Lured by the rapid development of 20th Avenue, a second 7-Eleven convenience store is being built "as-of-right" in College Point, and many in the community say the last thing the area needs is another 24-hour business.
"We don't need it up here," said Lucie Shannon, who will be a neighbor of College Point's new 7-Eleven, located on 127th Street and 14th Avenue on the former site of NDM Getty service station, which has moved down the street.
"One is sufficient," Shannon said.
A spokeswoman for 7-Eleven, however, said typically the stores draw traffic from within a half-mile radius, and between the megastores, restaurants and movie theater that have sprung up along 20th Avenue and College Point's large residential population, a second store should do well.
"We wouldn't put a store in a place we didn't think was viable," said Margaret Chabris, a 7-Eleven spokeswoman. "We think there are a lot of services we can provide that people who are pressed for time can take advantage of."
She said the store would be opening within the coming weeks.
The first 7-Eleven to be built in College Point is located at 22-50 College Point Blvd.
7-Eleven incorporated was founded in 1927 in Dallas. It operates more than 5,600 convenience stores in the United States and Canada, over half of which are run by franchisees. The company prides itself for providing cutting-edge services to busy commuters and on selling fresh food made daily off-site and shipped overnight to stores.
Rumors about College Point's new 7-Eleven began circulating throughout the community late last year, but residents and members of Community Board 7 say they were only confirmed in January when building began.
In general, College Point's 24-hour stores have been a continual source of aggravation to some community members.
A 1997 Times/Ledger article about a civic meeting in the area quoted several residents who were concerned that the all-night businesses had become youth hangouts and magnets for crime.
Detective Steve Pohalski, the community affairs officer for the 109th Precinct, said police officers had investigated the 24-hour establishments, in particular three that have the same owners, but could not verify residents' claims.
"We're not seeing their complaints," Pohalski said, noting that complaints about the businesses had died off.
Asked if there had been any criminal activity around the existing 7-Eleven, Pohalski said in the past there might have been a few isolated incidents but none recently.
Chabris said 7-Eleven is a leader among retailers in terms of robbery and crime deterrents and the company's overall robbery rate has been reduced by 70 percent since 1976.
"Quite frankly, we don't have a lot of crime in the Northeast for our stores," she noted.
"The people don't want it," said Sabina Cardali, a College Point civic leader and also a Times/Ledger columnist, about the new 7-Eleven. "We've got enough - five 24 hour places for the small amount of people that may be working odd hours."
Marilyn Bitterman, CB 7's district manager, came under fire at a recent meeting of Cardali's civic group as residents blamed her and the community board for allowing the 7-Eleven to be built.
"It's an as-of-right development," Bitterman said afterward in an interview. "There's nothing that the board could do. If they break zoning laws, call the Buildings Department. But if they're building according to what the zoning allows, there's nothing anybody can do."
At the same civic meeting, Shannon said she was concerned the new 7-Eleven would put the nearby Gold Time Deli and Grill at 126-01 15th Ave. out of business.
In an interview, Tommi Young, who purchased the location in September 1999, said he did not think he would lose his store, but it would be hard to compete with 7-Eleven, especially because the shop would have a parking lot.
Cardali also questioned how healthy it was to build a convenience store that sells food on the site of a former gas station.
"Typically we always do soil test borings and we require the gas tanks be removed and the soil be remediated before agreeing to build," Chabris said.
Fred Mazzarello, president of the College Point Board of Trade, said the last thing the community needs is another 7-Eleven.
"Right now we're overloaded with bodegas and delicatessens. There's too many in the community for any to prosper," Mazzarello said. "We always welcome new business, but we'd like to get a variety."
©2000 Community News Group
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