Convenience shop turned smoke shop neighbors preschool

Town issues multiple violations

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The convenience shop located at 303 Bernice Drive in Bayport opened in July. At some point, the shop changed its sign to “Mo’s Smoke Shop,” with items on the inside including bongs, hookahs, knives, vapes, batons and tobacco products as well as cigars.

Upon calling the shop, the employee answering the phone indicated the shop sells “crystals, matchbox cars, you name it, anything you can think of,” without mention of smoke shop products.

The shop, according to Town of Islip councilwoman Mary Kate Mullens, has multiple violations pending, and the town recently changed the code to prevent shops like this, including CBD, from operating in unacceptable locations.

“It’s totally ridiculous this is able to operate here,” she said.

Three violations of town code were issued by the fire marshal in June 2021. The first court date was set for July, and after several adjournments has been reset for February. 

The investigation, Mullens said, is continuing, noting other smokes shops, similar to this one, have been popping up across the town.

According to Town of Islip zoning officials, the owners originally applied for an Interior Alterations & Change of Use Permit to legalize the space as a retail use last year.

According to town code, vape products and e-cigarettes cannot exceed 10 percent of their goods and stock. The fire marshal will continue to go back to inspect to make sure the shop owners comply with whatever the court rules.

“Based upon the last inspection that was conducted, they are not operating as a vape shop as defined by the town’s Adult Use section,” a town zoning spokesperson said. “Further, as part of their permit application to the town to legalize the use, the owner of the shop provided an affidavit stating that the inventory of vape products is below 10 percent.”

An “adult uses” (including vape shops) code was amended in October 2021, and special regulation of the uses was defined as “necessary to ensure that these adverse effects will not contribute to the blighting or downgrading of the surrounding neighborhoods or land uses.”

The code amendment also referenced special regulations to accomplish the “primary purposes of preventing a concentration of these uses in any one area and restricting their accessibility to minors.”

According to town code, smoke shops, vape shops and the like cannot be located within 500 feet from any school, church, or other place of religious worship, park, playground or playing field. The code also states the shop cannot be located within a 500-foot radius of any area zoned for residential use.

However, according to the town, daycare/preschools are regulated by New York State and the town wouldn’t have knowledge of every facility in the area, making it impossible to enforce.

According to NYS Sen. Alexis Weik, the public health law states that selling tobacco is prohibited within 1,500 feet of a school.

Public Health Law Section 1399-DD-1: 2. (a) No person, corporation, partnership, sole proprietor, limited partnership, association or any other business entity may place, cause
to be placed, maintain or to cause to be maintained, smoking paraphernalia or tobacco product, electronic cigarette, or vapor product intended or reasonably expected to be used with or for the consumption of nicotine advertisements in a store front or exterior window or any door which is used for entry or egress by the public to the building or structure containing a place of business within one thousand five hundred feet of a school, provided that within New York city such prohibitions shall only apply within five hundred feet of a school.

“I support strict enforcement of the requirement that no smoke or vape shops advertise within 1500 feet of a school,” Weik said. “The state has provided civil penalties for violations of the public health law and any violations must be enforced by the town.”

The shop is situated directly between the Montessori Preschool and Learning Center in the same shopping center. The Bayport-Blue Point High School, however, is .4 of a mile from the shop, or just over 2,000 feet. The nearest residence on Bernice Drive is also within 190 feet.

Bayport Montessori owner Karen Ray said she has made calls about the smoke shop to the Town of Islip and Bayport-Blue Point Chamber of Commerce. She also made note that the area is littered with the most trash she has ever seen in her 16 years at that location. The business, though originally labeled as a convenience shop, she added, was always operating as a smoke shop.

“I am not happy about it. Don’t get me wrong, everyone has a right to make a living, but I think putting it between two preschools is ridiculous,” she said, also noting that her children’s parents (clients) are also not happy about the new business.

When the shop first opened, Bayport-Blue Point Chamber of Commerce president Carol Seitz Cusack welcomed the “convenience shop,” as she does all incoming businesses to the area. However, upon hearing of the sign change, she immediately contacted the Islip Town councilwoman, Mary Kate Mullens.

“This type of situation falls out of the scope of practice for local chambers, which is again why we reached out to the Town of Islip to take care of this,” she said. “Any location that sells kratom, knives, CBD oils, vapes, in my opinion, should not be nestled between two daycare centers.

After several calls, the owner of the smoke shop was unavailable for comment, nor did they return any calls. 

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