Oct. 18, 2023 By Camille Botello
Community Board 11 is scheduled to deliberate on a new cannabis player in the East Bronx at its Economic Development Committee meeting tonight.
Freshly Baked NYC — a legal conditional adult-use retail dispensary (CAURD) license holder with a Queens delivery location but without a current physical storefront — has applied to set up shop at 2152-2154 White Plains Road in the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx. According to the committee agenda, CB11 members will deliberate on the dispensary’s application at Wednesday night’s hybrid meeting.
David Nicponski, the CEO and co-founder of Freshly Baked NYC, told the Bronx Times that in the months since he received his CAURD license on April 3 he’s been working to find a retail space that both adheres to legislative regulations and will be good for business. But that process, he said, has been arduous.
“Finding a storefront has been a very laborious and difficult process,” Nicponski said.
The Bronx has lagged behind other boroughs since the New York State Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) announced its first round of CAURD licenses almost a year ago — a restorative justice program that is meant to provide entrepreneurial opportunities in the legal cannabis industry to individuals who have been impacted by the over-policing of marijuana. That includes people like Nicponski — who said he was “harass(ed)” by the police and arrested multiple times for cannabis possession as a teenager in upstate New York.
Part of this disparity in the industry can be attributed to the struggles CAURD holders have had navigating the real estate side of the business. Those challenges include examining vacant commercial spaces to operate, complying with zoning requirements and ensuring the space isn’t within an illegal proximity of a school, place of worship, another dispensary or other specific community facilities.
The Bronx’s first legal recreational dispensary, Statis Cannabis Co., opened in Crotona on July 6 — about eight months after the state issued its first CAURD licenses. Statis has since expanded its operation and now offers delivery service in the Bronx and into Upper Manhattan.
“There are limitations on proximity … so threading that needle to find retail space is already a challenge,” Nicponski said. “On top of that, if you don’t already own property that you intend to use, then you have to find a willing property owner.”
He added that even if licensees find a willing property owner that checks all the boxes, if the building is encumbered by a national or international bank’s mortgage it’s likely that a dispensary won’t be compliant with the mortgage’s terms — as recreational cannabis isn’t legal on a federal or international level.
“That turns it into a needle in a haystack,” Nicponski said about securing a dispensary storefront. “Sadly, I don’t already own a building in New York City, otherwise that might have gotten a lot easier.”
Many new licensees have also been stopped in their tracks because of an ongoing legal battle against OCM and the state Cannabis Control Board. The case, in state Supreme Court, was brought before Judge Kevin Bryant in mid-August, and has forced CAURD holders into a state of limbo.
Hush New York co-owners and cousins Levent and Denis Ozkurt — who passed their dispensary’s final compliance inspection and were ready to fully open for business on Allerton’s Williamsbridge Road earlier this summer — are just two of the city’s cannabis business owners to start and stop because of the lawsuit.
Nicponski said the litigation has heavily impacted his operations too, even though he’s still without a retail space. On the business, side he said the injunction is the primary reason he hasn’t hired staff yet, but he emphasized that the “disaster” in the courts has had profound negative impacts on his livelihood and mental health as well.
“People are suffering tremendously — not just financial(ly) but mentally and emotionally,” he said. “In recent Cannabis Control Board meetings the despair that is being expressed as a result of this injunction is tangible and overwhelming, and I feel it first hand.”
But even with the roadblocks, Nicponski said he’s eager to work with CB11 and residents in the district to hopefully find a permanent home along White Plains Road.
“We are excited to be a part of the community and hopefully assist in the continued development and economic success and growth of the Bronx,” he said. “We hope that folks will be receptive to us and will be willing to engage with us and that we can move the industry and the neighborhood and the community forward.”
The CB11 committee meeting, which Nicponski plans to attend, will start at 7 p.m. tonight (Oct. 18). It’s not clear whether or not the committee will vote on the Freshly Baked NYC application — when asked by the Bronx Times CB 11 District Manager Jeremy Warneke said, “We’ll see. Nothing is guaranteed.”
Veronica Castro, the treasurer of CB11, said board members and attendees will be able to hear both those for and against the application Wednesday night.
“Cannabis license applications are an issue that has been argued against and for by many in the community,” she said. “It can be a contentious issue and we do expect there to be input from the community.”
Community members can attend the meeting in-person at the CB11 office at 1741 Colden Ave. or remotely. Join the Webex Meeting remotely via the meeting link or by calling (646) 992-2010. The virtual access code is 129 810 2111 and the password is 2023.
Correction: This article has been updated with Freshly Baked NYC’s correct application address.
Reach Camille Botello at [email protected]. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes