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Queens Chronicle

Astoria streets keep clean of newsstands

Board members repeatedly vote down applications siting inequity

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Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:40 am, Thu Jan 24, 2013.

Astoria’s community board has said no to newsstands on its street corners for years — Tuesday night’s meeting was no exception.

Community Board 1 voted against a newsstand application for 31st Street and the northeast corner of Ditmars Boulevard.

Although CB 1 is an advisory board and its vote is not the final say, member Jose Batista said he’s never seen a newsstand in a location that the board has voted against — and that’s all of them.

“We never approve them,” Batista said. “It’s the third or fourth one in the last two years.”

He said applicants want an easy way to start a business so they spend a little money to apply and put in some of the legwork needed to start, but he says the investment of time and money isn’t worth it.

“We turned down an application on the southeast corner [of Ditmars Boulevard] because of traffic. I want to remind everyone this is the other side,” CB 1 member Frances Luhmann-McDonald said. She was one of five members who voted in favor of the application. The other 29 members voted against.

“This is my dream,” the applicant who goes by MD said. He moved to Astoria 15 years ago with his wife and the couple are raising a daughter in the neighborhood.

MD works at Nobu, a Japanese restaurant in Manhattan, cofounded by actor Robert De Niro. He said he wants to start a business and contribute to the community he lives in.

However, board members Tuesday night questioned that the application, which seeks to set up shop 100 feet in front a CVS drug store, would positively impact Astoria.

“What will you offer that you can’t get at CVS?” a board member asked.

“Convenience,” MD said.

Many of the board members and speakers also cited the inequity of property taxes between stands and storefronts. MD said he would pay about $1,000 per year in property taxes.

“It does not compare to that of the restaurants that have to pay umpteen amount,” chairman Vinicio Donato said.

“It hurts the merchants in that building,” a representative of the management company of CVS’ building said. “It’s not conducive to future tenants.”

A man who owns a restaurant a block away said he pays $5,000 a year in property taxes.

“How is this fair to my family?” he asked. “These newsstands sell pornographic magazines. What example are we setting? Kids walk by.”

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