City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Jackson Heights residents are demanding that the Trade Fair, at 75th Street and 37th Avenue, take down its sidewalk enclosure and make changes to its practices, but the grocery chain denies it is doing anything illegal.
“To me it’s outrageous to think that people can build on the sidewalk and get away with it,” Dromm said.
Trade Fair is an Astoria-based grocery chain with 11 locations in Jackson Heights, Astoria, Woodside, East Elmhurst, Long Island City, Forest Hills and Richmond Hill.
The councilman and various residents held a rally against the 75th Street and 37th Avenue Trade Fair Jan. 17. Dromm said the store had received a partial vacate order in August 2011 for a plastic enclosure it had extended onto the city sidewalk. When it failed to comply, the store received a city Environmental Control Board violation.
“Trade Fair runs a good store, but they can’t keep straight what’s theirs and what belongs to the public,” said Tom Lowenhaupt, a 75th Street resident, in a statement. “They have a take, take, take policy when it comes to the areas adjacent to their stores.”
Martin Jacobson, a certified public accountant representing Trade Fair?, said the company was told by the city the enclosure was fine since it installed a sprinkler system and had places of egress, and that the company planned to defend itself before the city next month.
Dromm said despite this, he still believed Trade Fair was not operating legally in erecting the enclosure. He said it was unfair that an Italian restaurant nearby pays thousands of dollars a year to set up a sidewalk café but Trade Fair allegedly set up an illegal enclosure and does not pay fees.
“You can’t just take over the city sidewalk for your own benefit or your own profit,” Dromm said.
The councilman also complained that Trade Fair had bins with broken bottles near the recycling area and had filled in a tree pit with cement. Dromm said when he had complained to the owner of Trade Fair, the store had only removed part of the cement from the pit.
Jacobson said the store has a maintenance worker who cleans the glass and that the store filled in the pit because it caused problems for delivery workers.
Dromm and the other Jackson Heights residents’ rally earned the sympathy of neighboring Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), who said in a statement she had similar problems with the Trade Fair in her district.
“Its history of poor sanitation, parking violations, idling delivery trucks and general disregard for the quality of life of its neighbors is unacceptable,” Ferreras said of the chain.
Some residents have threatened to boycott the store. Dromm said he was not calling for a boycott, but wanted Trade Fair to work better with the community.
“I shop in Trade Fair, but we want them to comply with the law,” he said.
Jacobson said Trade Fair is an asset to the community. He said the store hires from the community and stocks products that adhere to the community’s ethnic composition.
“Trade Fair, as I pointed out, is a very, very responsible company,” he said.