By Peter Sorkin
The Astoria slaughterhouse from which a cow escaped on Aug. 16 was closed down last week, just a few days after protesters rallied outside its 31-37 20th Ave. storefront.
Astoria Live Poultry had come under fire soon after the 2-year-old heifer ran from the slaughterhouse, and residents, citing the smell and what they described as unsafe conditions, called for its closing. The cow, which cost the owners of the store $500, was later donated to a shelter, Farm Sanctuary, in upstate Watkins Glen.
Some 20 people showed up to protest against the 70-year-old market Aug. 20, including City Council Speaker Peter Vallone.
The city Department of Buildings gave the order to vacate, citing an “imminent danger to the safety and life” of employees.
In a letter to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets area office in Brooklyn, Vallone said he was “outraged” that nothing had been done to monitor the slaughterhouse. He said the facility has bothered residents on 20th Avenue and surrounding streets for years who have complained often to the department.
“The sight and smell of the slaughtered animals, and the sounds of the live animals through the open doors of the building [are] not something that adults and children in residential areas should have to endure,” he wrote.
But a spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture and Markets said last week Astoria Live Poultry was fully licensed to house large animals and it was operating in compliance with the law.
A letter to Vallone on July 17 signed by “the concerned community of Astoria” called for the closing of the market or the relocation of it away from residential areas.
“Markets such as these should not be located in residential areas, especially near a soccer field and baseball field where children come to play, let alone near homes,” the letter stated.
Among the other citations from the city were:
* Building altered and occupied without obtaining a permit and without obtaining a certificate of occupancy. Building occupied as a slaughterhouse.
* Concrete block extension approximately 8 feet by 40 feet by one story at side of building created without permit.
* Exit doors at front and rear totally obstructed. Front exit obstructed by construction material. Rear exit sealed with concrete blocks.
* No illuminated exit signs.
* Gas, water supply, and waste piping installed without permits. No grease traps on waste lines.
* Gas fired appliance used to remove feathers from poultry has no exhaust hood and is not vented to exterior. Appliance located in the rear.
* Rear yard has combustible materials: wood stalls, hay bales, plastic tarpaulins and excessive debris.
* Public health and safety has been undermined due to illegal construction.