Whitestone CVS found in violation

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The controversial new CVS Pharmacy in Whitestone has been hit with a violation because trash in its parking lot encouraged rodents, Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said.

The city Department of Health inspected the lot based on a request from Avella and found the accumulation of garbage on the site to be in violation of the health code pertaining to rodent control, the councilman said.

"It's interesting that I had to sic the Department of Health on them," Avella said. "It's just another example of the lack of concern that CVS has for the community."

The Health Department inquiry focused on a business which many Whitestone residents have not welcomed with open arms.

In the summer, the Key Food Supermarket at 20-21 Francis Lewis Blvd. closed down, and community members learned that a CVS was slated to take its place.

In an area with a large population of seniors, many residents said the closing of Key Food was a major inconvenience since the closest supermarkets were a mile away. Some seniors said they had no cars and struggled to travel to the other food stores.

Avella and residents staged three protests in an attempt to pressure CVS into giving up some of its space to allow a smaller food market to move in.

The final protest was held in December, just after CVS opened.

Within the last month since the violation was issued, CVS has cleaned up the lot, Avella said.

"We try to be as responsive as possible to the councilman's concerns on every matter, and we certainly want to be a positive part of the neighborhood," said Todd Andrews, a spokesman for CVS.

Avella remained hopeful that a food market could eventually be installed on the property.

A spokesman for the Muss Development Co., which owns the property, has said the firm has no intention of bringing in a food store to the 3,500 square feet on the site that remain empty.

With a group of residents boycotting the store and several drug stores already close by, business at the new CVS has been slow, Avella said.

While Avella remained hopeful, Enes Balsamo, the Whitestone resident who organized the rallies, said it was clear that a market would not come to the site.

"We're not getting what we need," she said.

Balsamo noted that residents had complained of rodents when the store was being renovated, speculating that the work had disturbed a colony on the property.

But now Balsamo's main concern with CVS has been the drugstore's large red-and-white sign, which is as tall as two-story homes in the area and illuminated at night.

"Would you like to live behind a sign like that?" she asked.

Balsamo filed a complaint with Community Board 7 questioning whether the sign is legal.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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