Supporters of a Asian grocery store proposed for North Quincy turned out en masse for a public hearing Monday, with neighbor after neighbor standing up to urge officials to allow the store’s construction.
“We would suggest that the population within a half-mile area of this location are 45 percent Asian,” said Edward Fleming, attorney for store owner Miao Kun “Michael” Fang. “It’s the largest in the city of Quincy, and it’s a store that will serve the needs of the Asian community.”
Many of the neighbors packed the auditorium of North Quincy High School for the first of a two-part discussion on the project, which would bring a 25,000-square-foot C-Mart supermarket to Hayward Street.
At the hearing, held by the City Council, supporters outlined a variety of benefits, including tax revenue, jobs, and that many senior residents could walk to the store rather than go all the way into Boston on the T.
Those arguments, however, didn’t convince other neighbors, who worry about the impact on traffic and pedestrian safety.
“It’s a danger for our children walking back and forth. There are too many accidents now by North Quincy High alone,” said Maureen Oldham, who lives on Atlantic Street.
Oldham was one of a dozen or so opponents who also spoke at the four-hour meeting. Though outnumbered by supporters, their critiques were no less prominent.
“Right now we have too much traffic. What happens if we open a new market?” said Maria Buccella, another Atlantic Street resident, pointing out that the Hannaford Supermarket already uses Hayward Street with difficulty.
Buccella pointed out that Quincy already has three Asian supermarkets, and suggested that if elderly parents don’t drive, their children should take them.
The back and forth was familiar — councilors rejected a project at the site in 2009 due to traffic concerns, barring Fang from outfitting the former Boston Gear Works building, a proposal at that time for a 34,000-square-foot store.
However, a Land Court judge overturned the council’s decision in January 2012, sending the project back before decision-makers.
The decision also barred Ward 6 City Councilor Brian McNamee from participating in the discussion, after Fang alleged he was biased against him.
Despite his absence on the board, McNamee had not softened his criticisms.
“The simple truth is this is a large supermarket proposal,” he said at Monday’s hearing, speaking as a resident. “The vast majority of Ward 6 residents do not want this supermarket.”
McNamee also warned councilors about taking Fang’s word that he would hire union construction workers, as construction permits for the site in the last six years have shown no union contractors employed.
“Don’t let him use you tonight like a hammer hitting an anvil,” he said.
McNamee had previously said that Fang, a leader in the Asian community, had packed the audience with people he knew. At the Monday hearing, many of the project’s proponents took pains to say that wasn’t the case.
“If C-Mart is in Quincy, it will help everybody,” said one resident, who said she didn’t know Fang, but supported the store because she was opening a wedding-planning service on nearby Holmes Street.
“I think it’s a great proposal,” said Mo Chiu, who lives on Atlantic Street. “It’s close to my home. I walk down there, it’s only 20 minutes and nearby . . . it’s a neighborhood supermarket.”
Dean Rizzo, president of the Quincy Chamber of Commerce, also spoke in support, saying that the supermarket was consistent with the changing character of the neighborhood and would provide a commercial benefit and employment.
“The chamber is cognizant that the City Council can implement certain restrictions . . . unlike the various ‘by right’ projects that could come before the city,” Rizzo said.
Shirley Chen, who lives on Flynt Street, said many people, like her mother, have to take the train to go to C-Mart in Boston. Chen also said traffic isn’t that big of an issue, and most likely wouldn’t be worse because many customers would walk to the site.
Many residents spoke in support of Fang as a business owner, pointing to his success with three Boston stores, and saying they were confident Fang would do what he could to improve traffic.
Councilors will meet again on March 25 at North Quincy High to take further comments. Councilors requested additional information for that meeting and walked away with a packet of information to review and study.
“We don’t take this decision lightly,” Councilor Brian Palmucci said.