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Schenectady residents: More bodegas, more problems

Schenectady residents: More bodegas, more problems

Permission sought for bodega on Albany Street; neighbors petition against it
Schenectady residents: More bodegas, more problems
The now-closed Big King Deli at 1100 Albany St. in Schenectady is pictured.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

SCHENECTADY — Opposition is mounting against a proposed bodega on Albany Street.

“The whole block is against it," said David Rampare. "We’re like a family."

Thirty-six neighborhood residents signed a petition protesting the proposed deli at 1100 Albany St. and filed it with the city clerk’s office. 

Neighbors said the block of Albany Street between Brandywine and Kelton avenues is plagued with quality-of-life problems, from drug usage to loitering. 

Rampare cited plumes of marijuana smoke continually hanging overhead. 

“We’re trying to get rid of what’s already here,” Rampare said. “It’s not a good habitat for kids.” 

The site is the former location of Big King Deli, which shares a building with Royal Fried Chicken on the corner of Brandywine Avenue and Albany Street. 

Salma Musa is listed on city planning documents as the applicant for site plan approval. 

Musa appeared before the city Planning Commission last week, but his request was denied. Commissioners asked him to remediate several problems before they would consider approval, including scrubbing graffiti, removing litter and window signs, enclosing dumpsters and planting trees along the street. 

A visit to the site on Wednesday revealed the wall remained marred with graffiti. 

Attempts to contact Musa were unsuccessful. 

CHRONIC CONCERNS

Neighbors also flagged Quins Deli Grocery, located several doors down from the proposed business, as a hotspot for criminal activity, and said another bodega would only amplify those problems. 

“Many police calls, raids and late-night illegal activities at [the] deli are affecting the community,” the petition read.

Residents said illegal activities also spill into the vacant drug store parking lot across the street.

A local business owner who circulated the petition asked for anonymity, citing safety concerns.

“We already have one — and now two?” the business owner asked. 

The owner said the business and apartment rental units are suffering, and wants to sell, but can’t find a buyer.

A worker at Quins was among those involved in what authorities say was a sweeping food stamp benefit fraud scheme in August that saw six workers at various stores arrested for allegedly reselling stolen property. 

The Quins worker was charged with numerous felonies, including falsifying business records, as well as several lesser charges.

A phone call to the business went unanswered on Tuesday.

EXTRA ATTENTION

Police Chief Eric Clifford acknowledged the location has been a “constant draw” on department resources.

He said police are focusing their attention on the area: City police received 83 calls to Quins this year to date, and 24 to Royal Fried Chicken. 

Those include service calls and what the department describes as “extra attention.” 

"We're constantly having to give that location extra attention for a variety of different reasons,” Clifford said, citing traffic issues, drug activity, loitering and loud music. 

Concerns have been bubbling citywide for years. As a response, the City Council in 2015 adopted an ordinance mandating corner stores be recertified annually.

After the benefits arrests, officials met with Quins ownership to address the problems as part of the annual process to renew its certificate of use. 

At those meetings, city police typically discuss activity from the previous year and give feedback on the business' role as a community partner, Clifford said. 

Police told the ownership that their clientele was utilizing more police resources than average, and asked for a plan to address it.

While the owner did acknowledge the complaints and concerns, Clifford said he has not yet received a formal remediation plan. 

“I’m not happy with the general performance of Quins,” said Mayor Gary McCarthy. “There’s strong opposition from people in the neighborhood who don’t believe they’re running it in a manner conducive to creating value and being a good business.” 

A proposed liquor store at 844 Albany St. has been met with similar fervor, and the City Council in June adopted a 180-day moratorium on all new liquor stores in the city. 

The State Liquor Authority has yet to grant that proposed location a liquor license. A spokesman for the state agency on Wednesday estimated it will be four to six weeks before the request will go before the SLA board for a hearing. 

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