Citing a series of quality of life and safety offenses, the city is considering revoking a variance which could put a major Ridgewood lumber and hardware store out of business.
The Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association has asked Pasquale Pacifico, the executive director of the Board of Standards and Appeals, to investigate a number of complaints made by members of the community into the business activities at Forest Panel and Home Center.
Paul Kerzner, president of the RPOCA, claims that Forest Panel, located at 74-02 Forest Avenue, has been an unresponsive neighbor to the community’s litany of complaints.
Among the most egregious alleged offenses, recorded in a diary kept by the civic for the past five months, include:
• Trucks parked in no-parking areas, including in front of fire hydrants.
•Construction materials routinely left in a bus stop area.
• In one instance, a 68-year-old crossing guard allegedly tripped over some scattered Forest Panel equipment and required dental and plastic surgery to repair her injuries.
“They’ve been bad boys all along,” Kerzner said. “And, they’ve given the people around here a real hard time.”
Phone calls to Bernard Messing, owner of Forest Panel and Home Center, were not returned.
Kerzner said that when Forest Panel first opened in the 1980s, the business was small and confined to one location. In 1995, they applied for a variance to operate as a hardware and wallpaper store. However, residents claim that the business has expanded rapidly in recent years and now operates predominantly as a lumber yard.
“The facility has grown too large for the area,” said RPOCA member Thomas Dowd. “There is no legal way they can now operate successfully.”
Dowd explained the already contemptuous relationship between neighbors and Forest Panel deteriorated even further when the business purchased a single-family home at 1660 Decatur Street and transformed it into a storage facility.
He claims that forklifts now regularly move heavy equipment between the business’ two Ridgewood locations, often at high speeds and on the sidewalk.
“I’ve had discussions with the owner, but they’re pretty abusive to those who complain,” Dowd said. “They’ve been pretty bad neighbors.”
The civic association has called the 104th Precinct multiple times to investigate the complaints, but Kerzner said they lack the manpower to continue any consistent enforcement.
Left with few alternatives, Kerzner asked the BSA to intercede. He sent the agency a four-month diary, kept by area residents to document the business’ daily infractions.
The BSA responded by firing off a warning letter, which Kerzner said improved the situation for a brief period.
However, when the problem festered again, Kerzner sent off a second diary to the Pacifico—who did not return calls for comment—asking the agency to revoke the business’ original 1995 variance, which is not set to expire until June, 2007.
“We have to go back and look at what’s causing the problem,” said Kerzner, who recommends that Forest Panel relocate to a more conducive neighborhood. “This is not something that happens infrequently. These kinds of things happen in the regular course of business.”