A convenience store in Schenectady’s Mont Pleasant neighborhood has been closed for months, and some residents are hoping it stays that way despite a proposal to reopen it under new ownership.
Ahmed Hussein, of Schenectady, sought approval at Wednesday night’s Schenectady Planning Commission meeting to operate a pizza shop and convenience store at 1032 Crane St. The site was formerly occupied by Chubby’s Pizza, a crime magnet shop that was shut down last November because of code violations.
On Wednesday, the fate of the building led to a debate between residents seeking to improve quality of life along Crane Street, and those who felt a first-time business owner shouldn’t be denied a chance to run a store and get better results.
The proposal was ultimately tabled until next month after commissioners expressed concerns over the property’s condition.
When Chubby’s was shuttered in early November, Mont Pleasant leaders viewed it as a victory in the effort to rid the neighborhood of crime. Chubby’s had been a hotbed of activity over the years, generating more than 500 public safety calls over a nine-month period in 2015.
Patricia Smith, president of the Mont Pleasant Neighborhood Association, said at Wednesday’s meeting that criminal activity near 1032 Crane St. has slowed down some since Chubby’s closure, but more needs to be done to keep the back of the building clear.
Smith said she and other residents feel another convenience store will only generate more criminal activity at the site.
“It’s an unfortunate situation, but we are asking the people of this commission to help us take back Crane Street and put the pleasant back in Mont Pleasant, and not allow another convenience store we do not need,” she said.
Smith also presented the commission with a petition with about 30 signatures opposing a new convenience store at that location.
Pastor James Bookhout, of the Bridge Christian Church at 735 Crane St., said in speaking to community members they would often point to Chubby’s as a particular area of concern.
“In my estimation [the new shop] would be detrimental for the area,” he said. “There’s nothing unique about this store that I could see.”
Hussein, who said he is 20 years old, was at Wednesday’s meeting but was represented by his lawyer, Philip Miller.
Miller and a man who said he lives upstairs at 1032 Crane St. disputed some of the concerns over the property. They said if there’s still crime persisting around the building even after Chubby’s closed, the convenience store isn’t the cause of the problem.
Hussein has taken steps to improve the building’s interior, Miller said, such as replacing the floors and completing some electrical work. The business would deliver pizza in an effort to set itself apart, Miller added.
“[Hussein] is committed to operate this store the way a convenience store should be operated,” Miller said. “He’s committed to keeping the troubling elements out of the store.”
He also suggested boarding the building up and leaving it vacant wouldn’t necessarily improve quality of life or reduce crime.
“Nobody wants to create more problems or more crime,” said Philip Miller, Hussein’s attorney. “But are we confusing store owners trying to run an honest business with the neighborhood?”
Commissioners said piles of garbage and graffiti on the building’s exterior still persist, and would need to be removed before they consider approving the application. However, a few commissioners said those are fairly easy things to address, and they don't want to deny someone a chance to run a new business based only on those problems.
The city’s law department said there is enough evidence to deny the application, and noted there have been inquiries into declaring the building a public nuisance.
Both the applicant and the city will look further into the current and previous state of the building before reassessing the proposal at next month’s meeting.