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Queens Supermarket Removes Controversial Sidewalk Extension

By Paul DeBenedetto | September 11, 2012 1:25pm

JACKSON HEIGHTS — A Trade Fair supermarket in Jackson Heights was forced to remove sidewalk enclosures from outside their store last week that were blocking the path of pedestrians, city Councilman Daniel Dromm said.

The fight over the enclosures is the latest between the pol, the community and the supermarket chain, which escalated in May after Dromm was attacked by a delivery truck driver who he was trying to film parking illegally.

"Trade Fair has been a bad neighbor for many years," Dromm said. "I've never seen anything like this."

The supermarket recently took down shelving and walls that stretched out into the sidewalk on 37th Avenue between 75th and 76th streets, which the councilman said "blocked pedestrian access, created unsafe conditions and blighted the neighborhood."

In April, Trade Fair removed a similar sidewalk enclosure on 75th Street after a months-long battle.

Then in May, Dromm was assaulted by a delivery truck driver on 75th Avenue when he tried to capture illegal parking on camera. The driver hit Dromm in the jaw, stole his phone and punched him in the chest, according to the criminal complaint.

"He charged at me, yelling 'No photographs! No photographs,'" the councilman recalled at the time.

The driver, John J. Muriel, 43, pleaded guilty on Aug. 7 to petit larceny, a misdemeanor, according to the Queens District Attorney's office. He's scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 7.

Martin Jacobson, a spokesman for the company, said they've taken steps to speak to their vendors, but it isn't their responsibility to tell the delivery companies how their business should be run.

Jacobson also called Dromm's complaints regarding the extensions "nonsense."

"The councilman is unfortunately listening to voices that don't represent the public at large," Jacobson said. "We try to do the right thing. Sometimes we're successful, sometimes we're not."

But the complaints against Trade Fair aren't new. In 2007, before Dromm took office, a group calling itself the 37-75 Alliance drafted a letter to Trade Fair with similar complaints about the delivery trucks.

And in December, Trade Fair received a violation for extending an awning onto the sidewalk and installing lighting without a permit, buildings department records show.

Despite all the trouble, Dromm said he wants to shop at the store in order to support local business. His next step is to try and create an expanded loading zone to allow more trucks to park rather than block traffic on 75th Avenue, he said.

"I don't want to get into a fight with them," Dromm said. "I want a solution here."