Residents of 70th Street crowded into a local restaurant to hear exactly what they were hoping to hear – that the management of a Walgreen’s that will soon be their neighbor will do everything it can to keep truck loading and unloading off of their residential street.
The new store – at 70th Street and 13th Avenue – is welcomed by the neighborhood, those who attended the meeting said.
What is not welcome, however, are trucks along 70th Street between 12th and 13th Avenues. No more welcome are mountains of trash on the side street, leading residents to ask that garbage pickups, as well as deliveries, be made on 13th Avenue.
The meeting, at La Bella Panini, 7001 13th Avenue, was organized by Community Board 10, which reached out to Walgreen’s after receiving a petition from the block’s residents.
“We wish you long-term success,” said 70th Street resident Joan Conti. “But, with long-term success, we have quality of life issues, health issues and safety issues,” among them noise and fumes from the trucks coming along the street.
“There are very young children who live four houses down from the receiving station,” Conti went on. “Are they never to take their bicycles out on a residential block? My main concern is the children. The street is too narrow to have soda trucks, beer trucks, 18-wheelers, panel trucks going up and down.”
On one occasion, Conti recalled, when there was a delivery of building materials to the store, traffic backed up behind the truck had, “Made their own detour. They went onto the sidewalk, into one driveway and backed into another. One car started it and all the others followed. That was one time too many.”
Conti asked Walgreen’s to follow the example of two other businesses on 13th Avenue, the Rite Aid at 71st Street and the C-Town at 79th Street. “They have loading areas on the avenue,” she said. “Rite Aid respects the residents of 71st Street. There are no trucks up and down that block. They are impeccable. You wouldn’t even know that deliveries are being made.”
The issue of trash was brought up by Steve Conti. “Most of the time,” he noted, “stores put it on the side of the building waiting for collection. And, you know what’s going to happen – the vermin, the insects, the people who are going to go through it.”
Hien Nguyen, the district manager for Walgreen’s Brooklyn locations, expressed his willingness to cooperate with the residents, stressing, “There are options. We’ll take it back and resolve what the needs are.”
Lee Levine, the architect for Walgreen’s said, to applause, that garbage pickup could be moved to 13th Avenue. In addition he told the group that, while the company was willing to relocate the loading and unloading on 13th Avenue, they could not eliminate the physical presence of the 70th Street loading dock.
That, he said, “was put in, in the 1950s,” to meet concerns expressed at the time by the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), when the old theater that occupied the site was transformed into a supermarket. Walgreen’s is being permitted to use the existing Certificate of Occupancy for the site, he said, which entails keeping the loading dock. “I can tell you that berth is going to be a storage room, but I have to keep it.”
As for moving the loading and unloading onto 13th Avenue, that is something, Levine said, that must be hammered out with the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT), which has meters along the street in front of the store.
“The only significant issue I see is with meters,” Levine added. “Normally we win with DOT, but we don’t always win with DOT. Give us a week or two. I don’t see it (moving the loading to 13th Avenue) as a tremendously difficult issue as long as we’ve got DOT on board.”
CB 10 can also get involved in advocating for the change, said Josephine Beckmann, the board’s district manager. “As far as DOT is concerned,” she told the crowd, “we’ve worked with other businesses. We’ve helped establish loading and unloading zones that are site-specific. We’ve removed parking meters. As a community board, we’ve worked well with DOT.”
At this point, the first phase of construction — “in many ways the dirtiest and most difficult part of the job,” said Levine – is virtually complete. Upcoming construction efforts will be largely less intrusive on the community, he said, the exception being when the company fills in an existing vault under the sidewalk on 70th Street, to correct what Levine called, “not a safe condition.”