Flushing Ave. tow biz grabs parking spots

A smashed car sits in front of another vehicle and tow truck, all without license plates, on a sidewalk in front of American Collision. Photo by Joe Anuta

City inspectors found nothing wrong when they visited a Maspeth tow truck company last week, but before and afterward residents complained that the garage used Flushing Avenue as its own private parking lot.

Residents who live near American Collision, at 60-05 Flushing Ave., have had to compete for parking against smashed cars, sometimes missing pieces or storing spent airbags behind cracked windshields, according to Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association. Many of the cars did not even have license plates.

“If Sanitation sees any car without a license plate, they are supposed to tag it and take it in,” he said. “They sent a guy down there and they didn’t see anything? Come on.”

To make matters worse, Holden said that many companies like American Collision participate in city-sponsored towing programs like Rotation Towing and Directed Accident Response Program. The programs basically constitute a rotating list of towing companies. When police recover a stolen vehicle or respond to the scene of an accident, they call the next company on the list.

“Rotation towing is a very lucritave business deal, and when you get involved in that you are making tons of money,” Holden said.

On March 25, inspectors from the city Sanitation Department visited the site after reports that the company had been illegally storing the vehicles along Flushing Avenue, but found nothing wrong.

“When we went on Friday, we didn’t find any sanitation-related violations,” said Matthew Lipani, a spokesman for the department. “We did speak to the owner and are monitoring the situation.”

Sanitation violations include parking a car on the sidewalk and parking a car without a license plate visible.

Towing companies and auto shops all along the avenue park junked cars without license plates on the street and sidewalk, and according to Lipani, these companies were likely rotating the cars in and out to different locations throughout the day.

“They are body shops, so it stands to reason that they are probably circulating the cars throughout the work day,” he said.

But days after the fruitless inspection, Holden said he visited the site and found several cars without license plates parked in front of nearby houses, which is what angered Maspeth resident William Grodnick .

Grodnick had spoken about his troubles finding a parking space at two Community Board 5 meetings over the last few months.

“My issue is when they park in front of the houses of hardworking members of community who then have to park farther away,” he said.

But Grodnick said that since the department had paid a visit, the problem of the illegally parked cars had improved considerably.

“For right now, the problem is erridacted,” he said.

And as long as American Collision does not take parking spots from residents, Grodnick said they are free to do business as they please.

“Let them do whatever they want on their side of the street,” he said. “I realize it’s hard to run a business like that in New York.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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