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Task Force Demolishes Illegal Business; Closes Others

July 13, 2006 – An automobile body shop that officials say was operating illegally was demolished by government task force bulldozers early Thursday. According to officials at the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, the owner of the building at No. 96 Estate Richmond was previously cited for illegally operating an automotive repair shop, violating the air pollution act and operating a body shop in a residential area.
The task force — consisting of officials from the Fire and Police departments, DPNR and Health and Human Services — also closed six other Christiansted businesses for various health and safety violations or for operating without the proper permits.
According to DPNR spokesman Jamal Nielsen, the makeshift garage did not have a spray booth in which to repaint cars. That caused paint fumes and particles to pollute the air. Nielsen said the said the shop also had exposed electrical wires causing a fire hazard and piles of discarded tires, car parts, as well as several propane and gas tanks strewn around the area. Health officials noted that the tires had stagnant water in them and could be a breeding ground for the dengue-carrying Aedea aegypti mosquitoes.
"They [ the owners] had been cited and appeared in Superior Court where a judgment was placed against them," Nielsen said. "The law provides that after 45 days the DPNR commissioner can demolish the building."
"They clearly had no intention of complying with the law," said police spokesperson Shawna Richards.
The owner of the building, Gary Antoine, removed about 10 cars before the demolition team came in, according to Nielsen.
Displaced as a result of the demolition was 73-year-old Carlton Wayne, a tenant who lived in the back of the auto shop. Richards said Wayne was given two months to leave the premises, however, he did not vacate. She said the owner of the building, who lives off island, knew about the scheduled demolition and stopped taking rent from Wayne and asked him to leave the building.
Representatives of Human Services were present and said Wayne would be given emergency housing.
Several other businesses in the Christiansted area were closed by the joint task force for various health, safety, fire, and permit violations including:
–El Tamirindo Bar, No. 8 Orange Grove;
–La Morina, No. 7 A&E Western Suburb;
–Paulina's Restaurant, No. 15 Prince Street;
–Pembe Jay, No. 39 Company Street;
–Sija's Bar, Nos. 44 & 45 Company Street; and
–Treasy's Bar and Restaurant, No. 24 Prince Street.
Pinky Punky, on Market Street, was cited for violations but not forced to close.
Richards said the task force will continue to weed out businesses operating illegally or with improper permits.
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