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Pharmacy Giant Looking to Expand Into Elmont

Would be one of four pharmacies within quarter-mile of each other

Walgreens was an ice cream and soda shop back in its heyday and now stands as a pharmacy giant with 8,270 stores across the country. Whether or not its 8,271st store will call Elmont home remains to be seen.

If a proposal to build a Walgreens pharmacy on Meacham Avenue and Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont is approved, a shopping center with seven stores would be demolished. The plan has been hit at every angle, from resident and business outcry to the turnpike recently being voted as one of the most dangerous roads in Nassau County…again.

Walgreens Corporation officials submitted the 13,824-square-foot building plan to the Town of Hempstead in May 2011. This January, officials installed signs in the area to inform residents about the potential development, according to Walgreens spokesman Robert Elfinger.

The Town of Hempstead Zoning Board of Appeals recently reserved decision on the project. It is unknown when a verdict will be rendered.

Assemblyman Tom McKevitt is the lead attorney representing Walgreens. He declined to comment on the case.

Local business owners have staunchly opposed the project, indicating the amount of pharmacies in the area suggests there is no need for another druggist. There are three pharmacies within a quarter-mile of the proposed site.

Stores like neighborhood stronghold Meacham Pharmacy could see a drop in customer traffic should a Walgreens be built just a few blocks north. Owner Joe Benincasa said that his concern was less about a competitor, but more about the safety of pedestrians in the area.

“It’s in God’s hands now,” he said of the proposal. “We did what we could do when we could do it. Everyone knows how I feel about it. The issue is the safety up at the intersection, which was well documented with the turnpike study…not if we’ll be competing.”

The pharmacy would provide 25 to 30 new jobs and aesthetically improve the Meacham Avenue-Hempstead Turnpike corner, according to Elfinger. He would not release the cost of the project.

The traffic flow in that area, which is located a stone’s throw from Covert Avenue Elementary School, is heightened throughout the day. The intersection routinely sees students crossing Hempstead Turnpike while walking home. Certain residents are concerned about the increased clutter of cars that could ensue should the Walgreens be built.

“I’m sick and tired of having more and more pharmacies opening up,” Elmont resident Pat Nicolosi affirmed. “Personally, that area there on Meacham Avenue is a disaster.”

Nicolosi, who sits on the Elmont Public Library board, agreed that a Walgreens would improve the area visually, but cautioned that pharmacy overload is not the answer.

“Some people are saying that it will make the area look nicer in getting rid of those stores,” Nicolosi said. “They’re right. Aesthetically, it would look nice, but having so many pharmacies so close to each other doesn’t make sense. Where will deliveries be made? I’m pretty sure wherever they occur, it will the impact of car and pedestrian flow on Meacham Avenue.”

Elfinger stated, according to traffic experts, the area can handle the traffic and parking needs that the plan would bring about. He was unsure where deliveries would be made to the site, and that Walgreens officials are open to working with the state department of transportation to ensure that traffic flows smoothly around the development.

“Walgreen[s] store locations typically pull from existing traffic and pedestrians in the area,” Elfinger said. “Our research says people don’t want to travel far for their medicines or other daily living needs. They shop close to where they live or where they work. The impact in the area is typically not significant.”

Town Councilman Ed Ambrosino said he is a big proponent of such growth in the community. His biggest concern is the elimination of crime in the area.

“According to the Fifth Precinct, that’s been a known center of a lot of drug deals and crime,” Ambrosino lamented. “I am supportive of development and local businesses. It increases our tax base overall. I know certain members of the community say we don’t need another drug store. Clearly, Walgreens isn’t doing this out of any altruism. They’ve done their studies. They’re not going to put this there if people aren’t going to go.”

The idea of having four pharmacies so close to each other, especially in an area that saw a 64-year-old woman killed crossing Meacham Avenue four months ago, has already created a stir. However, with crime on the rise in Elmont, getting rid of a confirmed drug spot appears to be the silver lining of the issue.