SCHENECTADY – The co-owner of Tropics Restaurant and Bar at 201 S. Brandywine Ave. made a case for the business to stay open in the face of a neighborhood push to have it closed after a recent fatal shooting in its parking lot.
Co-owner Mavis Diaram told the City Council Tuesday night that a petition signed by 300 residents asks the council to keep the business open.
It is counter to a petition signed by 34 residents of the Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association that asked the council to close it after the Sept. 5 shooting in the business’ parking lot that left an Albany man dead and two others wounded.
E-Shawn Amir Berkley, 23, was shot and killed around 12:45 a.m., while a 27-year-old woman suffered a gunshot wound to her leg and a 22-year-old man was shot in the abdomen.
The neighborhood association petition was turned into the city clerk Sept. 10 by association President Marva Isaacs. It alleged prolonged efforts and outreach to the owner and police to address crime weren’t acted upon.
In addition to the fatal shooting, the petition cited repeated loud music, revving of loud car engines at 2 a.m., broken bottles on the sidewalk, and loud vulgar language.
“We believe that since the establishment has not taken actions to remedy or to consider the concerns of the community it should be closed,” the petition stated, adding it had no other options than to petition the council.
Diaram told the council that the suggestion the association had made repeated requests to Tropics’ past and present owners were false.
Diaram said ownership hadn’t received notice or complaints from police or the neighborhood association during the year that Diaram has managed the restaurant.
Diaram said the restaurant had a neighborhood meeting earlier this month where close to a dozen people showed up to talk about safety concerns.
She said some residents of nearby Strong Street were under the impression Tropics owners were being told of ongoing concerns. The neighborhood association’s petition was the first time the business had heard of concerns, she said.
Diaram has said the business has video footage that shows the shooter and fatal shooting victim hadn’t patronized Tropics that evening.
Diaram said the three shooting victims were at the Speedway gas station next door, then stopped for two women that were leaving the bar.
Speaking to the council, the owner said Tropics purposely chose its location in Hamilton Hill because its diversity is similar to the Caribbean and “made this location feel like home.”
In return, she said, Tropics offers “a welcoming safe atmosphere to a previously blighted building that was abandoned for over eight years.”
She said it has 13 high-definition cameras that are strategically placed inside and outside the business for the safety of patrons and surrounding neighborhood. Those cameras have helped the police in previous neighborhood investigations, she said.
The night of the shooting, the business closed an early, at 1 a.m., to assist with the police investigation.
Councilwoman Marion Porterfield said she and Council President John Mootooveren walked the neighborhood recently and spoke to people who signed the association petition.
She said the two council members want to help facilitate another meeting between residents and the owners of Tropics. She said she also wants to address gatherings at the neighboring Speedway gas station, where people tend to congregate for a party-like environment after Tropics closes.
Porterfield also noted that there hadn’t been an official meeting of the Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association regarding its petition.
Mootooveren said some of the people he and Porterfield spoke to voiced concerns about “misinformation being presented to them,” and signing a petition that he said wasn’t clearly articulated to them.
“We’re going to get to the bottom of it,” Mootooveren said, adding that some people were surprised by the heading of the petition. He said they expressed an intent to speak at the next meeting.
After the meeting, Isaacs pushed back against any notion she misrepresented the petition, while downplaying her role in collecting signatures.
Isaacs said she titled the petition appropriately and gave it to a resident to collect signatures. She said she had no other role.
Isaacs reiterated that backers of the petition only want the city to close the business on Fridays. However, the petition reads as wanting the business outright closed.
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.