By Alex Davidson
A local property owner in Richmond Hill is having a tough time purchasing city property on Jamaica Avenue because of opposition by officials and members on Community Board 9.
Aldo Sibeni, who operates and leases land at 131-02 Jamaica Ave. to run his wholesale fencing and iron supply company called Boundary Fence & Railing Systems Inc., has been trying to buy the 50,000 square-foot lot for the last four months, his attorneys said.
Community board officials have tried to work on a purchasing deal instead with Jamaica Hospital to prevent Sibeni from owning the property.
“Mr. Sibeni has been aggressively pursuing the deal,” said Jeff Citron, an attorney with the Manhattan-based law firm Davidoff and Malito. “The approach we've taken is that if the board has concerns, we'll meet them and do what is necessary to ally those concerns.”
Citron and Arthur Goldstein, another attorney working on the matter, said Sibeni has improved landscaping at the site and offered to construct a showroom on Jamaica Avenue to help better his relations with the board. Goldstein said Sibeni would like to stay at the site and continue to employ local workers.
But Mary Ann Carey, district manager for Community Board 9, said she and other members are against the deal with Boundary Fence & Railing Systems. She said the facility stores too much barb wire and chain-linked fence for the property's size and causes traffic jams on Jamaica Avenue because workers load and unload from delivery trucks that double park.
She said Sibeni has ignored the board in his 10 years of operation and only came to them when he decided he wanted to purchase the property. She said she would prefer if Jamaica Hospital bought the property and transformed it from the fencing supply facility into a clinic or similar medical building.
“They (Boundary Fence) never wanted to work with the community board, they just ignored us in total,” she said. “We have been at odds for years.”
A Land Use committee report on the agenda for Community Board 9's next meeting May 13 will call for members to support any potential bid by Jamaica Hospital.
Carey said she part of her opposition stems from the rate Sibeni pays for the property – 68 cents per square foot to the city Economic Development Corporation – a figure she contends should be significantly higher. She is also concerned that spraying of coating materials on the iron fencing endangers the surrounding neighborhood and causes dangerous fumes to be spewed into the air.
She said she discovered a year ago that Sibeni intended to buy the property. Neither Sibeni nor officials at the EDC returned phone calls.
Both Citron and Goldstein denied Carey's claims that there are noxious fumes at the site and said they have had hosted meetings and walking tours with city officials through the building to ensure the spraying is done in a safe manner. The attorneys said they did not notice any fumes coming from the facility but believe the car painting facility directly across from the factory site could be the source of any fumes and smells.
“Mr. Sibeni has good relations with neighbors in the area,” Citron said. Goldstein said Sibeni employs many workers who live in Richmond Hill and other surrounding communities and that these jobs would be lost to the local economy if he is forced to leave the area.
City Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills), whose district includes the Boundary Fence property, took a tour of the facility several months ago and is continuing to monitor the situation, her spokeswoman said.
Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156