Key Food replacement under fire

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New York Mart, the new owner of the shuttered Key Food supermarket in Flushing, owes the city thousands of dollars in fines after failing for more than a month to comply with a stop-work order, according to city records.

The supermarket chain, which was busy converting the space into the fifth location of the Asian food market, has been fined $15,000 by the city Department of Buildings since July 27 for a series of violations, the department’s records show. The fines had not been paid as of Tuesday afternoon, a DOB spokeswoman said.

On July 27, the department issued a partial stop-work order on the property at 142-41 Roosevelt Ave. for working without a permit and it mandated that all interior work be stopped, the spokeswoman said. On Aug. 18, the property was cited for not having construction plans its owner submitted to the department on hand at the site, and on Aug. 26 a full stop-work order was issued, barring all work on the property until the fines are paid.

The building was cited on Sept. 1 for violating that order, according to DOB records. On that date, the department inspected the site after area resident Mary Ann Boroz said she and a group of neighbors complained to the agency and local officials about what she described as illegal excavation going on in the basement of the property.

She said she believed the work was being done in order to create a basement parking facility, a concern two local community leaders said they also had. William Chen, general manager of New York Mart, could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but indicated in writing in July that he intended to provide parking at the location “if it is approved by the city.” No new parking has been approved for the site.

“Back in July, I took photographs of what was coming out of the back of the building and it was slabs of concrete and dirt and wood,” Boroz said. “Long story short, he claimed it was debris. It wasn’t debris. Where do you have slabs of concrete just hanging around? I turned the pictures over to the Department of Buildings, Community Board 7 and Peter Koo,” the Republican Councilman from Flushing. The location was also cited for failure to obey the original stop-work order Aug. 31, when the DOB inspected the store and found “men performing concrete work at rear of supermarket,” “work contrary to [stop-work order]” and “failure to protect persons and property affected by construction operations,” according to DOB records.

James McClelland, a spokesman for Koo, said he warned Chen that if he wanted to do work at the Key Food site, he needed to hire an architect who is aware of building codes and other laws.

“I told him, ‘If you’re going to operate, you’ve got to operate above the board because the community is watching you.’ So shame on him,” McClelland said Tuesday after hearing about the stop-work order.

McClelland said that when he heard residents’ concerns about possible illegal work at the site, Koo was quick to meet with the DOB, which McClelland said he advised not to “drag their feet” in responding to the complaints.

Koo will continue to monitor the situation and ensure that any work occurring at the site is entirely legal, according to McClelland.

“I may call him in now and ask him what’s going on,” he said.

The store’s management has undergone a community outreach program in recent weeks to ensure a smooth transition, meeting with local leaders and residents concerned that the new store would replace the “American” goods they are used to purchasing with Asian specialty products.

Howard Goldsmith, a resident of the Foxwood House at 41-07 Bowne St., said the closing of Key Food in May “has been a real deprivation” for 10 elderly residents of the building who are unable to walk more than the one block to the now-closed store.

“They’ve been buying at that store for 45 years and they can’t walk further than Roosevelt Avenue and they’ve really been suffering because they can’t drive, so they’ve been keen on having the new manager provide items that they usually might not stock in Chinese supermarke­ts,” he said Tuesday. “We’ll be happy as long as the manager follows through with the plans.”

On July 27, Chen signed a document indicating that he hopes to be able to provide American foods, a meat department, pet foods, toiletries and other items a group of residents asked him to offer on his shelves. Some residents, including Boroz, are still upset that he has not committed to accepting manufactur­ers’ coupons or having a full-service deli.

Residents can submit lists of items they would like the store to carry to Koo’s office at 135-27 38th Ave., Suite 388, Flushing, NY 11354.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 6:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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