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Lead photo courtesy of Bob Burns and gallery photos by Jenna Bagcal/QNS
Lead photo courtesy of Bob Burns and gallery photos by Jenna Bagcal/QNS
Damage to Burns' car.

To the casual observer, Commonwealth Boulevard in Douglaston is like any other residential street in Queens. But for residents, living there is like a nightmare.

For years, those living parallel to the Douglaston Golf Course have feared the errant balls that fly from the course straight to their homes, leaving them to literally pick up the pieces from broken windows, roofs and cars.

Burns and his neighbors Raymond Hublall and Gina Stoner explain that the “tee box” or “teeing ground” at the municipal course’s 18th hole is too high up, causing balls to careen into their private property if hit hard enough. Even with the 60-foot netting that lines the back of the course, dozens of balls still manage to get through.

The residents added that errant balls even make it to the back of their homes, resulting in costly damages to parked cars and other private property.

“Every morning I gotta move my car from in front of my house, go around the back street and park, and hopefully my window’s not broken when I get home,” said Bob Burns, who has been living near the course since 1997.

“You dare not park in your driveway to unload the groceries, because it’s that fast. You don’t know when you’re gonna get it,” Hublall added. He said he usually goes out to buy groceries when it’s dark outside to ensure that golfers are done for the day.

Damage from the golf balls can be seen throughout the residents’ property, including dents in aluminum roof siding, cracked windows and gaping fence holes.

Burns has a photo of a cracked car windshield that cost him $300 to get fixed. Stoner had sizable dents in her Mercedes Benz that cost her nearly $400 in repairs. Hublall’s 2018 Toyota has also sustained golf ball dents.

“My bedroom window was broken twice, so the second time they broke it, I said, ‘Give me plexiglass,'” Stoner said. “So now I don’t even have glass on my window. I didn’t want to have to pay [to get it fixed].”

After enduring years of property damage and fear for their own safety, residents have had enough. Both Burns and Hublall had made numerous complaints to elected officials and community board leaders, all of whom were sympathetic to their plight. Community Board 11 secured funding to install the existing protective netting.

But Stoner said that when the nets were installed, trees taller than the net were cut down. “I’m getting more golf balls now,” she said.

“This has been an ongoing problem in the community for some years,” said Community Board 11 District Manager Joseph Marziliano. “The Community Board advocated for capital funding that saw the Parks Department extend the netting higher adjacent to the golf course in recent years. Unfortunately, the problem persists. Community Board 11 remains committed to finding a solution to this problem and finding relief for our neighbors.”

But residents said the real solutions would be to move the tee box from its existing location to a lower elevation area, install taller netting and extend the end of the netting from its existing location to align with the treeline so that the large gap is closed.

“The head Parks engineer was here, he said that [existing] net will maybe stop one of four balls,” Burns said. “When you’re out here and you hear the ball smashing into your house and your windows and your cars, you don’t know what to do anymore.”

QNS reached out to Douglaston Golf Course for comment and is awaiting a response.

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