She said even when the restaurant burned down, her father still went everyday because he loves Maspeth.
“My father loves Maspeth like no other, and he would never do anything to harm this community,” she said. “It is all about community for my dad.”
The application will go to the board’s Land Use Committee for further review.