Written by Rich Forestano Thursday, 21 November 2013 00:00
The Village of Mineola held off on deciding whether to approve or deny an application from Bolla Market to build a 24-hour gas station/convenience store at 449 Jericho Turnpike. It is unknown when a decision will be rendered. The
property in question abuts local residences.
The village board reopened the hearing on Wednesday, Nov. 13 for additional testimony from Bolla Market CEO Harry Singh’s team and to hear local resident concerns. Eighty-five people attended last week’s hearing, with 18 speaking.
More than 90 were at the Oct. 9 meeting; 16 people voiced concerns.
Unsurprisingly, Bolla Market did not receive a glowing endorsement last week. Singh wants to build a 2,250 square-foot station on the property, which he bought 19 months ago.
The site would hold six 2-sided gas pumps and one store if approved. The property is zoned for a gas station, which was built on the property in 1959, but suffered a fire and was torn down six years ago.
Singh argued in October the site needs a freestanding store because of New York gas taxes, which are among the highest in the country. The store would take up 11 percent of the lot if built. However, when Singh was questioned last week by Mayor Scott Strauss of the business depending on a 24/7 convenience store, Singh was essentially silent. He owns 85 stations, 42 of which have a convenience store, retail space or car wash.
“That’s a tough question to answer right now,” he said. “We’d have to look at the numbers to make a decision.”
The Nov. 13 meeting focused on traffic, specifically studies commissioned by Singh. While the findings were accurate, some residents feel an unbiased look is needed.
“The neighborhood of the proposed business is already overburdened with traffic from both vehicles and pedestrians from existing businesses and institutions,” White Road resident Stan Wojis said.
Wojis believes the gas station would create “unsafe traffic conditions” and “may result in increased vehicular accidents.” He requested the village commission its own traffic study independent of Stonefield Engineering rep Charles Olivo’s findings.
“I believe a [village] traffic study would give a truer picture of the conditions this neighborhood would face,” said Wojis.
Olivo said a traffic study was done on Jan. 9 from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. He estimated that Jericho Turnpike carries 2,000 vehicles in commuter rushes while White and Latham roads carry less than 100.
“The absolute peaks in these types of roadways...you’d find that the highest vehicular volume is 7 to 9 and 4 to 7,” he said.
Gina Buongiovanni, a White Road resident and Mineola High School art teacher, is concerned with students that walk to and from school. She feels these are “unknown factors” absent from the study.
“I can tell you that all the traffic studies are wonderful and all those cars, but you are not calculating my students and my children that walk past where that store would be every day and that’s what I’m going be concerned about,” she said.
Deputy Mayor Paul Pereira pointed out that the traffic study, although standard, does not account for student traffic. He didn’t say Olivo’s testimony was false, but that “as is” traffic flows were recorded.
“Are there numbers that account for [Bolla] becoming a magnet? The high school ends at 2:18 p.m., so you’re not going to have kids on the street and it starts at 7:26 a.m. so you’re not going to get the true nature of pedestrian traffic," Pereira said. "I understand you can’t be all places at all time, but the residents live here. They know the little details.”
Olivo admitted that it’s tough to tell, even with extensive studies. However, pedestrian counts were taken.
“There’s a number of variables throughout any system, which makes it impossible to hone in on an exact [figure],” he said. “The nature of the artery that you have here; state highway and width of the roadway, the volumes that you have here would not change in a perceptible way.”
Marcellus Road resident Mike Tinghitella has lived in Mineola since 1968. He claims he stood on Jericho Turnpike from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. two weeks ago and said less than 100 cars passed the site, arguing that Singh’s quest for a 24-hour store is not economical.
‘Let’s not forget that all these guys are being paid by Mr. Singh,” he said. “They’re not going to say this is bad for the public. I don’t know what kind of business he would do. He’s not going to be making money from those hours.”
Mineola has four gas stations, with two running 24-hour gas stations, including the Sunoco gas station on Jericho Turnpike and Herricks Road that has a convenience store. Tom McManus thinks that is enough.
“I don’t believe we need another one in Mineola,” he said. “The gas station being proposed is not near a major intersection and is near residential homes.”