By Naeisha Rose
For the residents on 53rd Avenue between 103rd and 108th streets in Corona, the past decade has been a nightmare.
Unlicensed mechanics have taken over the area by parking anywhere from 15 to 23 cars along the five-block stretch, forcing the tax-paying residents to look elsewhere to find a spot to park their vehicles.
For Gerald Burroughs, a former veteran who is disabled, this has become about more than a lack of a place to park his wheels. It’s a quality-of-life issue that has left him furious.
“All these [cars] right here, especially in front of my door and the work by the fire hydrant is ridiculous. They don’t live here,” Burroughs said recently. “They have cars on both sides of the street.”
From 8 a.m. to sometimes as late as 1 a.m. the following morning three mechanics are fixing cars, playing loud music while drinking and hitting on the young women in the area.
“The lady right here… at 103, she has never sat outside her stoop for three years…the women at 104 are afraid to come out of their house,” Burroughs said.
In the middle of talking to a reporter, he spotted his neighbor, Erica Cuzko, 21, side by side with her mother, and called her over from the entrance of the apartment building that he lives in.
The self-appointed mechanics have been here “for about 10 years… and they take up all the space and don’t park normally. There would be two cars in one space,” Cuzko said. “As soon as the super comes out, they already have more than five cars and he is ready to park them all where we would park our cars.”
Burroughs is also concerned about his health. While serving 14 years in the Navy, Burroughs injured both his back and neck twice, and sometimes walks with a knee brace. Although he admitted to being a former smoker, he believes the fumes from the cars that the mechanics work on have worsened his asthma and emphysema to the point that he has been hospitalized several times.
For Jose Rosado, Burrough’s next-door neighbor, his problems are financial because of the mess the mechanics leave behind.
He said he sees “license plates from Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina and Illinois” all the time and when the mechanics finish working “they leave soda and beer cans…and used antifreeze bottles by the stairs” of his brownstone apartment. I receive tickets for $100 to $200 [from Environmental Control via the Sanitation Department], with the most expensive being $300 sometimes,” adds Rosado.
He said 311 does nothing to stop the practice.
“They don’t care about the $25 to $35 tickets [from the police] — they are making $3,000 to $5,000” per car, Burroughs said.
On June 14, residents addressed the issue with Community Board 4 for the first time after little success with area lawmakers. The board is located two blocks away from where the unlicensed mechanics work, and CB 4 District Manager Christian Cassagnol made the issue his top priority. He has said he will reach out to the necessary representatives to resolve the problem since the complaint is beyond the board’s advisory role.
But some members of the committee believe that the residents’ best solution will be to hire a private tow truck company to get rid of the vehicles.
A community affairs representative at the 110th Precinct, which covers Corona, said: “The Highway Safety Unit can only get the tow trucks every two weeks overnight.”
She added, “When it comes to the tickets, [the police] are not responsible for the price. It is up to the councilman or the assemblyman to draw up legislation for that.”
On a recent visit to the strip, the mechanics were nowhere to be found, but the cars with bogus licenses or no licenses at all were still parked outside the residents’ home. No cars were by fire hydrants the second time around.