The corner of Tulip Avenue and New Hyde Park Road has been the home of Tulip Caterers since 1986. Owner Vincent Giordano, 55, has worked there since he graduated from college, delivering cups of coffee, sandwiches and chicken cutlets to his neighbors daily for 33 years.
“I’ve been working here since day one, and I’ve catered for the community and local groups, giving back to my town all these years,” Giordano said.
In June, however, Tulip Caterers will close when Giordano’s lease on the property ends. While local residents said they were disappointed to hear the news, they became outraged when they learned the site might become a 7-Eleven. Dozens of local residents filled an April 10 Town of Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals meeting to express their support for Giordano and ask the board to reject the variances that 7-Eleven needs to open another store in Franklin Square.
Should 7-Eleven take over Tulip Caterers, it would not be the first time that the convenience store chain occupied the spot. Before Giordano’s family set up Tulip, at 1020 Tulip Ave., a 7-Eleven had been there. Gregory Alvarez, an attorney representing 7-Eleven before the town zoning board, said that 7-Eleven was the go-to convenience store in the area in the 1960s and ’70s, before Giordano and his parents took it over. Alvarez explained that because of the traffic in the area, and because the store had not undergone any major changes since the ’60s, 7-Eleven officials believed it would be an ideal business venture.
“It’s like the old saying goes, ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same,’” Alvarez said.
7-Eleven reached out to the property owners, GLC Southland LLC, in the fall of 2016 to inquire about the property. Randy Briskin, vice president of leasing for GLC Southland, said that after he was unable to negotiate a lease agreement with Giordano around that time, the property owner chose to end its rental agreement with him. Tulip Caterers paid reduced rent for more than two years, and Briskin offered to help Giordano find a new location in the area. To avoid leaving the building empty, GLC Southland agreed to lease it to 7-Eleven, which was still interested in the property.
“There’s this misconception that there’s this big, bad landlord,” Briskin said. “But we didn’t want to hurt [Giordano]. He’s a long-standing tenant, which is why we gave him rent credit and time to find a new location.”
7-Eleven needs several variances to conduct revamp work, some of which have already been granted to Tulip. They include allowing 7-Eleven to use the full 3,000 square feet of the property, lay down 13 parking spots instead of the required 15 and change the front signpost to a traditional 7-Eleven sign. Michael Lynch, a licensed real estate appraiser who has worked with 7-Eleven in the past, testified that the store would have little impact on the community.
“This is the first case I’ve seen where a site would be converted back to a 7-Eleven,” Lynch said. “But it’ll be similar to the current establishment, [Tulip Caterers]. The only difference is that it would be 24/7.”
After studying cases in Westbury and Huntington in which 7-Elevens sprung up in similar neighborhoods, Lynch said there were no “real changes” to local real estate values of adjacent homes. Lisa Dellpizi, a Realtor and the Franklin Square Chamber of Commerce vice president, refuted Lynch’s findings, saying homebuyers were put off by 24/7 stores, though she could not say by how much home values might drop.
Despite 7-Eleven’s findings and plan to direct the store’s lighting away from homes and add landscape buffers on neighboring roads, local residents said they did not want this store. About a dozen Franklin Square residents asked why another 7-Eleven is necessary when there are already two less than a mile away. They also discussed their fear of crime and strangers driving through residential areas at late hours of the night because of the 24/7 convenience store. The only other 24/7 businesses in the immediate area are a Rite Aid and BP gas station.
“We get reports about all kinds of issues at the 7-Eleven parking lots in West Hempstead, Franklin Square and New Hyde Park,” said Carl Gerrato, of the local civilian patrol. “We don’t want more of that here.”
‘A horrendous road’
Traffic congestion prompted Franklin Square resident Bill Youngfert to speak against the proposed 7-Eleven. Youngfert, another of the Franklin Square Chamber of Commerce's vice presidents, said cars were at a standstill on the southbound side of New Hyde Park Road, where two lanes turn into one before the intersection with Tulip Avenue. He said 7-Eleven would attract even more traffic and block the roads with its delivery trucks.
“This road is horrendous during peak hours,” Youngfert said. “We don’t need extra traffic, and we don’t need accidents where school buses pass.”
Andrew Villari, a project manager for Stonefield Engineering and Design and a representative for 7-Eleven, conducted a traffic study of the area in 2017, and again this February. He estimated that the store would cause a less than 3 percent increase in traffic volume on the roads, adding that 7-Elevens do not increase traffic, but rather take advantage of areas already receiving heavy traffic flows, as its business primarily relies on passersby to stop in.
Villari’s colleague, Zachary Chaplin, a civil engineer, added that large delivery trucks would not come to the proposed store, as they would not fit in the parking lot. Rather, Chaplin said, smaller trucks would make deliveries three to four times a day, each staying five to 10 minutes. There would also be garbage pickups two to three times a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Residents were not, though, convinced by the studies, saying they have seen large trucks entering and blocking off roads in nearby 7-Elevens. Youngfert urged the town BZA to reject 7-Eleven’s appeal, much as the Town of Brookhaven’s Town Planning Board did back in March, largely due to residents’ complaints that it would increase traffic in an already congested area.
David Weiss, the Town of Hempstead Board of Zoning Appeals chairman, said the BZA would review 7-Eleven’s studies and inspect the area in the coming weeks.