Another store may soon rise where Tony’s Market once stood.
It was Hamilton Hill’s most notorious corner store, and when it burned down in 2008, few neighbors mourned; in fact, many publicly said they hoped it would never be rebuilt. Now, a new owner has proposed a convenience store there, and neighbors are fighting to keep that from happening.
They submitted a petition to the city with 51 signatures opposing the store. They will also be given a chance to speak at the Planning Commission meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 18, at City Hall.
The Board of Zoning Appeals has already approved the project, on the condition that the owner of the store also own the building and live there.
“He has to own it and live there, so we’re trying that,” said Zoning Officer Steve Strichman.
But neighbor Bharath Arjoon said he didn’t want to take any chances.
“Since that store burned down, it was a blessing in disguise,” he said. “We have rehabbed a number of houses. The neighborhood has changed. We do not want to lose that. We do not want to go back to 10 years ago.”
He said the new owner might have the best of intentions, but that might not be enough to protect the neighborhood.
“I don’t know those people,” he said. “I’m not saying they’re going to fall into the same situation; all I’m saying is that they can lose control. And you can’t put the genie back into the bottle.”
Tony’s Market was the epicenter of so much crime that the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office installed a camera outside the front door in 2004. Police calls at that address dropped 97 percent in four years, according to city records.
But in 2007, crime began to rise again. Criminals were brazen enough that one woman stole $30 from an undercover officer dispatched to check into crime there in 2007.
When the market burned in 2008, neighbors said the crime had become so bad that the neighborhood was vastly improved by the fire. Arjoon remembers those days.
“The corner store did attract loiterers, litterers and drug users,” he said. “It had a very bad reputation, and it gave the neighborhood a very bad reputation.”
He said he sees no need for the new store.
“Within 15 minutes walking, we have six stores,” he said, “so do we need another store?”
The City Council has enacted a moratorium on new convenience stores while officials consider new regulations, particularly regarding the number of stores allowed in a given area. But the Emmett Street application was submitted just prior to the moratorium, so it is not affected by the ban.