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More than two dozen residents, lawmakers and civic association leaders gathered at Auburndale’s Star Nissan Service Center last week to demand the dealership be held accountable for hacking branches and removing bark from 22 trees around its property.
“The point is to bring light to the carnage that took place here two days ago,” Chrissy Voskerichian, co-founder of the Station Road Civic Association, said. “We’re here to let them know they can’t walk over the community and do what they want.”
Voskerichian and Rhea O’Gorman, co-president of the civic association, were out walking their dogs earlier last week when they realized someone had taken a saw to 22 trees along Auburndale Lane, 42nd Avenue and 172nd Street. The trees had been planted a decade ago as a means of providing a buffer between Star’s working garage site and the surrounding homes, Voskerichian said.
Even 10 years ago Star tried to stop the planting, O’Gorman said, as police officers were called out to ensure the saplings were put in the ground.
“This is not a new issue,” O’Gorman said. “This was a malicious act, a criminal act. Someone from this business should have to be prosecuted.”
For last week’s actions, the city Parks Department issued Star Nissan 22 summonses with fines totaling more than $80,000.
Star Nissan did not respond to requests for a comment.
The city requires a permit to remove or prune a tree along the roadway. Protesters said that by requiring permits, the city makes sure trees are trimmed in a way to ensure their health. Many outside the car dealer’s garage said it is clear to them that last week’s tree work means many of the 22 trees will be lost.
“Look at the damage,” Henry Euler, vice president of the Auburndale Improvement Civic Association, said. “These trees cannot survive.”
Although fines would be returned to the taxpayers, who paid for the trees 10 years ago, Voskerichian expressed concern that this latest action is simply a case of a local business not being a good corporate citizen. She and many of the protesters said Star’s manager, Steve Housman, shoulders most of the responsibility of the ill will between residents and the business.
“Steve Housman is anti-community,” O’Gorman said. “He encourages an anti-community sentiment from the business.”
State Assemblymen Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) and Ron Kim (D-Flushing) attended the rally and encouraged residents to expand their protests by talking about the situation with anyone they can.
“We can tell friends and neighbors not to buy cars from Star Nissan,” Braunstein said. “The only thing bad actors respond to is the bottom line.”
Protesters hope Star and its owners, the Koufakis family, respond to their requests to create a better relationship between residents and the business.
Voskerichian wants Housman removed from his current position and would like to see the company hire a community liaison, who would work more closely with neighbors. She would like the city to remove the damaged trees and replant them in a park setting, where she believes they have a better chance of surviving.
Once they are gone, she hopes the city will replace the 22 trees with mature ones.
“It would take us back to where we were on Tuesday,” she said, before the trees were touched.
Reach news editor Kevin Zimmerman by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4541.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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