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Forest Hills residents upset with 24-hour Home Depot

More than 80 Forest Hills and Glendale residents turned out for a civic meeting Tuesday night to make their displeasure known to the managers of the new 24-hour Home Depot store on Woodhaven Boulevard.

But the store, which opened Feb. 17 and has been busy ever since, is open for good and has no plans to shorten its 24-hour business day, despite clear exhortations to the contrary.

"We in Forest Hills really don't see the need to stay open 24 hours," said Chris Collett, executive director of the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce, at a meeting of the Forest Hills Community and Civic Association.

Home Depot's co-manager, Nina Bianchi, and the Manhattan land-use attorney representing the national chain, Jesse Masyr, spoke to the civic group at the request of its president, Barbara Stuchinski.

"You're not catering to our needs here," Collett said. "You've opened a regional store in our area and we have some right to complain about it."

But Masyr, who noted that Home Depot would not have attended the meeting if it did not wish to hear residents' concerns, countered that it was not the goal of Home Depot to operate a "regional draw business."

"To be honest with you, we're going to see more Home Depots in Queens, not less," Masyr said. "Nobody to my knowledge is forcing people to shop at Home Depot. They're voting with their feet."

Home Depot has 24-hour stores in Flushing and Long Island City and another branch in Ozone Park and it is seeking city approval to build a fifth Queens store on 20th Avenue in College Point.

Before the store opened, residents especially feared the traffic and noise that a large-scale 24-hour store would bring to their neighborhoods.

Residents Monday seemed resigned to the fact that Home Depot was open for good, but they were vehement in blaming the store for worsening the area's already congested traffic and insisted it do more to improve conditions.

Home Depot, which technically has a Glendale zip code, sits on the border of Forest Hills and Glendale on Woodhaven Boulevard at 73rd Avenue, a block away from Metropolitan Avenue. It is next door to another nationwide chain, the Sports Authority, which opened last year, and is bounded on the east and west by residential blocks.

Residents said traffic to and from the Home Depot cuts through residential streets - 73rd Avenue and Trotting Course Lane - rather than travel along Woodhaven Boulevard.

The Home Depot representatives said they welcomed suggestions on how to mitigate traffic problems and asked people to draft a list of concerns for Home Depot's traffic engineers to study.

Bianchi, the store manager, tried to appease the civics by asking for suggestions on what kind of services Home Depot could provide to improve the community.

She welcomed requests, including a suggestion to work with PS 144 students to beautify their school and helping the 74th Street Block Association clean up graffiti in Glendale, and said she had just spoken with a group of youth about the issue of respect in a corporate firm.

"We do these services for the community. We're going to try our best to work with the community," she said.

After the representatives had left the meeting, Stuchinski said the civic group would not let up if their concerns were not addressed.

"If Home Depot doesn't listen, we are not adverse to standing outside Home Depot with the television cameras on us letting people know how we feel," she said.

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