By Gina Martinez
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) is fighting to get what is supposed to be a vacant Whitestone lot cleared.
Avella stood with neighbors and demanded that the commercial contractor using the lot located between 149-43 and 149-53 24th Ave. as a storage site leave. The person accused of storing vehicles, construction debris and supplies in the lot is Salvatore Valenza of Salvatore Valenza Contractors, Inc., based in Whitestone. While Valenza is listed as the property owner, the DOB has the lot listed as vacant land. Neighbors say the fenced-in lot, which has been vacant for 60 years, has been illegally occupied for at least five years.
The lot was brought to Avella’s attention in December by a neighbor. Avella went on to ask the city Department of Buildings to inspect the residential lot that was loaded with storage and trucks. The DOB subsequently issued a violation to Valenza, who failed to show up for the hearing. Valenza also got a $4,000 fine, which he has so far ignored, according to Avella.
Valenza did not respond to a request for comment.
Aside from occupying the lot, Avella said Valenza has placed false signs that claim no one can park in front of the lot.
“There’s no curb cut, he painted the yellow on the curb like this was a “No Parking” spot.” Avella said, “When I got here, there was a sign from a towing company saying if you park in front of here, you’ll be towed, which is clearly illegal because its a legal parking spot on the street.”
Avella decided to further investigate so his staff, called up the towing company listed on the sign and found out it had nothing to do with the posting.
“They didn’t know what we were talking about,” he said. “They looked at the site, and within hours the towing company calls back saying “we have no contract for this site,. The person must’ve stolen my sign from another site, so they immediately took down the sign.”
When Avella’s staff called the construction company and asked about the lot, the woman on the phone responded, “Oh, we’re not building anything there, we’re just storing equipment.” When a staffer informed the woman that it was illegal to use the lot, she hung up without responding, according to Avella.
“This is a classic abuse where the person obviously doesn’t care and has the chutzpah to even threaten people that if they park on a city street, a legal spot, that they will be towed,” Avella said. “He’s obviously trying to intimidate the people.”
One neighbor, who did not want to be named because of a fear of threats, said “We’re a tight-knit neighborhood and we know what’s bad and what’s good on the block, ”he said. “Most people don’t want to look at this, they want to wake up in a peaceful environment instead of having trucks rolling in and out. Sometimes they’re disruptive. This has been an eyesore for a long time, even before the fencing went up.”
Avella is hoping the city will seize the truck currently parked in the lot and clean the space.
“It’s a real disgrace that someone can so thoroughly abuse the system and get away with it,” he said.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart