2007-01-24 / Features

Astoria Blvd. Gas Station Draws Complaint At Board 1


One in seven New Yorkers say they suffer from frequent mental stress, according to the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. That's greater than the one in 10 people nationwide reporting the same problem. What do people do to alleviate stress in the big city? For one thing, they complain. More than 14 million calls to 311 registered complaints in 2005, an increase of 14 percent from the year before, according to the Mayor's Office.

Community Board 1 is no exception. With six public hearings on the first agenda of the new year, several complaints were heard regarding residential quality of life at the Board 1 January meeting.

Attilio Vidinich resides at 22-27 49th St., near the Sunoco gas station at 49-05 Astoria Blvd. "I live next door, right behind the station," said Vidinich during the public hearing. "This gas station is full of violations and they never pay attention."

The gas station has been in operation at the same location for over 40 years, said Todd Bell, an attorney for the law firm of Eric Palatnik, P.C., on behalf of the applicant, who is seeking to reinstate a previously granted variance that expired in 1992.

"This application goes back 15 years," said Zoning Committee Chairperson John Carusone. "There are a lot of discrepancies from what was originally approved."

Vidinich said he has filed 16 complaints about the gas station, ranging from rats to public urination. "The place stinks," he said. He also angrily claimed harassment and lewd behavior by men at the gas station. Holding pictures he said documented the lewdness and served as records of his complaints, Vidinich also said he had found condoms in his backyard.

"This gas station should be closed down completely," he said.

Board Chairperson Vinicio Donato, speaking for the record, said no prior complaint by Vidinich had been received at the community board district office. However, Inspector Brian McCarthy, commanding officer of the 114th Police Precinct, said that he did speak with Vidinich after he complainted about the situation at a United Community Civic Association (UCCA) meeting last year.

"I sent officers to respond, but no police action was taken since nothing [illegal] was observed," he said.

Board Member and UCCA President Rose Marie Poveromo said, "We have had many calls on this gas station. People are suffering. This business has not been a good neighbor to the people who live there."

Poveromo also acknowledged Vidinich's complaint at an UCCA meeting last year. "They were very, very upset," she said. "Unfortunately, it did not hit the media, otherwise Sunoco would have done something. They've got to make the wall higher and there's got to be lush foliage so people don't smell the fumes from the business."

"Does Sunoco know about these problems?" asked Board Member Mary O'Hara.

"They know about these problems and they're going to know about more," said Bell, who could not confirm who holds the franchise to operate the Sunoco station.

"We will do everything we can, contact agencies, contact Sunoco," said Donato. "Why are they [Sunoco] not holding the lessee responsible for maintaining their property?"

Concerning the variance, the board unanimously voted it down, citing that the original BSA approval was never complied with, the certificate of occupancy expired 15 years ago, there was no buffer zone from residents and curb cuts were revised to the detriment of traffic.

Residents also complainted of noise, sidewalk congestion, and smokers who patronize neighborhood cafes, in addition to continuing woes with water main breaks as a result of Con Edison repairs due to the blackout last July.

Three of four applications for unenclosed sidewalk cafes were approved. They were: renewals for 9 tables and 24 seats at Seven One Eight, 35-01 Ditmars Blvd., and 8 tables and 14 seats at Romi Bakery, 44- 17 30th Ave., and a new application for 26 tables and 60 seats at Pita Pam, 37-17 30th Ave.

The fourth, an application to increase the size of the outdoor cafe to 31 tables and 62 seats at Avenue Café, 35-27 30th Ave., was declined.

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