After testifying to the Floral Park Board of Trustees about his intention to launch a Korean deli in the village, the hopeful owner gave an account of a racial confrontation he had experienced prior to the hearing Tuesday night.
Jiwoong (James) Im, a Korean American, described to the board and village residents his plans to open a Korean deli and minimarket at 75 Covert Avenue in Floral Park. After the hearing at Village Hall, Im recounted an incident that occurred outside his leased property in which a neighbor told his workers to leave the country.
“He had told my workers to go back to their home country,” Im said in an interview with Blank Slate Media. “When I spoke to the lady [another resident], she was very, very passionate about us not being there, not welcome here.”
Im said as soon as he took out his camera to record the altercation, the resident did not say anything and “the bigotry that came out just a minute before just completely went away.”
Some of the residents involved in the confrontation were present at the public hearing, according to Im, and offered their public comments about the proposal. Blank Slate Media could not confirm which of the residents who spoke had been involved in the confrontation.
“I think that a lot of this energy is charged through that racial interaction,” Im said. “I’m sure you felt that energy while you were in there. Something’s up. Why are they so against this grocery store?”
“We have an Italian deli, Italian bake shop, a German delicatessen, a bagel shop, Carvel and a 7/11,” said Anthony Difrancesca, a resident of Floral Park. “I really don’t think we need another food store.”
Garbage from the proposed store was an issue.
“A dumpster’s a great idea, except on a hot summer day,” Difrancesca said. “The stench is unbearable. And I can attest to that because of the food store across the street from my house.”
Im testified he would store his garbage inside until the village’s designated pickup times and has considered refrigerating his garbage.
Another resident raised a concern of ambiguity in the proposal’s plans, including what kitchen appliances would be utilized.
“I think there’s a lot of uncertainty as to really what’s going to happen in that store,” said Jay Piskin. “If this is going to move forward, there has to be a very ironclad agreement as to what is going to happen from Day 1.”
Piskin also mentioned the hazards deliveries would pose, citing how a truck could block the corner of Cunningham Avenue and Covert Avenue.
Im stated how deliveries would not arrive in trailer trucks but by “mostly box trucks, vans, [or] some personal vehicles.” He also said if a food delivery component could be implemented for his customers, drivers would operate “preferably working on bike.”
Although this would be his first deli business as an owner, Im has been in the grocery business since he was 9 years old, spending the last five years as a supermarket general manager at Key Foods. If his special use permit is approved, the deli would be named “Keri’s Market” after his only daughter, who is 4 years old.
“This is kind of my dream and her dream in one,” Im said. “I’m not going to let anything stop me. This stuff just rolls off my shoulders and I’m just going to charge forward and try to work with these people.”