2003-04-05 / Front Page

City Turns Thumbs Down On Sign

Violation Issued At Duane Reade Site
By Brian Magoolaghan
City Turns Thumbs Down On Sign Violation Issued At Duane Reade Site By Brian Magoolaghan

By Brian Magoolaghan

The new Duane Reade Pharmacy building, now under rapid construction has become controversial because of the large sign on the top of the building (flying the American Flag in this picture), a sign which the CEO of the company says does not exist.The new Duane Reade Pharmacy building, now under rapid construction has become controversial because of the large sign on the top of the building (flying the American Flag in this picture), a sign which the CEO of the company says does not exist.

The quick moving builders working on the new Duane Reade have been ordered to stop construction on the roof-top sign, and were issued a violation, a representative of the Buildings Department told The Wave, but the Chief Operating Officer (CEO) of the pharmacy says that just isn't so.

During an inspection in late March, a New York City Building Department inspector issued the violation citing the steel sign, because it was being built without proper permit, said Building Department Spokesperson Sid Dinsay. The Wave first reported two weeks ago that the original plans for the sign were disapproved by the Building Department. There are no outstanding permitting issues on that job, according to Duane Reade CEO Anthony Cuti. Furthermore, he said there isn't even a sign yet.

"There is no sign. There is a frame for a sign," said Cuti, who also said that he was in possession of a copy of the permit auth-orizing the sign, although he would not confirm property information such as address, block and lot. Cuti, who called the area of Beach 116 Street "beleaguered," said that the commercial potential of a roof-top sign is an important consideration when selecting a store location, and that other businesses in Rockaway benefit from that advertising resource. He said it would be "discriminatory" if the sign were not allowed. He also suggested that those who oppose the sign are taking a "villainous approach," and that he feels the community will be happy with the completed structure.

Dinsay, who verified the violation information, said it was issued to the owner of the property, Robert Martin, of Elon, N.C. The Building Department will set a "cure date" by which the matter must be resolved. Typically, Dinsay said, a period of 45 days is allowed in such cases.

Meanwhile, Martin, who inherited the property from his parents, said he doesn't know about a violation but that "Duane Reade is the tenant and is handling everything." He said he is very aware of the attention the sign is receiving and is "plussed."

"For years we tried to make good use of that property," Martin said. He considered plans for a restaurant, and even a miniature golf course, he said.

"Nobody wanted to put anything there," said Martin. Then Duane Reade came along.

Martin, who said he recently left a lucrative law practice to find more fulfilling work as an addiction counselor, entered into a lease agreement with the pharmacy. He said he feels the project is better use of the property, which, if left vacant, is a financial liability. According to Martin property tax alone is nearly $20,000.

"I grew up in the hot dog and cotton candy business at Playland," Martin said. He explained that the land was part of his parents' legacy, and that the money from Duane Reade will help him put four children through college. He said he is pursuing a master's in social work, and that he now earns about a quarter of what he did as a lawyer.

It is not yet clear if Martin or Duane Reade will have to pay a fine because of a violation. Supporting one of Cuti's comments, Dinsay that there is only one complaint logged with the Building Department regarding 115-30 Beach Channel Drive, where the store is being built.

"It's being universally derided by the community," said Rockaway Chamber of Commerce President John Lepore, who said he expects civic organizations and private citizens will begin to complain.


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