Today’s news:

Douglaston Best Buy site plans withdrawn

Jeffrey Chester, an attorney represented AAC Douglaston Plaza LLC, confirmed that his client was no longer pursuing the application to change the property's designation to allow an electronics store to operate without limitations to floor space.Explaining the rationale for the Jan. 17 withdrawal, which came just nine days after the last BSA hearing, Chester said "it appeared to me as though we weren't going to get the decision we were looking for."The property owner's desire to replace Waldbaum's had raised a hue and cry among area residents, who, backed by local politicians, asserted that a grocery store would far better serve the surrounding largely elderly community than an electronics outlet.The chain of grocery stores operates in Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn as well as Connecticut. Its parent company is The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company.The owner, for his part, claimed Waldbaum's could not pay the rent and was not financially viable.The store is still open, but the store manager of the location declined to comment on the development.Chester said that community opposition to the removal of Waldbaum's played a role in what he anticipated would be a BSA ruling against his client."We like to think that these things are decided on the basis of their merits, but in this case I think some political considerations may have come into play," he said.Chester added that his client would look at "other options" to pursue its goal and predicted a short stay for Waldbaum's."I don't think they will last," he said, "but ultimately that's a matter for my client to consider."Nonetheless, the property owner's withdrawal came as welcome news for Anna Levine, a Douglaston activist who spearheaded the opposition to Waldbaum's removal."I was very happy. They were going to get a bad decision rendered against them," Levine said.She had been actively courting civic groups and elected officials, such as Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) since May to combat the Best Buy proposal."I was able to get a coalition together. I was pretty happy because you really never know how these things are going to go."By pulling up files using the Freedom of Information Act, contacting Waldbaum's executives and relying on skills she acquired in law school, Levine said she found out the land owner was "misrepresenting" Waldbaum's financial situation to the hearing."They had said Waldbaum's wanted out, but Waldbaum's never wanted to leave...They tried to force them out," she asserted.Levine recognized, however, that the future was still uncertain."Of course, we don't know what else [the property owner] has planned, but for now I think we've sort of succeeded."Reach reporter M. Junaid Alam by e-mail at malam@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 174.

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