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Avella rallying residents to stop noise at tow site

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For the second time in two months, Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) held a small rally with local residents to push for the closing of a new towing depot in Whitestone.

The residents who attended the rainy demonstration on Friday afternoon complained that trucks driving through the residential neighborhood to the Charles F. Follini Depot at 151-45 Sixth Rd. were keeping them awake at all hours of the night.

"You hear it steady, constant," said Arlene Bealin, a local resident. "We don't have any sanity left."

U.S. Tow Inc., a Brooklyn company, set up a depot at the site about three months ago. The site is part of a small industrial zone along the East River, a zone that is bordered by homes.

The depot holds cars towed by the city marshal's office.

After residents began complaining about the business, the company started towing cars to its back entrance on Sixth Road rather than the main entrance on the more residential 152nd Street, said Mike Gordon, its general manager.

"I will continue to work with the community to try to resolve any issue there may or may not be," Gordon said.

But the change in policy was not enough, Avella said.

"We have to start to harass US Tow," Avella said at the rally. "We have to make it difficult for US Tow to come in and out of here."

US Tow is in conformity with zoning law. Traffic laws also allow the tow trucks to drive down almost any block in the neighborhood, Avella noted.

But the councilman said he would pursue other routes to try to close down the business.

Avella questioned whether the trucks were in violation of the noise codes. He also said he was asking the state Department of Environmental Conservation to look into whether the property's soil was safe for public use.

C.J. Follini, managing partner of Kings Point Investors, which owns the property, said the site was safe.

"The state DEC has been on the property," he said. "We've been complying with all of their recommendations. We have spent a tremendous amount of money to clean the property. All the fuel storage tanks have been removed, all the soil has been remediated."

On Friday, state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) joined Avella at the rally.

Stavisky, who lives only a few blocks from the depot, said she had recently been injured when a tow truck rear-ended her car. Although the truck was not headed to the Whitestone depot, Stavisky said the incident was an example of how tow truck drivers tend to drive too fast.

"These tow trucks speed through the area without regarding other cars," she said.

Adrienne Vecchio, who lives nearby the depot, noted many children live in the neighborhood.

"There are three schools within 15 blocks of this," she said.

Gordon, however, said his drivers made sure to go slowly through the neighborhood.

Follini questioned why Avella chose to focus on the depot, while Grace Industries operates a rock crushing plant next door.

"Why is he selectively choosing my site when we have a much more egregious manufacturing use 20 feet to our west in half the size of our property?" he asked.

Follini also said the towing company has much less of an impact on the neighborhood than a construction depot that used to be on the site.

But Fanouris Sachtouris, who carried a sign reading, "Save Our Neighborhood Please!" at the demonstration, said the towing company was the worst business on the property he has known since coming to the neighborhood 20 years ago.

"It's not right. This is not a commercial area. This is not College Point," he said.

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

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