Neighbors target car dealer

Protesters listen as state Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (r.) speaks during a rally against Star Nissan's decision to prune 22 trees surrounding its service center on 172nd Street and 42nd Avenue. Photo by Kevin Zimmerman
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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 or by phone at 718-260-4541.

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Reader Feedback

Shafran from Bayside, NY says:
Ed Braunstein is a great politician that serves this community well and I like his work on this issue.
May 31, 2013, 8:10 am
Kenneth Kowald from No Holds Barred says:
When Henry Stern was Parks Commissioner he called this kind of vandalism "arboricide."
I learned many years ago, when visiting Paris, that when a tree had to be taken down, two would take its place within the same neighborhood. Couldn't that be done here?
Kenneth Kowald
May 31, 2013, 3:52 pm
Shafran from Bayside, NY says:
One tree taken down and two being put up. Understand that this is America and not Europe where this is tolerated. As Americans and this being a global comman city and not a forest two trees replacing one trees should not be tolerated and would be stupid of our government. Kowald your logic is misguided here.
June 1, 2013, 4:43 am
Kenneth Kowald from No Holds Barred says:
Shafran: Thank you for your comment. I asked the question and you gave an answer. Many thanks for that. Of course, the people of the area concerned might have other ideas.
That's what makes the USA great.
Kenneth Kowald
June 1, 2013, 10:26 am
Shafran from Bayside, NY says:
Kowald I am from the area concerned and you are misguided about your idea that the people of the area concerned might have other ideas because I am one of them. What makes the USA great is that Americans except for a few are not as stupid as those Europeans who think that one tree down two trees up can be a good permanent public policy
June 1, 2013, 11:26 am
Kenneth Kowald from No Holds Barred says:
At least, let's agree that it is not a bad idea to have comments about trees, whether we are for one point of view or another.
Kenneth Kowald
June 1, 2013, 5:20 pm
Dennis from Bayside says:
Shafran what's wrong with 1 tree down 2 trees up?
The city can use more trees. We lost tons from Sandy. Trees give shade. They reduce the "heat island effect" therefore save energy. They are pretty, thus increase property values.
There are plenty of neighborhoods in NYC without enough trees, so 1 down 2 up is a good idea.
Why are you so opposed to this idea?
June 2, 2013, 1:02 pm
Shafran from Bayside, NY says:
Kowald, it is a great idea to have comments about trees as I want to expose the misguided logic that some residents in this area have about trees. Dennis, this is a city and we will always have a heat island effect, live with it or move out to the Poconos.
June 3, 2013, 3:56 am
Joe from Just a Reader says:
Seems that the only logic permitted to commet is Shafrans? Shafran said " are not as stupid as those Europeans" ....where is the misguided logic now? (vague and ignorant all rolled into one statement)
June 3, 2013, 4:27 pm
Kenneth Kowald from No Holds Barred says:
I hope the civic organizations in the area will continue to take action and that we will all hear about it.
Kenneth Kowald
June 4, 2013, 3:24 pm
Dennis from Bayside says:
Shafran still hasn't given one single actual reason for his opposition for his opposition to the plan.
Shafran - I am genuinely interested in hearing your reasoning. Because I can't think of a single reason to oppose 1 down 2 up.
Did a tree fall on you when you were little and now you hate them?
June 13, 2013, 10:25 am
Susan M. from Auburndale says:
The angry "ladies" of the Civic are just trying to keep a good business down. Ms. O'Gorman wants someone from Star Nissan prosecuted for a "malicious" act. Since when is pruning a few trees a "malicious" act? The anger that Ms. O'Gorman's directs towards Star Nissan is really jealousy over the millions of dollars Star Nissan generates yearly. A bad neighbor? How much has Star Nissan paid the city in property taxes over the years? How much do the ladies of the Civic pay in property taxes each year? Enough is enough. Move on ladies.
June 17, 2013, 9:35 am
B.J. from Flushing says:
Where's Dan Halloran when you need him?
June 19, 2013, 4:30 pm
Joe from Flushing says:
Rhea O'gorman is a hottie
July 17, 2013, 10:25 am
Flossie from Auburndale says:
I love the civic's sign about "the owner, FAT Steve". Their cause is so weak they need to resort to ad hominem attacks. May I suggest Ms. O'Gorman and Ms. Voskerichian take a look in the mirror before they judge others. Ms. O'Gorman needs to stop shopping at the Goodwill and Ms. Voskerichian needs to stop shopping in the red light district. And for God's sake Ms. O'Gorman-- even Gloria Steinham updated her hairdo--20 YEARS AGO!!!!!!!!!!
July 29, 2013, 8:11 pm
ROG from Flushing says:
Ignorance is not a defense.
Aug. 13, 2013, 3:21 pm
Sonny from Bayside says:
Why hasn't the Civic Association been named in Dan Halloran's corruption scandal? How much did the Civic Association bribe Dan Halloran over the years? Now he's in the slammer and Chrissy Voskerichian is running for his seat? How convenient. Queens corruption is out of control. Enough is enough.
Aug. 19, 2013, 8:46 am
Zelda from Flushing says:
Something smells in Flushing and its not Star Nissan. Totally agree with your comment Sunny!
Sept. 9, 2013, 8:02 am
Freddy from Flushing says:
Nice "mom" jeans O'Gorman
Sept. 12, 2013, 4:27 pm
Jeannette from Flushing says:
If Voskerichian and O'Gorman are so bothered by the antics of Star Nissan, why don't they just move? The Koufakis family and their businesses are a wonderful part of our Flushing community.
Sept. 19, 2013, 6:58 pm
Hattie from Flushing says:
May God continue to bless the Koufakis family and their success. The negativity of Ms. O'Gorman will never keep a good business down.
May 9, 2014, 8:02 pm
Kramer from Flushing says:
O'Gorman's face is a felony
Aug. 13, 2014, 9:40 pm
Tony "Donuts" Mancini from Flushing says:
What? No Mr. O'Gorman?
Oct. 23, 2014, 9:27 pm
Rainesha from Tellin' it like it is says:
The only criminal is Rhea and Christy's dear friend, hollerin' Dan Halloran. Of course he can't appear for these rallies these days, he be busy making license plates and whatnot in the big house. Find a new cause ladies, this business is here to stay.
Nov. 4, 2014, 7:42 pm
Cosmo from Whitestone says:
Rhea O'Gorman is the epitome of disgracefulness. She has some kind of issue with this wonderful business and won't leave these poor people alone. I've purchased three cars from Star and intend to purchase many more. Rhea, you should make better use of your time. Go have a conjugal visit with your favorite corrupt politician Dan Halloran and stop harassing the businesses and residents of Queens!
April 14, 2015, 5:43 pm
Mike from Queens says:
It is a shame this women Rea O'Gorman and her team must act like this and threaten the lives of people to get their way. I have purchased cars from the Koufakis family and they are a very nice and well respected bunch.
Dec. 16, 2015, 9:52 am
Joe the gardener from Flushing says:
Actually pruning the bottom of the trees is beneficial to the tree and the environment, By pruning the bottom of the tree will create a abundant amount of leaves to grow on top (away from peoples paths) which generates a substantial amount of oxygen from the robust treetops created by Star Nissan. Thanks Star Nissan you are doing a lot for the community and environment! Unlike others that tear communities and families apart.
Feb. 26, 2:27 pm

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