Just when store owners on Sutphin Boulevard were breathing a sigh of relief following a partial building collapse nearby, trouble is brewing again.
On Aug. 31, construction on the property of a former supermarket at 89-36 Sutphin Blvd. caused the wall of an adjacent furniture store to crumble.
The remaining part of the store was torn down, as the Department of Buildings worked to determine if the businesses next to it–– a hair salon, a pawn shop, a dentist and an eyeglass store –– could be saved.
The stores were vacated and the roofs were stripped from the buildings for asbestos abatement in case of a demolition.
Though the buildings department concluded the stores were stable, a tarp was never placed on top of the building when the roofs were removed and recent rains soaked the inside. Store owners did not know the roof would be removed and so their merchandise and equipment was left exposed.
The owner of the properties, Nick Anagnostopoulos, then told tenants despite the buildings department approval, he still plans to demolish the structure.
Outside the businesses in jeopardy last Sunday, Councilmen David Weprin of Hollis and James Gennaro of Fresh Meadows criticized Anagnostopoulos’ plan.
Although it is unclear if Anagnostopoulos can legally break the storeowners’ leases, Weprin and Gennaro maintained that the owner should not attempt to capitalize on the unfortunate event.
“He used this as an opportunity to enrich himself and redevelop the site,” said Gennaro, adding that Anagnostopoulos was not cooperating with the Department of Small Businesses or elected officials’ requests to meet with tenants.
In the Jamaica rezoning plan approved by the City Council last week, buildings on Sutphin Boulevard may eventually double in size.
A phone number for Anagnostopoulos could not be obtained.
Elected officials said they are advocating for the store owners, but it is little comfort for dentist, Dr. Harsha Mehta, who lost part of her office in the demolition of the furniture store next door.
In a phone interview on Monday, she expressed the store owners’ feelings of helplessness.
“I’m just upset,” said Mehta, who has treated patients on Sutphin Boulevard for 25 years. “I don’t know where to go,” adding that she is looking for a new location and is already losing patients to other dentists.
Before the dispute with the landlord, Queens Vision storeowner Peter Min was already distraught following the initial collapse, which started the sequence of unfortunate events.
“Nobody showed up to say ‘I’m sorry’,” he said, and noted he was fearful of having to move.
“They say ‘Relocate.’ I need money to relocate,” he said. “You gotta have a place.”
For now, a vacate order remains on the stores until the adjacent foundation is stabilized and the roof is repaired, a spokeswoman for the buildings department said.
She added that no demolition permit application has been submitted for the building.