By LYNN EDMONDS
Star Nissan in Bayside is endangering pedestrians by parking their cars on the sidewalk, two local residents said.
Mandingo Tsaka, who uses a motorized wheelchair, said cars parked on the sidewalk at the dealership at 206-02 Northern Boulevard forced him to drive it out onto Northern Boulevard or the Clearview Expressway service road, where cars that have just merged off the highway are sometimes still traveling at high speeds, in order to get around the parked vehicles.
Last Thursday afternoon, no cars were parked on the sidewalk, though there were fresh tire marks there.
A sales manager from Star Nissan, Gus Tolkas, said that the company had taken steps to address the problem and had not had any complaints recently.
“We’ve made conscious efforts not to leave anything there,” Tolkas said. “I’m going to be honest with you; it hasn’t been brought to my attention that anybody has been inconvenienced.”
“If there’s anything going on, I’ll jump all over it,” he added.
But even without parked cars on the sidewalk, there was another problem. Tsaka still had to drive his chair out onto the street for much of his trip around the block, because the sidewalk on 45th Road behind the Star Nissan jutted out at odd angles at several points, making rolling over them impossible. Instead, Tsaka was forced to go out onto the street, cars whizzing past him from behind.
“I could have been killed here several times,” Tsaka said as he crossed Oceania Street, sharing right of way with cars turning off Northern Boulevard.
Zita Cullum, a resident who lives within a block of the dealership, said she is also forced to go out into the street when she pushes her grandson in a stroller because she cannot squeeze around the cars with the stroller like someone who is walking alone might be able to.
Cullum said Star Nissan took up too many of the parking spots on her block, a residential street south of Northern Boulevard. On Thursday, a half a dozen cars with out of state plates were parked on the street. Tsaka said at times he had counted up to 18 cars with out of state plates that he believed were associated with the dealership.
Cullum said she had taken to putting down cones in front of her house so that the Star Nissan cars would not take up the last spot in front of her place.
“It’s terrible, it’s awful,” she said. “It’s too many residential spots.”
For Tsaka, the issue was bigger than the inconvenience of finding a parking spot or even the risk of having to take his chair out on the street. He felt that the small historically Black neighborhood in Bayside was systemically degraded by a series of choices on the part of the Board of Standards and Appeals.
“You will not find this on Bell Boulevard going to Bay Terrace,” Tsaka said of the more white areas of Bayside.
“They concentrate all those businesses over here,” Tsaka said.
He said the average person didn’t know anything about zoning, so didn’t realize how deliberate the urban landscape is. But he collected scraps of information over his decades of community advocacy in the neighborhood and decided that they formed a pattern.
“People unbeknownst to them drop seeds and I cultivate them,” Tsaka said.
Tsaka said that other auto businesses also ignored the existing zoning regulations that said they could not use the southernmost 100 feet of their property, which abutted 45th Road, for heavy, commercial use.
“This is residential land; you would never know that,” Tsaka said as he pointed out the garage door of an auto body shop on 45th Road which he said was often open in the summer.
“The zoning resolution says some of the most toxic fumes known to man come from auto body shops,” he said, adding that one family moved away due to the smell.
“The fumes were going into their homes so they had to flee,” he said, while another resident told him she had to keep her windows closed.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana