Neighbors Fume Over Iris Cafe’s Java Fumes

Every dog deserves its day, right? Last year BHB had a heyday with the infamous Montague Street hotdog controversy, after a vendor dared to sell wieners to the olfactory offense of a number of readers. Even the New York Post got into the story.

And now, a 2013 controversy involving Brooklyn Heights’ otherwise beloved Iris Cafe… The eatery, which opened in 2009 at 20 Columbia Place, is in hot water with neighbors, reports The New York Post in a story titled “Eatery neighbors in smell hell.” The crime: “It’s been nothing but agita for some residents who live above it. Residents in the historic A.T. White Riverside Apartments gripe that they’re sick of overpowering fumes from coffee, baked goods, beef jerky and other artisan eats that the hip cafe churns out.”

Apparently, Iris and its next-door take-out shop don’t have ventilation systems, “so the strong aromas rise into some of the 157 apartments at the 122-year-old complex,” residents tell the Post, which adds, “The city’s Environmental Control Board last year slapped the takeout shop with $2,400 in fines after Dept. of Environmental Protection inspectors responded to complaints. Summonses were issued because strong odors of brewed coffee and muffins came from an ‘unregulated source.'”

Iris’ co-owner Salah Hamden says he doesn’t have to legally install a ventilation system because he cooks with an electric stove, instead of a gas-fired appliance: “I want to be a good neighbor and am always willing to talk, but if I install a ventilation system, other people in the building might complain it’s too noisy,” he told the Post.

Apparently, the smell of coffee is the new second-hand smoke. D’Amico Coffee in Carroll Gardens, which has been brewing since 1948, has dealt with similar complaints, according to the New York Observer. (Photo: CT)

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  • Gerry

    Y’all remeber how I kicked that hot dog vendor the heck off of Montague Terrace? But the smell of coffee and baked goods would have been another matter.

  • DottyParker

    As someone who lives near the Henry Street Ale House ventilation system (I think it’s a compressor), be careful what you wish for. I have to sleep with a fan on to block out the rhythm of it going On…and Off…On….and Off. It’s loud and maddening. I like a good local business, but their ventilation system bums me out.

  • HiBrooklyn

    They would complain about the crowds if the street were paved with gold. Nothing but Brooklyn Heights NIMBYism.

  • Mr. Crusty

    Yeah, I think we all remember the bad publicity the neighborhood received because of the nasty, elitist, smug, obnoxious comments made by some BH residents, most notably yourself. You did more harm to the community than a fleet of hot dog vendors could ever have done. It was I first realized what a first class a-hole you were.

  • Berrie

    You know when I was living in the hills of Colombia, I adored the smell of coffee. When I came back to my wonderful brownstone on Garden Place (far superior to Montague Terrace IMHO) I yearned for that aroma. These Willowtown savages know nothing of pleasure.

  • DIBS

    Gerry got the hot dog vendor removed??? What an elitist douche. No wonder you all hate him.

  • km

    Oh no, the smell of baked goods and coffee. It must be truly horrendous for those poor people. I can’t imagine the suffering.
    How ridiculous.

  • Big Dave

    Cook some garlic
    Or a cabbage
    And quit fuming
    Is my adage…..

  • David G.

    Between this and the hot dog vendor, I do not know what is more embarrassing to live here. I hope whoever is upset about the smell of coffee leaves the neighborhood and goes to a single family unit somewhere in la la land.. These people are probably the same D.B.’s who complained about the bench in front of Iris a year or two ago.

  • HicksOnHicks

    Is this resorting to name calling rather than having a reasoned debate?

  • Mr. Crusty

    If you think there is “reasoned debate” with someone like Gerry then you haven’t been around here very long. Trust me it was tried.

  • MonroeOrange

    I think most people are missing the point…A person paying rent should be entitled to some sort of control as to how their house smells. I like coffee and baked goods, but if it were in my house every day and night, i would be upset as well (not to mention beef jerky, smells terrible to someone who may be a vegetarian). Its like having a smoker next door, it comes through the vents, and while cig smoke may be more unpleasant…any strong odor daily can be extremely unpleasant.

    I think all who are telling these people, that they shouldn’t be complaining, need to live in their apt for a week and then make that call….just my opinion.

  • j

    Did someone force these people to move in above a cafe?

  • ltap917

    The hot dog vendor was there illegally which is the real issue here. Everyone seems to forget that!

  • ltap917

    I am sure the residents were there long before the cafe opened. As a matter of fact that whole stretch of what is now stores/offices was empty when I moved here 6 years ago.

  • Gerry

    @ltap917:disqus Most people dont care that the Hot Dog Vendor was operating on Montague Terrace illegally with NO Board of Health permit. Forever grateful to NYPD our local commanding officer of the Gold Street Precinct for helping me to get rid of that filthy cart ASAP. And if the hot dog vendor comes back to my block I will have him removed again even faster.

  • giantnyc

    Even if the cafe was not operating as such when the complaining tenants moved in, one can find out, by sight or reviewing public records, if a space is designated for commercial use.

  • Gerry

    @ DIBS – I can see why you call me an elitiist yes its true I am elite. If you were me you would be an elitist also bet on that. Few people have as wonderful a life as we have clearly I have been blessed.

  • MonroeOrange

    Gerry your such a waste of space…I can’t believe your wife hasn’t told you to stop writing on here…you are giving your whole family a very bad name…you must be so proud of your accomplishments….

  • David on Middagh

    Chuck Taylor, you knew what would happen when you mentioned the “hot dog controversy”. Thanks a lot.

  • Gerry

    @ Bernie – I agree that Garden Place, and Syndey Place are even more beautiful than Montague Terrace.
    What most people do not understand is that Montague Terrace is an expereince – we meet people from all over the world and have interesting interaction with people here, and a skyline view, and a very quiet block, we love MT.
    Best wishes to your Bernie

  • jen

    Well said!!

  • jen

    i lived in apartment with the same situation and i can relate 100%… The smell was unbearable it didn’t matter if it was coffee, baked goods or beef jerky it was horrible having everything in the apt smelling like food and having fumes coming into my apartment.. It must be really bad if the DEP slapped them with violations…
    i believe they i have baby, do the right thing and put a vent!!

  • Jameson

    I’m going to buy twice as much coffee and beef jerky there each day from now on.

  • ltap917

    I have all of what you have and live one block from you.

  • ltap917

    If you are embarassed to live here you should move.

  • ltap917

    It was easy to see that the storefronts that had been abandoned years ago were used as commercial as the names of the former businesses were still visible on the storefronts. The “complaining tenants” as you refer to them might have been living in their apartments for decades. You have no way of knowing that.

  • ltap917

    You need to change your tune. You sound like a broken record. To brag that one is an elitist is just plain silly.

  • GHB

    Lucky you!

  • ltap917

    You are assuming that the “complaining” tenants moved in AFTER Iris Cafe opened.
    I am telling you that some of the residents of that building were living there LONG before Iris Cafe opened.