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Clark fights to prevent poultry plan

Clark wants to prevent the opening of the shop, proposed for 98-04 Springfield Blvd., and if that fails to stage daily pickets.

"We're talking about a little civil disobedience here," Clark said at the meeting, held next door to the site at Bethlehem Missionary Church and attended by about 150 people.

Magdi Mossad, the Queens borough commissioner for the city Department of Buildings, also attended but a representative from the city Department of Environmental Protection did not.

The site's owner, identified by community leaders as Sheik Anis of Queens Village, does not yet have a certificate of occupancy from Buildings, and a DEP spokesman has said that as far as he knew Anis had not yet installed a device to prevent grease and oil from being sucked back into the water system, as required.

Clark also said the state Department of Agriculture issued a permit to the business but has since taken it back.

A spokeswoman for the department said an inspector was shown a piece of paper that both he and the owner thought was a certificate of occupancy, but the mistake was later realized and the permit was rescinded.

Anis could not be reached for comment, but a business associate previously told the TimesLedger that the store had met all requirements.

The community, led by Clark, opposes the opening of the shop because it fears the butchering of live chickens would create an unbearable smell and would attract rats and vermin to nearby homes and the church.

While the store sits in a mixed-use zone that allows for such an operation, Clark has said the shop is inappropriate for the block, a mixture of businesses, residences and the church, which has a day-care facility. Clark's district office is across the street.

At the meeting, Clark and other residents acknowledged that the store was legal, according to zoning laws, but voiced their frustration that quality-of-life factors seemed to be overruled by the regulations.

"We feel the Buildings Department should be able to say, 'no, this place cannot go there,'" she said. "Your homes and your quality of life will drastically change."

But Mossad said "we cannot deny someone's right and tell him, 'you cannot have this one.'"

Clark and other community activists mentioned adjusting the zoning laws to prevent live poultry stores from opening near residential areas. But zoning changes require time and the approval of many layers of city government, and should the poultry store get its certificate of occupancy before the process is completed, it would be grandfathered in.

If the store were to open, it would have to meet "performance standards" for smell that the DEP sets for all city businesses.

But Clark noted that two live poultry stores on Jamaica Avenue on 216th and 207th streets "drive us crazy from the odor" every summer.

And community activist Erick Bowen said "what is going to be deemed a violation of the performance standard?" He added that violators do not pay their fines and that the hearings process often drags on.

A spokesman for the DEP said in a telephone interview that fines range from $400 to $1,000, and inspectors have discretion in deciding which smells are noxious.

At the meeting, Clark said, "what we're concerned about is closing the barn door before the horse gets out."

She said she will seek a court injunction if the poultry store opens and will contact animal welfare groups.

For now, the mayor's office has told her that permit applications for the store will be closely examined and that it will be scrutinized if it opens.

Said Clark about the mayor's office: "They have assured us they will leave no stone unturned."

Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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