The Civic Scene: Civic meeting addresses Fresh Meadows market

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More than 150 people attended a standing-room-only civic meeting hosted by the West Cunningham Park Civic Association and the Civic Association of Utopia Estates in Fresh Meadows in the upstairs meeting room of the Christ Lutheran Church in Fresh Meadows.

Also attending were members of the Fresh Meadows Tenants Association, the Meadow Lark Development, the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association and the Hillcrest Estates Civic Association.

The guest speakers were John Young, head of the Queens Department of City Planning; Corrine Lindo, deputy director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the Department of Buildings; and Natalie Eustache from the Queens office of City Planning for Districts 8 and 14.

The meeting was called to provide information on the proposal of the Fresh Meadows Development to rent space to Pathmark to build a giant regional supermarket on 69th Avenue and 195th Lane just opposite PS 26 and to learn what could be done to preserve the old Klein Farm on 73rd Avenue and 194th Street in Fresh Meadows.

Tami Hirsch, from the Civic Association of Utopia Estates, and I (West Cunningham Park Civic Association) started the meeting. Program chairman Ben Rosof introduced the guests.

Young explained City Planning’s role in maintaining the vitality of Queens’ residential neighborhoods, and Lindo related the Department of Buildings’ part in preserving the integrity of the zoning rules.

The Fresh Meadows Development is a special preservation district, meaning that nothing should be done to change the topography, building or landscape without permission from the city. Young said that if Pathmark wants to tear down the stores on 69th Avenue opposite PS 26 there has to be a Community Board 8 Zoning Committee hearing and then a full hearing by the whole community board.

Following these meetings would be hearings by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, the Queens Board and then City Planning in Manhattan. This would take about seven months. Thus the community has input contiguously. Lawyers, expediters, engineers and architects would also tell why a 53,000-foot regional megastore in a planned residential community opposite an elementary school would be good for the neighborhood.

Questions and information came rapidly. Fresh Meadows is zoned R4, while the one-family homes nearby are zoned R2. Residents from the Meadowlark Development next to the proposed site had reservations about 18-wheelers and a 24-hour store with constant automobile traffic.

Some attendees vowed not to buy from the stores that would displace the businesses they frequent. It was noted that the Key Food on 188th Street was told to leave in a few weeks. The Key Food actually would like the small vacant store on 69th Avenue opposite PS 26.

People suggested that the owners of the development be contacted. Someone had a cell phone and called home to obtain the information, and it was determined that the Fresh Meadows property is owned by the Federal Realty Investment Trust, John Saladino, regional property manager, 61-18 190th Street, Fresh Meadows. The company can be reached at 718-264-2474. Federal Realty is part of Street Realty in Maryland, whose contact person is Joe Flood, reachable at 301-998-8100.

It was determined that Chuck Chisholm is director of real estate for Pathmark, 200 Milik Street, M-480, Carteret, N.J. 07008-1194. He can be contacted at 732-499-3000, Ext. 3358. The Pathmark architect is Roy I. Rosenthal, 2001 Marcus Ave., Lobby East Wing, Lake Success, N.Y. 11042-1011. He can be reached at 516-616-6222. Note that the majority of those who wish to determine the future of Fresh Meadows live outside the city.

The discussion turned to the Klein Farm. No one knows who really owns it. Farmer Klein wanted $4 million-plus for the 2.2-acre property and he seems to have gotten it from Audrey Realty last Election Day. The buyer seems to be linked to developer Tommy Huang.

Other companies and names have been mentioned in the newspapers lately. Speculators have a way of using dummy names and family members to hide ownership, especially when there are fines. The Department of Buildings was called after dumpsters were noticed full of rugs and items from inside the small house and the large Manor House.

The dumpsters were removed, and radiators were observed in the back of the Manor House. As of May 1 there were full black bags on the property. The boards on the windows were removed and the front door of the Manor House painted red.

Bill Buzzone, who is one of the West Cunningham Park Civic Association representatives to the 107th Precinct Community Council, said that a nursery school will be put in the building. People questioned the reasoning behind spending $4 million-plus for a property and then put a nursery school in it.

Lindo, the Buildings Department representative, was asked what the penalty would be if someone came at 3 a.m. one Sunday morning and, without a permit, bulldozed the house or trees. She told the attendees that such action is punishable with a fine of about $5,000.

We are dealing with a multimillion-dollar property and the city only would fine a developer $5,000. This shows how the city is not protecting our communities.

One reason nothing might happen, however, is because Huang, who was convicted of a felony for environmental damage to the Flushing RKO Keith’s Theatre’s basement, could face serious consequences if he violates the law again.

People agreed to watch the property and call either 311 or 911 if they see something suspicious. Some said they would contact Pathmark and the owner of the Fresh Meadows Development. All the people seem to want are some stores they can shop in and the maintenance of the quality of life in Fresh Meadows. If only the city would do more to protect our quality of life.

Updated 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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