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Controversial Popeye’s Drive-Thru Window to Roll On

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A local fast food outlet is on its way to getting its currently illegal drive-thru legalized. Community Board 17, gathered at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, 395 Lenox Road, for its June meeting, gave the drive-through at the Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits at 9216 Church Avenue, a resounding thumbs-up, after being reassured by the restaurant’s representatives that the drive-thru, which is currently in operation, is not giving nearby residents any problems. The city’s Board of Standards & Appeals, which has oversight over such matters, still must approve the drive-thru, by issuing a special permit for it. “The drive-thru is being used,” noted board member Julia James. “If they were having problems with the community, they would be aware of it, I think.” According to attorney Janice Cahalane, of Sheldon Lobel & Associates, the drive-thru was already in existence when the current owner, Ann Nasary, took over the property. “The previous owner,” said Cahalane, “put in the drive-thru. Their application (to BSA) was denied, but they left the window in place.” For this reason, she stressed, Nasary did not realize that the drive-through was not legal until she subsequently got a violation for using it. The city’s Department of Buildings (DOB), said Cahalane, is currently allowing the restaurant to operate the drive-through, while it goes through the process of trying to get it approved. Nasary, said Cahalane, has, “Spent over $1 million renovating and beautifying the site. I have never seen a fast food restaurant so clean and well-managed. It is the kind of fast food restaurant you want in the neighborhood. These are the kind of owner and manager you would want.” In addition, said Cahalane, Nasary, “Has gotten involved in the community. She offers 10 percent discounts to local churches. She hires people from the local community. She has gotten involved with block parties.” The one concern that had been raised when Nasary met with area block associations, said Cahalane, was the desire to get a speed bump installed on East 93rd Street, behind the restaurant. “She offered to contribute financially to the effort to get the speed bump in place,” noted Cahalane. Cahalane stressed that the drive-thru has “reservoir space for at least 10 autos, so that cars are not spilling out onto the street.” Indeed, she noted, based on surveys that had been conducted at the restaurant, at the busiest time, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday through Sunday, there are only 13 cars an hour using the drive-through. This, said Cahalane, makes it exceedingly unlikely that back-up from the drive-thru would affect the street. “That really is a minimum amount of traffic coming through the site,” she added. Nonetheless, said Cahalane, the business from the drive-through is essential for the restaurant to stay in operation. “While 13 cars per hour may not seem that significant,” she stressed, “it’s what they rely on to get to the point of break-even in the store. If they have to go out of business, the people they employ would be at a loss. They would lose their jobs and their livelihood.” The drive-thru business, asserted Nazary, amounts to between 40 and 50 percent of the restaurant’s sales. “If we don’t get the approval, we will have to close down, which would be a disaster to me personally. My business and livelihood is in your hands,” she told the board members prior to their vote. An expansion of the Lenox Road Baptist Church has been given the go-ahead by Community Board 17. At the board’s June meeting, which was held in the auditorium at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, 395 Lenox Road, board members overwhelmingly voted to give their blessing to the expansion, which will enable the church to accommodate approximately 200 more worshippers during religious services, and also enhance the church’s efforts to serve the community. With CB 17’s approval in hand, the church must still get approval from the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), which decides on variance applications. “We know the good works you have done in that church,” noted board member Gloria Miller, the chair of the board’s social services committee. “You have been a wonderful, wonderful church for the community.” Blaise Parascandola, the attorney for the church, told board members that the church would be going before BSA to, “Extend the variance originally given in 1983 to allow for an addition for the church.” A major reason for it, said Parascandola, is the fact that, “At the present, the congregation holds services in various parts of the church, not just in the sanctuary. Parishioners have to stay sometimes in the basement and administrative rooms.” The expansion, said Parascandola, would, “Coordinate the space and enlarge the sanctuary so they can hold their services in a more solemn manner.” Basically, the enlargement, he noted, would be into the church’s rear yard. “They encroached on it before and they want to encroach on it some more.” Asked about traffic issues regarding the church, Parascandola said that, “As a result of the coordinated sanctuary,” the church enlargement is likely to, “Reduce congestion in front of the church. The parking that is there will remain, and they may have additional parking on the side lot.” A key reason for seeking the enlargement, said the Reverend Dr. Kirkpatrick Cohall, the church’s pastor, is to enable the church to continue its many missions. “We have been on the block about 183 years,” Cohall stressed. “We have seen the church grow in so many different directions. Recently, we have seen an increase in the number of people using the church. Three years ago, we opened a recreational facility for basketball games, which we run year-round for young men in particular. “We run social outreach programs,” Cohall continued. “It is our desire as our numbers increase, that the social programs increase. The church is more than to prepare people for the next life. We are concerned about social issues and, if we expand, we will be able to have more of these programs, to fulfill the mission of the community.” Besides those previously mentioned, among the programs held at the church, Cohall said, are housing seminars, health fairs, blood drives and immigration forums. “We give space to hold these forums,” Cohall stressed. “We work in conjunction with different hospitals, and we minister to seniors, singles, married people. From Boy Scouts to flood relief, you name it, we’ve done it.”

Updated 7:13 pm, October 10, 2011
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