Queens Village poultry biz still awaiting city approval

By Michael Morton

The shop, at 98-04 Springfield Blvd., has finished a major component of the application process but must still complete other components and pass further inspections, the spokeswoman said.

“It's just not there yet,” she said.

Further complicating efforts, the owners of the store have not met a requirement from the Department of Environmental Protection to install a backflow device, which prevents grease and oil from being sucked into the water system, a spokesman for Buildings said this week.

The owner of the shop, identified by community leaders as Sheik Anis of Queens Village, could not be reached for comment. But a man who is helping him open the store said more than two weeks ago in an interview that the store had already met all of the DEP's requests.

Also, in a newsletter published for its February meeting, Community Board 13, which encompasses the shop, said the store had received its certificate of occupancy.

The fate of the store and its status have been the focus of much speculation in the community, many of whose leaders, residents and business owners oppose its opening. State Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village), the main opponent, has said that while the store does not violate any local zoning laws, she thinks it is inappropriate for the block, a mixture of businesses, residences and a church with a day-care facility.

Clark has said the store, where live chickens would be butchered, would be unbearably smelly for its neighbors and would attract rats and other vermin.

Anis rents his store from a man identified by community leaders as Joseph Torrenti of Margate, Fla. The site used to be a gas station, and in 1999 the state Department of Environmental Conservation received a report from a firm Torrenti had hired that said a dozen 550-gallon tanks had been removed, a DEC spokesman said.

But the department is still waiting for final reports from Torrenti regarding analysis of the soil and groundwater conditions, and mail sent to him has been returned undelivered, the DEC spokesman said.

Clark and other opponents of the store had hoped that its problems with the DEC would prevent it from opening. The spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings said, however, that while DEP findings would have a bearing on the shop getting its certificate, DEC concerns would not.

Clark has vowed to pursue as many avenues as possible to stop the shop, but Richard Hellenbrecht, chairman of Community Board 13, said the options were limited. Other cities have banned poultry shops in certain zoning areas, but he said did not think that was a realistic solution.

“I don't think a city as broad and diverse as we are could ever do that,” he said. Hellenbrecht said a revision to the zoning laws could be made to prohibit such shops from opening within 500 feet of a residential zone, for instance, but any change would take time and multiple layers of approval.

“The reality is he will open and have a right to be there,” Hellenbrecht said.

Over at the shop Earl Romain, the man who is working with Anis, said that they were in compliance with zoning laws and that Anis had already invested $50,000.

“He's said, 'Ms. Clark, pay me off and I'll move,'” Romain said. “He's going by the rules, but she's trying to push him out.”

But Clark said Anis knew of the community's opposition before he spent all his money and therefore should have gone elsewhere.

“How do you expect the community to come and buy him out?” she asked rhetorically.

Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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