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If no one’s around to hear someone saw a ceremonial board in half, did it really happen?
Many residents, civic leaders and community board members snubbed the official opening of Lowe’s new Mill Basin store on July 29, claiming that neither the home improvement and decor Goliath nor Vornado Realty, who owns the property, have done little to quell traffic concerns they fear the new megastore will bring.
In fact, the only elected official to show up was Borough President Markowitz, and even he declined to grab hold of the electric saw and take a swing at the ceremonial board, a tradition when opening a new Lowe’s location.
“I’ll watch you do it,” Markowitz told Lowe’s store manager Byron King adding that, as a new homeowner, “I look at Lowe’s totally different these days.”
“There’s always a need for Lowe’s,” Markowitz said, addressing a sea of red-vested employees.
Yet some neighborhood civic leaders aren’t fans of the new store.
Out of Community Board 18’s 50 members, only two attended Lowe’s grand opening. No local legislators could be found either.
Local legislators have demanded traffic studies to see how the Lowe’s would affect Avenue U — the only straight route to Mill Island and Bergen Beach — but the city has turned down their requests “repeatedly,” according to state Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Mill Basin). The city also hasn’t responded to Community Board 18’s call for pedestrian bridges over Avenue U and Flatbush Avenue.
To combat these concerns, Lowe’s sent its employees out onto Avenue U to direct traffic, but Kruger found these untrained traffic agents in hard hats and reflective vests a poor substitution.
“Lowe’s has already proven itself to be a bad neighbor,” Kruger said, claiming that they and Vornado Realty, which also owns Kings Plaza, have “turned a cold shoulder to the neighborhood.”
During Lowe’s soft opening last week, shoppers shot down these traffic complaints. The new Lowe’s was built as-of-right, with no zoning changes required within the shopping district that includes Kings Plaza Mall.
Community Board members attending the board cutting ceremony didn’t see problems with the new store.
“I don’t think traffic is going to get better or worse,” said Tom Hernandez, board member and president of the Fraser Civic Association, who sees Lowe’s as a boon for the community.
“This spot has been an eyesore for too long,” he said. “[The store] is going to be a great lift to the quality of shopping in the area.”
Lowe’s spokesman Gerard Littlejohn said his company’s number one goal is “to be a good neighbor,” adding that Lowe’s has also requested the city to conduct traffic studies on Avenue U.
“We want this new store to be a convenient place to shop and work,” he said, noting that the Mill Basin store employs 300 area residents.
Lowe’s has already made some inroads into the community. At the board cutting ceremony, King said Lowe’s is planning to hold community events in local parks and has already given PS 236 in Mill Basin a $1,000 grant.
“We like to give back to the community,” King said.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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