At one point in the super-charged abutters’ meeting on the corner of Harrison Avenue and East Berkeley Street regarding the proposed warehouse expansion of New York Market, GTI Properties’ Mario Nicosia challenged the Market’s new manager to produce a key – to take him inside the warehouse to prove they weren’t using it illegally at that moment.
That was because no one – not even the Market’s attorney – could say definitively if the Market was or was not using the warehouse at the moment – a warehouse they had been using illegally for several years before being shut down by Inspectional Services (ISD) for zoning code violations.
It was one of many high points in a meeting that featured numerous animated neighbors airing their grievances about the long-standing troubles with the Market – which has had a long reputation of ignoring neighborhood complaints about graffiti, objectionable odors and trash.
“There is huge opposition to this because of way that this company treats the neighborhood and keeps their store,” said neighbor Arthur Coe. “It’s disgusting and they do nothing. We ask them all the time and they do nothing.”
Said New York Market attorney Shaun Briere, “The new manager, Edward, has made it a high priority of the store to make sure it’s clean for the neighborhood.”
“Well, Edward, you’re not doing a good job because I walk by all the time and nothing has changed,” said Coe.
Nicosia also countered, saying that the zoning change being asked for by New York Markets – so they can use the warehouse legally – should not be allowed and isn’t consistent with wholesale changes made to the zoning in 2014.
“A warehouse use should have been a ‘forbidden use,’ but it got past and it’s a conditional use,” he said. “I don’t think a warehouse is where this neighborhood needs to go.”
Nicosia invited others in the audience to join him in a lawsuit against the petition if it passes the Zoning Board.
Ken Smith, president of the East Berkeley Neighborhood Association (EBNA), challenged the Market as to whether or not they were slaughtering animals in the warehouse – which is owned by the same gentlemen who own the Boston Eagle on Tremont Street The idea of slaughtering animals in the warehouse has long been a rumor, but according the manager, Eddie, it is only partially true.
“It’s only fish and turtles,” he said. “There are no chickens.”
“Anything done on site is done with appropriate licenses,” said Attorney Briere. “There is nothing done on site that is not appropriately licensed.”
EBNA member John Connelly said the Market has had a long history of being a bad neighbor, and that should not be ignored.
“Notwithstanding your recent effort to clean things up, Ming’s has been bad a long time,” he said. “An operator of a food establishment should not have to be told to keep your Market clean. It’s evidence of not being a good neighbor, but also not being a good food operator.”
That was countered by a store that was nearly full of customers while the meeting went on, with none of them in attendance or likely aware of the issue. The market is heavily used by the Asian community, and is said to have more favorable prices than other Asian markets. While many neighbors have called for the market to be shut down due to the numerous violations, other counter that it serves an important constituency in the Asian community.
Briere indicated that the warehouse had been used by the Market for some time – utilizing an entrance from the back of the Washington Street store, despite the fact that the front of the building is on East Berkeley Street. A few years ago, ISD discovered the use and shut it down as it did not conform to the zoning. That resulted in a long period of litigation between the Market and the City.
Now, he said, they are attempting to resolve that by getting a permit to use the building as a warehouse. They do not yet have a date at the Zoning Board, but expect one soon.