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Civics squawk over sale of live poultry

"We think that if we're able to discourage enough of their business away, it will become unprofitable for him to be there," said Erick Bowen, a lawyer and the president of 78s901, a neighboring block association. A second goal of the protest, he said, was to make their concerns known to city officials.

"We don't think the city has done all it could," Bowen said of efforts to stop the shop, which opened on May 19.

The store, owned by Zameer Anif of Queens Village, has faced constant community opposition since at least December. Led by state Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village), opponents of the shop fear the butchering of live chickens will attract rats and vermin and cause an unbearable smell, creating unsanitary conditions and lowering property values.

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

The opening of the store was delayed for several months as the business tried to meet requirements for water and sewer systems set by the city Department of Environmental Protection. All permits have now been granted.

Community opponents still hold out hope, however, that the poultry shop can be closed down by the Department of Environmental Protect. The agency sets and enforces limits on the amount of odor a business can emit, with its inspectors given discretion in deeming which smells are noxious.

Citing the city's administrative code, Clark said since smells are likely to emanate from the shop, the DEP is authorized to be proactive in ensuring the poultry market has installed devices to prevent odors, something she said the store had not yet done. She based her argument on the smell arising in the summer from existing markets on Jamaica Avenue on 207th and 216th streets.

"As it gets warmer, the odor will be just as bad as some of the other places that exist here," Clark said.

But a DEP spokesman said the department did not agree with Clark's interpretation of the code, noting that the DEP could not act until it received specific odor complaints.

"I've never heard of anything like that," said the spokesman, who previously told TimesLedger that odor fines range from $400 to $1,000 and involve a public hearing. "Everyone's entitled to their due process," he said.

On Friday, Eric Romil, an employee of the store, said he and the owner had complied with the law and were not concerned with the protests but did appreciate the community's anxiety.

"I can understand that," Romil said of odor concerns as he showed a visitor around the shop. He said guts, blood and other remnants would be frozen before being disposed of, while ceiling fans would blow air from inside the store straight into the sky.

Romil also acknowledged that the block on which the store sits could still be purchased by a local real estate firm for constructing houses, a plan protesters later said they approved of as long as the development is low-density.

But the protesters said they will continue to pursue all possible means to halt the store's operation.

"If this was in some other community farther north, they wouldn't have allowed this to go on," Bowen said of the Buildings Department and the DEP. "We think the city could still do more. It's not too late."

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

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