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Middle Village decries Walgreens proposal

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That was the Juniper Park Civic Association's reaction last Thursday to a Walgreens slated for the former Silvercrest factory at 80-01 Eliot Ave. in Middle Village. "The last thing Queens needs is another drug store. We're surrounded by them," area resident Manny Curuana said during a civic meeting at the Trinity Lutheran Church auditorium in Middle Village.Orlando, Fla.-based Unicorp National Development bought the lot earlier this month and wants to renovate the factory for an 11,000-square-foot drugstore that will be open 24 hours. Walgreens commissioned Unicorp to develop the property. But since the lot is too small, the developer has applied to the city Board of Standards and Appeals for a variance to slash the required number of parking spaces by 12. The zoning calls for a building that size to have 38 spaces. Unicorp wants to have 26 spaces, outraging community members who say the parking shortage will exacerbate traffic problems in the overcrowded neighborhood. "We see problems with the parking," said Civic President Bob Holden. Middle Village resident Pauline Ruggiero said she is worried the business will attract a strange crowd to the neighborhood by staying open 24 hours. "I don't want it. That's not going to be good for our area," she said. The neighborhood is already crammed with drugstores, said resident Rose Johnson, who noted that Grand Avenue alone has three. The 40-year-old Artis Drugs is located across the street from the property. "What makes Walgreens think we need another drugstore?" she asked.John Genovese, vice president of Unicorp, told the crowd of about 100 people that Walgreens had conducted an analysis of the area's population, traffic and businesses. "They found that there is enough room for another drugstore," he said. He contended the pharmacy would be providing a valuable health service by being open 24 hours. It would not draw degenerates, he said, but working people in need of prescriptions. It could be several months before the Board of Standards and Appeals considers the variance. The request must first be reviewed by the Community Board 5, followed by the office of City Councilman Dennis Gallagher (D-Middle Village) and then the office of Borough President Helen Marshall. The offices make their advisement to the board, which has the last call. Holden said the community has a tough decision to make."There's a lot of pros and cons to Walgreens coming in," Holden said, later adding that "there is another flip side. If not Walgreens, what else? A lot of things can go in there that are just as bad if not worse."Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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