Baysiders criticize auto shop glut at land use hearing

By Patrick Donachie

Several Bayside residents testified at a land use hearing last week to express their displeasure about an auto dealership being proposed for Northern Boulevard. They also decried the overabundance of shops and stores dealing with automobiles in the neighborhood.

The Land Use Public Hearing, which took place at Queens Borough Hall March 31, was presided over by Borough President Melinda Katz. The meeting included details on two items that had been considered by Community Board 11 at its monthly meeting in early March.

Helms Bros. Inc. applied to extend and amend the terms of its variance, which would let the company turn its auto repair shop at 207-22 Northern Blvd. into an automobile dealership. In addition, the owners of the Staples building at 209-30 Northern Blvd. wanted to make changes to the property’s parking lot. Both variances were approved by the community board with conditions, although 11 board members voted against the Helms Bros. variance.

A representative for Rothkrug & Spector, LLP, who submitted the application on behalf of Helms Bros., said that after the proposed changes, test drives from the dealership would leave the store straight onto Northern Boulevard, as opposed to exiting from the rear of the store, which is backed against a residential street. He also contended that the activity at the store would be diminished if it was no longer used as a space for repairs. He pointed out that dealerships attract a more limited number of customers and a lack of parking on Northern Boulevard would dissuade potential customers driving by the store from entering on an impulse. He said auto repairs would now be completed at a different location, but he did not know the address.

Community residents Henry Euler and Mandingo Tshaka spoke in opposition to the change in the variance. Euler and Tshaka both testified that the immediate area was already overwhelmed with auto-related businesses, and Euler said the auto repair work currently done on the property had a low impact on the surrounding residential area. He was worried that an auto dealership would be far more burdensome on the neighborhood.

The Staples building changes had passed the community board unanimously, and the representative for the property owners pledged to work to meet to the board’s conditions, including a no-left-turn sign for the entrance to Northern Boulevard from Oceania Street.

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.