Block Residents Upset Over Sat. & Sun. Store Takeover Of Corner
Frustrated with a fruit and vegetable store that takes over and trashes the corner of their block every weekend, residents of Woodbine Street and Fresh Pond Road came to the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association’s (RPOCA) Feb. 2 meeting, as well as a meeting at the offices of the Times Newsweekly-located adjacent to the produce store-seeking action.
“Every weekend, they [Rachel’s Garden/Ridgewood Farm Market] act like they own the corner [Fresh Pond Road and Woodbine Street], then they clean up their act by Monday so the inspectors won’t find anything,” stated one block resident to the Times Newsweekly staff.
“That loud trash compactor goes all night long into the early morning hours on Monday to hide their mess, then that private sanitation truck comes and makes a racket that wakes everyone up,” said another neighbor.
“All we are asking of these people is that they stop trashing the corner and block, abide by city laws and regulations about the garage, fruit stands and garbage, and respect the residents of the block so we can have a peaceful co-existence,” yet another homeowner added. “That’s all.”
The Times Newsweekly is withholding the names of these residents upon request.
A list of gripes provided by residents against the store and submitted to the newspaper include:
– Boxes and crates of fruits and vegetables for sale, stacked all over the sidewalk and gutter, blocking the fire hydrant (see photo), making it very dangerous and difficult for anyone to pass.
– Rotting fruits and vegetables and general store trash placed right next to boxes of fresh produce intended for sale (see photo) stored in a garage on Woodbine Street.
– Possible illegal constructions, conversions and renovations by the produce store, on both the Fresh Pond Road and Woodbine Street sides, which include:
– A plywood ‘build-out’ of the parking garage on Woodbine Street, which has been converted to house both produce store garbage as well as fresh fruits and vegetables intended for sale, and,
– Street produce stands with covering awnings, extending from the property line onto the sidewalk, beyond the parameters permitted under city law, and,
– Possible illegal plywood extensions built out over the rear yard behind the garage (see overhead photo) to provide additional storage of garbage.
– Constant traffic and blocking of sidewalks and driveways resulting from deliveries.
– Noise from the trash compactor and heating and air conditioning units located in the rear of the garage on Woodbine Street.
One resident stated that the storage garage at the rear of the store on Woodbine Street containing both the rotting produce and fresh produce for sale has led to an infestation of vari- ous pests and vermin, including rats, mice, roaches, mosquitoes, ants, flies, bees and other bugs, which have been seen both in the garage, on the sidewalk and in nearby homes.
“I never had mice and roaches in my home until they [Rachel’s Garden/ Ridgewood Farm Market] moved in. Now, I do. And my neighbors have had rats in their back yards. One neighbor actually had to dig out a rotting rat from his back yard.”
“The people on the block felt this was over when the store appeared to have gone out of business several months ago, but now, apparently, they have returned,” he continued.
Another resident added that the entire operation is just too large for the location, but, he stated “They’re quick, they make a total, disgusting mess of everything on the weekends, then clean it up like lightening. I’m sure they have played this game before.”
At the RPOCA meeting, Paul Kerzner, the civic group’s president, stated that he contacted the 104th Precinct’s special operations coordinator, Lt. James Lombardi, requesting that officers take action to eliminate sidewalk obstructions near the fruit store. If an initial warning by police is ignored, Kerzner said, the precinct would follow up by seizing produce displays which are found to violate city laws.
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, also in attendance, added that she has “a whole book of letters” sent to city and stage agencies regarding violations committed by the store’s management. She indicated that “we will supplant and support anything the [RPOCA] does” to bring the city’s attention to the problems at the store.
Part of the problem, Nolan said, is that some of the residents who have complained about the store nonetheless shop there. “I’ve seen people who have complained about Rachel’s Garden, and they shop there anyway,” she said.
Kerzner also stressed that residents on the block call 311 to report unsafe or nuisance conditions related to the produce store and maintain a written log in order to build a case against the store.
“As the number of calls build up, at a certain point a critical mass occurs” which prompts city agencies to take action, he said.
“Their motivation is to make money. Your motivation is to keep the block nice,” Kerzner told Woodbine Street residents. “The question is who’s going to blink first. Don’t blink.”