By Connor Adams Sheets
As the Department of City Planning prepares to release an environmental study analyzing a controversial Auburndale manufacturing district, local leaders are making final attempts to establish a dialogue between community and business leaders.
The decade-long dispute over the district at the intersection of 172nd Street and Station Road is coming to a head as the DCP hopes to rule on whether to rezone 400 square blocks of Auburndale, Oakland Gardens and Hollis Hills as soon as Monday.
The final roadblock to making such a determination is the environmental review, which will determine what impacts the activities of businesses in the manufacturing district have on nearby residents, some of whom live as close as 30 feet from the businesses.
Members of the Station Road Civic Association say the businesses, in particular the Star Nissan repair shop, do not belong in their sleepy residential area and that they should be downzoned to residential. Star, they said, pollutes the neighborhood with noise and exhaust from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. many days.
John Koufakis, dealer principal at Star Nissan, did not respond to a request for comment.
The dispute continues to drag on without dialogue between the civic, which has been vocal in its opposition to Star Nissan, and the business itself, so City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and Steve Behar, a Bayside attorney and candidate in the race to replace state Assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza (D-Bayside), have made entreaties to the two parties, hoping to get them to meet and speak through their concerns.
“I have been working with both sides, trying to work as a go-between to bring both of them to the table to negotiate a fair agreement where Star Nissan can continue to run its business and pay taxes and the people of Station Road can enjoy the quiet of a residential neighborhood,” Behar said.
But the process has not been fruitful so far, as Star Nissan will not agree to meet with the civic and community members are less than optimistic.
“They haven’t reached out as far as I know to Steve [Behar] or to the councilman. They have nothing to gain so I don’t imagine they will be willing to talk,” Rhea O’Gorman, the civic’s president, said. “Any discussion that’s going to be had would be had in the presence of city agencies because it would have to center around enforcement. And I don’t imagine that after nine years Koufakis is going to do something he hasn’t been willing to do.”
Behar said he has not given up on a meeting between the two groups — they actually met once when the 109th Precinct was able to get Star Nissan to the table, but little progress was made.
“It’s been a few weeks since I reached out to them. I’ve called, I’ve made some follow-up phone calls, but again I’m waiting to hear back from them. They’ve just said, ‘We will get back to you,’” Behar said. “Station Road has been more than willing to go to negotiation with Star Nissan and right now the ball is really in Star Nissan’s court.”
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.
Note: This article has been updated since publication to clarify that City Planning's report is an environmental study, not an Environmental Impact Statement.