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Pitch imperfect: Brighton Beach grocer must tear down outdoor tented produce section, city rules

Fruity: My Mandarin started selling fruits and vegetables within the tented extension after the store opened on Dec. 25.
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The owners of a new Brighton Beach grocery store must tear down a massive tent they illegally erected outside their market to expand its produce section, the city ordered.

“The Department of Buildings issued an order requiring the tent be taken down within 72 hours,” agency spokeswoman Abigail Kunitz said on Monday.

The owners of My Mandarin on Dec. 25 opened the grocery store on Brighton Beach Avenue at Ocean Parkway, along with its tented extension — which is furnished with produce-filled aisles, lighting, and security cameras — the building’s lease owner said.

But weeks before, inspectors with the Department of Buildings on Dec. 11 slapped the grocer with a violation for illegally erecting the roughly 12-foot burgundy tent, according to city records, after a 311 caller claimed it obstructed the views’ of motorists and pedestrians on nearby streets.

That fine comes with a minimum financial penalty of $6,000, according to Kunitz, who said her colleagues deemed the tent structurally unsafe following a Jan. 3 inspection, and that the city could take the grocer to court if the structure isn’t promptly removed.

“If the owners fail to comply with this order, they may be subject to additional enforcement actions,” she said.

The agency’s ruling will surely come as a relief to those locals who worried the illegal tent — which the store owners used as a storage space before making it shoppable, city records show — could lead to a catastrophe if left unmoved.

“It’s crazy, because last year we had a big snowstorm, and what will happen if we have weather like that again this year?” Hazel LeBlanc, who works in the neighborhood, told this reporter when he visited the site last week. “It would be nice if they take it down.”

My Mandarin’s lease-holder refused to tell this newspaper why store operators chose to use the tent as an al-fresco produce section following the first violation, instead emphasizing how the new grocer — and its illicit extension — are an improvement over the building’s past tenants, who let trash pile up on the pavement where the tent now stands.

“As soon as I started renting the property, I saw how much garbage was there. I took four containers of trash out of here,” said lease-holder Roma, who refused to provide his last name but said he previously ran now-shuttered grocer Mama Liza on Kings Highway at E. 18th Street.

And when asked about the tent’s purported visibility issues, Roma said he could have simply repositioned it if people just asked him to.

“I would be willing to change it if they came to me like normal people, not like animals,” he said.

Not all shoppers will be happy to see the tent go, however — one My Mandarin customer praised the grocer’s inventive use of the outdoor space.

“I don’t really mind it, it’s convenient with all of the fruit,” said Alex, who lives in Brighton Beach, and also refused to provide his last name.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Posted 12:00 am, January 8, 2019
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Reader feedback

Harry from Brighton Beach says:
No one in Brighton gives their name.. pretty funny
Jan. 8, 1:57 pm

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