CB 11 pans expansion plan by Auburndale auto dealer

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Concerns over commercial uses on Northern Boulevard dominated Monday night’s meeting of Community Board 11 at which the board rejected an application by an Auburndale car dealer to take over a vacant lot and recommended approval of a strip mall’s amended certificate of occupancy.

The board also voted in favor of renaming a Little Neck street after Christopher Racaniello, a local resident killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Xiaomeng Lee, owner of the Millennium Imports car dealership in Auburndale and the new tenant of a vacant lot at 202-01 Northern Blvd., was applying for a 10-year variance to sell and rent cars on the site.

Up to 30 cars would occupy the 8,000-square-foot lot along with a trailer in the back to be used as an office, said Alfonso Duarte, a representative for Lee and property owner Ruth Peres.

A similar application made by a previous occupant had been rejected by the Board of Standards and Appeals in 1980 because the site had not been maintained properly, said Duarte.

East Flushing Zoning Committee Chairwoman Christine Haider recommended approval of the variance with several conditions, including: entry from Northern Boulevard and exit onto 202nd Street; the removal of barbed wire on the fence surrounding the property; a minimum fence height of eight feet; replacement of cracked sidewalks; and clean-up of debris.

But the board voted down the variance with several members expressing concern over the appearance and use of the lot, which they feared would bring congestion and additional cars parked on local streets.

“This is a used car lot with a fence and a trailer,” said Baysider Melvyn Meer, calling the idea “demeaning” to the neighborhood and “a level of ugliness above the average.”

Jim Rodgers, the board’s first vice chairman and head of the Auburndale Improvement Association, said the auto businesses on Northern are “bad neighbors.”

“We don’t need anymore automobiles in this neighborhood,” he said.

Turning to other matters, the board voted to approve a certificate of occupancy for a group of retail stores at 191-20 Northern Blvd.

The strip mall, which contains a Blockbuster Video, Pier 1 Imports, Carpet City and a furniture store, had been operating since 1999 without a certificate of occupancy, said a representative for the mall.

Earlier in the night, the board voted to approve the renaming of Thornhill Avenue between Morenci Lane and Marathon Parkway after Christopher Racaniello, a Little Neck native and Cantor Fitzgerald employee killed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center.

Racaniello’s parents, who were in the audience, lived on the block for many years, said former board chairman Bernard Haber.

In other news, board Chairman Jerry Iannece said the long-awaited Long Island Expressway sound barriers between the city line and the Cross Island Parkway interchange were inching closer to reality.

The state Department of Transportation had given him assurances that all the sound barriers were on target to be built at the end of this summer except for the one between 244th Street and Douglaston Parkway. That particular sound barrier will be more expensive because of the unique land contours in the area, Iannece said.

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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