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"Kingston: Shut down S&M club; owner: 'it's not over'"

on Thursday, 17 October 2013. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Times Herald-Record

S&M fetish club or adult lifestyle community center?

Either way, Kingston is shutting it down. The owner of the building says he will fight to get it open again.

The business, called Feel Me Breathe, is about a block from the Midtown Boys and Girls Club, a baseball field and in the same building as a cheese factory. Owners appeared in front of a Zoning Board of Appeals board to ask for a variance Tuesday night.

But, despite passionate support from about 30 members dressed in purple, the board voted unanimously Tuesday night to not grant the business a variance, essentially telling them to hit the road.

Andi Turco-Levin, a zoning board member, said not enough information was provided by the building owner, Michael Piazza, to prove there was a financial hardship to grant the variance. A variance is essentially a waiver from zoning rules.

“It's never easy having to separate your heart from a decision to be made when serving on a public board,” Turco-Levin said.

Feel Me Breathe has operated out of 1-11 Sterling St. for about 11 months, a building that also houses a karate club and residential apartments. At question Tuesday was if Feel Me Breathe is adult use and, if so, can it operate inside that zoning area.

Tina Woodbury, one of the owners of Feel Me Breathe, said to Zoning Board members that the business works on donations, isn't open to the general public and supports alternative lifestyle activities.

But when Zoning Board members quizzed Woodbury further about specific activities, she told them members engage in activities from playing board games and going on vegetable picking trips to giving educational tutorials on sadomasochism and dominance. But ...

“Feel Me Breathe is not a sex club,” Woodbury said. “We don't have sex.”

Woodbury says the place is an adult lifestyle community center. Andrew Zweben, Kingston's city attorney, says the business falls into a zone that's limited for office space and 1-3 family homes. If you're not one of those you would need a variance, Zweben said.

“Whatever it is, it's not one of those,” Zweben said in previous interview. “But if that's what's going on, it has to stop.”

About 30 core members of Feel Me Breathe wearing purple T-shirts came out to support the club, calling it a place of openness and trust where people can feel comfortable to talk about their lives and relationships.

Members cited the popularity of such books as “Fifty Shades of Grey” and a six month investigation on "Oprah" as the practices jumping into the mainstream. Turco-Levin said she was concerned that the club was close to kids facilities on Greenkill Avenue.

“Our major concern is the proximity to the Boys and Girls Club,” Levin said.

Woodbury defended her club, saying that most members were responsible parents, members of the community or those traveling from as far as Canada to spend money in Kingston. Several members said they moved to Kingston to be closer to the club. ...

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