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Grocery Wholesaler Delivering Toxic Fumes to Corona Neighbors: $10M Suit

By Tom Liddy | February 26, 2013 7:51am
 A group of Corona residents is accusing a grocery wholesaler of making their lives a living nightmare, according to a lawsuit.
A group of Corona residents is accusing a grocery wholesaler of making their lives a living nightmare, according to a lawsuit.
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NEW YORK CITY — This green grocer has some Corona residents seeing red.

A produce wholesaler in the neighborhood is making life a nightmare for some — from refrigerated trucks spewing toxic exhaust, to workers making sexual comments and even threatening residents with "connections with Mexican gangs," a $10 million lawsuit claims.

The papers, filed in Queens Supreme Court earlier this month, also accuses the city and the NYPD of failing to respond to a "tidal wave of complaints" from residents about Moreno Produce, at 97-03 43rd Ave., in recent years.

Chief among the allegations is that trucks from the company, also known as Nuevo Mexico Lindo Su Abarrotera Central Corp., are being allowed to idle for "hours at a time...sending toxic pollutants into neighboring residential homes."

"The kids are being exposed to the toxic exhaust fumes from tractor trailer trucks that are left constantly running all day," said Peter Zirbes, the lawyer for the residents. "It's exposing these kids to toxic pollution."

He said the trucks are also causing sleepless nights for residents, a problem that has been getting worse over the past two years.

"In the last year, it was happening four to five nights a week," Zirbes said of the trucks running at night.

According to the suit, which also names the city and the NYPD as defendants, trucks from the company block traffic, "forcing school buses and emergency vehicles to change their routes," and occasionally damage their vehicles.

The trucks also operate through the night seven days a week, with refrigerator motors running "constantly," the documents allege. Business is also conducted "in an extremely loud and disruptive manner in their warehouse during these overnight hours," the suit claims.

Aside from the trucks, residents also have to contend with forklifts, which are used on the sidewalks and streets "in a recklessly dangerous manner," the suit says.

Moreno is also "allowing its employees to make rude, abusive and sexually suggestive comments and even...indicating that they have connections with Mexican gangs, when faced with complaints from the neighborhood," the complaint says.

While residents who live near the store have complained to owners Felipe and Neuri Moreno, the Morenos have "ignored these complaints," the papers allege.

Complaints to the 110th Precinct and the city's 311 system — "on occasions too numerous to be able to [give] an accounting of exact dates" — also fell on deaf ears, the suit says.

According to Zirbes, a temporary injunction has been issued, stopping Moreno's trucks from idling for more than 15 minutes during the day (the maximum allowed by law), limiting the company's ability to have tractor-trailers parked near the company overnight and forcing them to turn off their trucks by 7 p.m.

"[The residents are] not looking to shut the business down," Zirbes said. "They’re looking for a reasonable balance."

A representative for the city's Law Department said that the agency "will review the lawsuit when we receive a formal copy."

The NYPD did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Moreno Produce's lawyer did not immediately respond to a call for comment.