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For the past two years, workers at a Long Island City Stop & Shop have unloaded shipments and hauled groceries underneath a crumbling ceiling supported by cracked cinderblock walls. The deterioration of the four truck bays at the rear of the store has gotten so bad that in one section, workers can see straight through the wall - and to the outside loading dock, which the Department of Buildings (DOB) roped off with caution tape when they visited the store on two separate occasions.
“I think it’s dangerous; this is unsafe,” said Michael Lupo, deli manager for the store. “I want to see my daughter get married [someday].”
When Lupo first called to complain on May 30 about the wall, where a 16-foot high crack had developed, the DOB inspected the area and issued the store a violation - failure to maintain the building and leaving it in a hazardous state. Lupo also called his union - Local 342 of the United Food Commercial Workers - who made sure that the 14 workers who spent the majority of their shifts in the back were moved to the front.
However, deliveries continued, and the caution tape put up by the DOB, which closed off the loading dock, was down about a week after it was put up.
Then on Friday, June 9, Lupo along with Kelly Egan, safety director for the Local 342, called the DOB a second time, and the agency visited the store again to see if their stop work order was still in place.
“It seems to me to be a pretty simple concept; the workers should have safe conditions,” Egan said. “We won’t stop until this area is safe for occupancy.”
Throughout the inspections and complaints, Stop & Shop has denied that the building, which is 12-years-old, poses any danger to employees - relying on the inspections of three engineers who they hired to assess the damage.
Stop & Shop has said that no deliveries would be made through the back, but workers still need to use the back area for garbage collection, and several trucks were seen using the perilous loading dock.
When reporters visited the site on Friday, June 16, along with Councilman Eric Gioia, the loading dock in the back was cordoned off, but workers walked in and out of the truck bays, just feet away from the crumbling walls.
“It’s crazy,” said Dejong Samuels, who has worked at the store for five years. Samuels, a merchandise receiver in the store, just shrugged when asked if he felt like he was in danger.
But other workers said that they worry whenever they have to walk into the back.
Maria Vargas, a four-year employee of the store, said she hasn’t told her two grown children about the conditions because she knows they will worry about her.
“Unfortunately, I have to go back there for fresh air and to bring garbage out,” she said.
Gioia offered to call the DOB on behalf of the workers, but most doubt anything will be done before the company’s July 18 hearing date.
“The landlord and the company, we believe, are dragging their feet,” Egan said.


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