Brooklyn Heights

Notorious Brooklyn Heights weed shop padlocked by NYC sheriff

Residents hope new state laws have teeth

May 17, 2024 Mary Frost
One of the signs posted by the NYC Sheriff on the door of the Exotic Smoke Shop (AKA Convenience and Organic Corporation) at 64 Henry St.
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BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — An illegal smoke shop in Brooklyn Heights — which has been raided, robbed, shut down by the police and reopened numerous times — has been padlocked by the NYC Sheriff’s Office under new, tougher rules unveiled last month by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Neighbors hope that this time it’s permanent.

Signs posted by the NYC Sheriff on the door of the “Exotic” smoke shop (doing business as Convenience and Organic Corporation) at 64 Henry St., dated May 15, ordered the shop’s immediate closure.

The Sheriff’s Office determined that Exotic had been engaged in the “unlicensed processing of cannabis” and the “sale of cannabis products not tested or labeled lawfully,” including cannabis pre-rolls, THC edibles and THC vapes, according to the postings.

The Sheriff also issued a civil summons, with a hearing to be held on May 22. The shop is ordered to remain closed pending the outcome of the hearing.

The Exotic Smoke Shop (AKA Convenience and Organic Corporation) in Brooklyn Heights prior to its closure on May 15. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

While there are other illegal smoke shops within walking distance, Exotic, which opened in February 2022, has been a bad actor from the beginning, neighbors said, opening without proper licenses and breaking NYC’s Landmarks Preservation Commission rules by installing signage featuring a grinning skull, and at night, neon-colored, flashing lights. The shop is also located near P.S. 8 and a pre-school.

After efforts by Councilmember Lincoln Restler (D-Brooklyn Heights-Greenpoint) and the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) to put the rogue shop on city agencies’ radar, Exotic was forced to tear down the illegal signage.

Since then, there have been at least three police raids and four known robberies, each more violent than the last. The shop was slapped with eight violations in February 2023, raided in September 2023 and raided again October 2023, with cops carrying out boxes and bags of cannabis products.

The latest robbery took place on April 4, when “multiple individuals” rushed the shop, pointed a knife at the 24-year-old shopkeeper and stole $400 cash and $11,000 worth of merchandise. Before leaving, they smashed the glass display cases holding cannabis-related products.

Following that attack, the operators installed bulletproof plexiglass to seal off the merchandise and workers, and quickly reopened.

The NYC Sheriff shut down the Exotic Smoke Shop (AKA Convenience and Organic Corporation) at 64 Henry St. on May 15. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

On district’s ‘priority list’

Exotic has long been at the top of his office’s “priority list” for closure, Restler told the Brooklyn Eagle on Thursday. 

“I hope it’s permanent this time,” he said.

“The BHA has been working for many months with law enforcement and elected officials to bring attention to this scofflaw shop at 64 Henry,” BHA Executive Director Lara Birnback said Friday. “We’re grateful for their efforts, and hope that along with the new initiatives in the state budget focused on providing greater enforcement capacity to local governments and police, we will finally see a lasting improvement here.”

Birnback added, “We’ve got lots of ideas here at the BHA for what kind of commercial use would benefit our community — I’d welcome a call from the property owner.” 

Under the new rules, if a landlord fails to start eviction proceedings against tenants in violation of the cannabis law, they can be fined up to $50,000. The property owner of 64 Henry St. is Manhattan resident Joel Radmin, the principal of Extreme Realty LLC. A sign hanging on the side of the building for more than a year says the retail space is for rent.

Workers installed bulletproof plexiglass partitions after robbers smashed glass display cases inside the Exotic Smoke Shop, during the latest robbery on April 4. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

How is this raid different from all the previous raids?

This most recent closure of Exotic Smoke Shop is the latest salvo in the weed wars that have played out in New York City since the state’s botched rollout of legal cannabis licenses. While legitimate businesses jump through hoops to obtain licenses, rogue operations like Exotic have been flaunting the rules with seeming impunity. 

Now neighbors are waiting, fingers crossed, to see if the state’s new regulations have teeth.

Exotic’s closure couldn’t come fast enough for long-time Brooklyn Heights resident Andrew Porter.

“Good riddance to bad rubbish,” he said Friday.

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