More than 100 residents berated developers proposing a 7-Eleven store on a busy Merrick road near an elementary school, often shouting at them during a heated community meeting Tuesday night.
Residents attending the South Merrick Community Civic Association's meeting about the store complained that its 24-hour, seven-day operations would make it a potential target for robberies, cause more car accidents in an already congested area and pose a safety risk to children at Norman J. Levy Lakeside School less than a block away.
"We're going to have all our members commit and we are going to fight this thing," said association president Joe Baker in support of calls during the meeting to boycott the store if it opens.
The plan, which meets town zoning requirements, calls for the convenience store on the site of a vacant gas station at Merrick Road and Babylon Turnpike. Great Neck-based AJM Re Holding V LLC filed a building permit application with the Town of Hempstead in March to make interior renovations and add 420 square feet to the existing one-story building. The property would be leased for up to 30 years to 7-Eleven and a franchisee would operate the 2,400-square-foot store.
The building permit application has not yet been approved and the Nassau County Department of Public Works is still reviewing the site plan, said William F. Bonesso, a Uniondale attorney representing AJM partner Adam Mann. He added that the use of the property and site design don't require any hearings or approvals from the town board or zoning board.
Nassau County Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) said at the meeting he requested a temporary town moratorium on granting building permits for 24-hour-a-day businesses located within 500 feet of a school and/or residence, pending a consideration of town code amendments.
But town spokesman Michael Deery said the town attorney's office determined limiting operating hours for businesses through ordinances is unconstitutional.
Nassau County Police Chief Steven Skrynecki said an increase of traffic in the area could mean an increase in traffic accidents. There were 11 accidents in the past year at the intersection of the proposed store, he said.
But Ken Barns, 7-Eleven's regional development senior director, said while there would be more activity at the site, "we don't bring more traffic to the road. We just capture from what's there."
Skrynecki also said 24-hour convenience stores are often robbery targets, noting there have been 13 armed robberies in the area since April, including five at 7-Eleven stores. Barns said that number of robberies was "an anomaly" and the company was working with police.
Javed Daruvala, who operates a 7-Eleven on Sunrise Highway in Merrick, said if the new store opens it would affect his livelihood. "This is not good even for a franchisee," Daruvala said. "With the opening within half-a-mile, I'm going to go out of business."