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The Civic Scene: Entire community united against Pathmark

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The zoning of the Fresh Meadows development and the adjacent Meadowlark Garden Owners, Inc. property is R-4, so fairly large buildings can be built there. However, 20 years ago the former owners of the Fresh Meadows development wanted to tear down the magnificent Oak Grove and built apartment houses there. The Fresh Meadows Tenants Association, with the support of the local civic associations, changed the zoning to that of a preservation district so things can only be changed after public hearings and City Council approval.Fresh Meadows was built as a planned community with mostly low-rise buildings, but they did get a big building in there somehow, with winding streets, malls in the middle of the streets with round-a-bouts every few blocks. Green spaces and fine trees are everywhere.Further opposition against a megastore came from parents and concerned residents who didn't want a big box store opposite PS 26. Nobody wanted a 24/7 store with all kinds of trucks, air pollution, noise pollution, trash left around and then the multitude of cars day and night. There was fear of strangers coming into the community who might do things. There was fear for the safety of the PS 26 students.The groups that formed the Greater Fresh Meadows Community Coalition (FGMCC) were the West Cunningham Park Civic Association, Inc.; the Civic Association of Utopia Estates, Inc.; Fresh Meadows Tenants Association, Inc.; Meadowlark Gardens Owners, Inc.; Hillcrest Estates Civic Association, Inc.; Holliswood Civic Association, Inc.; Fresh Meadows Homeowners Association, Inc.; plus representatives of the Queens Historic Society and the Colonial Farm of Little Neck.After many meetings, rallies and press releases published in local and weekly newspapers, Pathmark employed a lobbying firm to produce a glossy brochure listing many reasons why a megastore would be good for the neighborhood. This was mailed almost all over Queens. However, the brochure did not tell of the scope and size of the proposed store. The local community, instead of "voting" for the store, sent back the brochures telling why they did not want it.The legislators supported the community by attending meetings, rallies and writing in support of the community. Supporting the community were U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, state Sen. Toby Stavisky, Assemblyman Mark Weprin and City Councilman David Weprin, who after the brochure mailing wrote another letter saying he was opposed to a megastore. This was printed in all the local newspapers. The company finally realized that if the local councilman did not support a zoning change, then it had no chance to pass in the City Council. It is interesting that no formal proposal was ever made.There is no grocery store in the Fresh Meadows development because Federal Realty ended the month-to-month lease with the Key Food Store on 188th Street near 73rd Avenue. It seems that the former store, with no changes in size, is being renovated to become an Eckerd Drug Store. Federal Realty can obtain a much higher rent from a big chain drugstore than from a food store just as Pathmark would have paid big bucks for a big box store. It is the making of money that drives the economy of our country, but the quality of life and safety of the people are just as important. We will see if the neighborhood can support another drug store.The vacant store opposite PS 26 is still empty. In the past it had been a Waldbaum's, a UPS Office and a Dollar Store. It seems likely that increased rents had driven out these stores. I mention this because a source tells me that a small food chain which would like to rent the property can't afford the asking rent. If a small food store can't afford the rent, then we will not have a local food store. We will know who to blame in that case.The community is concerned about the fate of the Klein Farm, which was bought by an infamous Flushing developer in the hope of tearing down the Manor House and building 22 two-family houses. Since the Klein Farm is in the preservation district it can't legally be touched on purpose of by accident without special permission. The community would like it to become a farm again owned by the Parks Department and operated by the Colonial Farm in Little Neck. The community is waiting and watching.Good news of the weekOne of the perks of being a columnist for the Fresh Meadows Times is that occasionally my publisher gives me a chit for a discount at one of the advertisers. Recently I went to the Austin's Ale House, Kew Gardens. It happened to be Super Bowl Sunday, but the manager found a table for Edna and me. The Austin Ale House is a Sports Bar so there are TV screens at the tables, except the one we were at. It was an interesting experience. The food was also good.Bad news of the weekIt seems that the public school system has a "coordinator of special function." This position pays $85,000 a year and the person sets up special events. For this money the system could hire a teacher and a para. But oh, I forgot, they got rid of most paras who work with children!

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