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Whitestone towing firm draws fire

A new Whitestone towing company has stirred the anger of local residents, who called the resulting truck traffic an annoyance and a potential hazard in a neighborhood filled with private homes.

About 40 people joined Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) for a meeting in front of the Charles F. Follini Depot at 151-45 6th Rd. Monday afternoon. The residents complained about tow trucks racing through their quiet streets through all hours of the day to get to the depot.

"It's like the jet planes coming to land on an aircraft carrier," said Helen Paladrino, who lives near the entrance to the company.

The depot, located in a small industrial area along the East River, has been open for about a month. The main entrance of the depot is on 152nd Street, just north of Powell's Cove Boulevard, although trucks also enter at 151st Place and 6th Road.

The management of the company could not be reached for comment.

Avella said he was asking the city Department of Investigation to look into the operations of Follini.

"I am going to try to get them to move to another location," Avella told the crowd. "It's a totally inappropriate facility for this community."

So far, Follini's operations appear to be completely legal, Avella said. Its vehicles are allowed to drive seven blocks off truck routes, which means the trucks can drive on almost any street in Whitestone, Avella said.

If the city has no grounds on which to ask the company to move, the councilman said he would try to negotiate with Follini.

Reducing the hours of operation or having trucks use the lot's back entrance could help solve the problem, Avella said.

The councilman said he would try to draw media attention to the issue, telling those who gathered that they might have to hold demonstrations in the future.

In the meantime, James Raymond, a local resident, has started a petition against the facility.

A developer recently considered building housing on the lot. But faced with a $20 million price tag to buy the property and additional fees to clean up pollution from years of industrial use, the developer backed out and the depot moved in, Avella said.

Monday's meeting was not the first time Avella has brought public attention to a private company in Whitestone based on the complaints of residents.

Last year the councilman and local residents staged three rallies in an attempt to convince a new CVS Pharmacy on Francis Lewis Boulevard to give up some of its space to allow a small grocery store to move in. The CVS replaced a Key Food Supermarket, and seniors were angered over the lack of a grocery store in their neighborhood.

Despite the demonstrations, the CVS did not give up enough room for a grocery store, and the pharmacy opened as planned.

Avella, however, hoped this time would be different.

Most at Monday's meeting complained about the noise from the trucks headed to the depot.

"It's disgusting," Regina Randazzo said. "Nobody wants to hear the tow trucks running up and down the block."

Others said the company had an impact on other quality-of-life issues.

"They are dropping broken glass all over the street," Mike Salaby said.

Others called the traffic a safety issue. Karen Licalzi said she was concerned about her family.

"[The trucks] are coming down my street, and I have a lot of kids."

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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