2004-12-03 / Front Page

Community Fights Plan For Carwash/Lube Operation

By Brian Magoolaghan

Plans to build a combination carwash/lube operation in the heart of a busy Far Rockaway intersection has two civic associations and new homeowners in that area revving hotter than an engine without oil, The Wave has learned.

Adam Rothkrug, a Great Neck attorney representing the owners of the 37,255 square foot property bounded by Rockaway Freeway, Seagirt Boulevard, and Far Rockaway Boulevard – near Beach 32 Street – filed for a variance to build “a new automatic car wash facility and accessory lubritorium” measuring about 14,300 square feet at the location, city records show.

Members of CB14 voted 22/7, with one abstention, in favor of the project. The opposition says that’s because they don’t live anywhere near the site.

“The people in the western end went for it,” said Steve Cooper, president of the Frank Avenue Civic. He accused certain members, who he said “wouldn’t be caught dead” in that part of town, of not caring what happens there.

“[CB14] is making decisions for the people who live here, but they’re not including us,” said Eva Bennick who, with her husband, bought one of the brand-new Ocean Pointe homes, a pastel two-family that overlooks the site. Bennick, Cooper and others who gathered at St. Gertrude’s R.C. Church on Beach 38 Street on Monday night said they would rather see homes or retail stores, but their protests are not being ignored.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall endorsed plans for the carwash/lube operation, but only after the proposed hours of operation were adjusted to 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Initially, a round-the-clock operation was proposed. The plan then went before the Board of Standards and Appeals where community voices were heard. Rothkrug said the latest design – in reaction to BSA concern – eliminates one of the car wash tubes and increases retail space.

The BSA will review the plan again on December 7 and could approve or deny the variance. Rothkrug said his clients, Alprof Realty LLC and VFP Realty LLC, would appeal a denial in court and continue to “assess all options.” Meanwhile, a perimeter has been set up around the property and demolition permits for the decaying structures on the property have been displayed.

The property, which was the site of a gas station, medical clinic, and stores in former incarnations is zoned for “service establishments… intended to serve a wider neighborhood,” according to a City Planning zoning guide. The owners could build a gas station with a shop/auto repair and perhaps an accessory car wash as of right (without further approval), but Rothkrug says his clients remain uninterested in selling gasoline.

“We couldn’t survive with another laundry or the other local uses you see in that area,” Rothkrug said reacting to what some community members have called for. Commercial brokers know about the property, he said, but there has been no interest from companies such as Walgreens or McDonald’s.

Jonathan Gaska, CB14 District Manager, said the site was “not suitable for housing,” and added that community contention would benefit all sides. “It will make it a better project,” he said.

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