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Auburndale up in arms over auto shops

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A recent increase in the number of auto service shops in Auburndale has angered area residents who say the businesses have clogged up their streets and changed the character of the neighborhood.

In response to the complaints, the city has decided to change several parking regulations and install a traffic light in the area.

In June, Star Toyota and Star Nissan opened up a service facility on Station Road between Auburndale Lane and 172nd Street.

About three months earlier, Cunningham Parts and Service opened off of 42nd Avenue between Auburndale Lane and 172nd Street.

The new businesses joined Baron Lincoln Mercury, a service business at the corner of Utopia Parkway and Station Road, located a block away from Star Toyota and Nissan. Baron recently started operating a limousine service, Harbor Limousine.

All together, the service shops and the limousine service have created a problem in the mornings, when customers arrive to drop off their vehicles before heading off to work, residents say.

“Between 6 and 7:30, the cars line up for servicing,” said Julia Johnson, who lives across the street from Star Toyota and Nissan. “I couldn’t get off the block last week.”

Marilyn Bitterman, district manager for Community Board 7, said Johnson was not alone with her problems.

“They’re parking all over the neighborhood,” she said. “Parents have to walk their kids to school because they are afraid they are going to get hurt.”

The situation also aroused the interest of state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), who wrote to city officials asking for something to be done.

After meeting with Community Board 7, representatives from the car businesses, police and local residents in July, the city Department of Transportation has agreed to take several actions.

The city will install “No Standing” signs on both the north and south sides of Station Road from 171st Street to Auburndale Lane in order to relieve congestion on the street, according to a September letter from DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Joseph Cannisi.

At the same time, the city will remove “No Parking” signs on 172nd Street from Northern Boulevard to Station Road to provide more parking to customers of the auto shops.

The work is scheduled to be finished by Dec. 20.

The DOT also will install a traffic light at the intersection of Station Road and Utopia Parkway by Feb. 28, according to a separate letter from Cannisi.

Michael Koufalis, who has spoken for Star Toyota and Star Nissan at meetings with Community Board 7, was out of the country and unavailable for comment. No one else at Star Toyota and Star Nissan would speak on the issue.

Baron did not return phone calls for comment.

Peter Roberts, one of the service managers with Cunningham, said his business was not to blame.

“Cars receiving service are kept on the property, and we are trying to work it out with the neighbors,” he said.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:24 pm, October 10, 2011
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