This story has been updated to include new information from the Department of Buildings.
Bensonhurst residents perturbed about a new grocery that opened up in a private house on a side street in the neighborhood are unlikely to be satisfied with the city’s current assessment of the business — it could turn out to be legal except for the glaringly bright signage on its facade.
The business in question, Tim Choi Market Inc., has ruffled feathers on Facebook since the installation of what neighbors are slamming on social media as loud, yellow signage outside the store, located at 1543 71st Street – an address that, though residential, is also zoned to include a commercial overlay that allows for grocery stores.
That didn’t stop close to a dozen 311 complaints from coming in in just five days (there were 11 logged between Tuesday, February 13 and Saturday, February 17), all of which alleged illegal commercial use at the location.
In response to the complaints, a Department of Buildings (DOB) spokesperson told this paper that its Special Operations Unit, which deals with issues such as signs and businesses operating illegally out of residential buildings, was indeed assigned to the case. Though, the rep said, an in-person inspection on Thursday, February 15 resulted in just one violation for an unpermitted sign. “The violations were issued because the sign was erected without a permit and it is too large for the zoning lot,” she said, adding that “The owner is required to remove the sign.”
Furthermore, the spokesperson explained, there is no certificate of occupancy that might constrain usage on file for the building; according to the agency rep, most buildings built prior to 1938 are not required to have one.
According to city records, the building occupied by the store was built in 1920.
Though, the case might not be as closed as it appears.
When pressed further on the issue, the same DOB spokesperson subsequently revealed that the agency’s Padlocks Unit, the division of Special Operations that enforces legal use of residential buildings, has opened an investigation — and that investigation is ongoing.
Neighbors feel the market – which sells produce, meats and more out of the two-family building – is out of character with its surroundings and that its signage is an eyesore that adds insult to injury.
“We live in a million dollar neighborhood and it looks like the slums,” wrote one user, who was met with the response, “Unfortunately, when a block is zoned for mixed commercial and residential, you never know what can happen in the future.”
In the meantime, Councilmember Justin Brannan, who was promptly alerted to the controversial property via more than one Facebook thread, promises to keep close tabs on the site.
“My office has been in touch with the Department of Buildings and is watching this very closely. Neighbors have a right to know what’s happening on their block,” said Brannan. “Permits and zoning are pretty clear. Everybody’s gotta play by the same set of rules and everyone needs to be treated equally by the city.”