By Patrick Donachie
Concerned residents picketed outside of Jamaica lumber yard Saturday morning, urging the company to change what they contended was a worrisome stacking of lumber, although a representative for the company maintained it was a good neighbor to the community and committed to safety.
The rally, organized by New York Communities for Change, took place outside the Metropolitan Lumber at 108-20 Merrick Blvd. According to Jean Sassine, the Queens chairman of the advocacy group, the company has stacked long slabs of lumber several feet higher than the top of the steel fence surrounding the lumber yard.
Sassine said protesters were concerned that the exposed lumber posed a danger to passers-by on the sidewalk, noting that several recent storms had loosened bricks from buildings and caused other damage. Sassine was worried strong winds could lead the lumber to tumble onto the sidewalk below.
“We don’t want to wait for something bad to happen,” he said, pointing out that a junior high school and several churches were located near the site. Sassine said protestors approached Borough President Melinda Katz’ office earlier in the year, and Katz sent a letter to Metropolitan regarding the lumber, saying community members called it an “eyesore.”
“Metropolitan Lumber and Hardware is a valued member of the Queens business community and I ask in the spirit of cooperation that the necessary steps be taken to remove the material on your property from public view,” the letter read. Communities for Change supplied a photo of the letter.
Metropolitan Lumber and Hardware has served customers for more than 30 years in five different locations throughout the city, including locations in Corona and Astoria. A representative speaking for Metropolitan Lumber said Metropolitan had operated the yard in Jamaica since 1987. He said all the lumber stored in the yard was held in place by three separate steel beams that would ensure that it would not come loose during a fierce storm. He also noted that Metropolitan employees had taken down a unit of lumber that was nearest the steel fence so it would not be above the fence line.
Sassine said the lumber in the locations besides Jamaica was fully protected and not stacked above fences.
“All those are places that are enclosed and well-kept,” he said, saying the protesters wanted the same consideration for Jamaica. The Metropolitan representative said the Jamaica lumber was construction-grade and was not deteriorating. a
New York Communities for Change is a community advocacy coalition made up of organizers and community advocates that push for changes in low-and-moderate income communities throughout the city.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona