LONG ISLAND CITY — Banged up cars awaiting body work and other repairs are littering a stretch of streets of Hunters Point — and fed up residents of the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood are looking to put the brakes on the longtime practice.
Auto body shops on 44th Avenue, between 11th and 21st streets, in Hunters Point have long parked unregistered cars in need of work illegally, blocking coveted parking spots and blighting the street, according to locals.
The area has been undergoing change recently, including an influx of new hotels such as the Wyndham Garden that opened two blocks away in April, and Z NYC, which opened in July 2011. Many companies and art studios have recently moved into the neighborhood’s old warehouses as well.
Dominick, a resident who lives on 11th Street and who didn’t want to give his last name, said the problem has persisted for years and that auto body shop owners “completely took over the street.”
A police source confirmed that “there is illegal parking going on.” It is illegal to park a car without a plate and registration on the street.
But the practice puts cops in a bind because they cannot issue a summons if there is no plate, cops said.
“We’re trying to handle it on a day-to-day basis,” a police source said. “Where cars are parked illegally, we either summons them, or if we cannot summons them, we just end up towing them.”
It was not immediately clear how many cars have been towed along the stretch.
The cars — brought to the auto body shops by their owners who need to have repairs made before they can get them registered — often end up on the street if there is no space inside of garages.
The managers and owners of two of three auto shops along the stretch have denied any wrong doing. Instead, they pointed fingers at one another.
“It’s the guys next door,” said Carl Daniel, a manager at 43-44 Auto Repair Inc. on the corner of 44th Avenue and 21st Street. “They do that when they don’t want to block their lifts, or when they don’t have not enough space inside.”
The owner of Sufi Auto Repair next door, who refused to give out his name, said he had only one car outside Tuesday — a yellow cab — which, he said, would be removed shortly. He said the other cars parked on the street without plates belong to other shops.
Residents and local business owners said the street has been an eyesore in the area.
Joseph Conley, chairman of Community Board 2, said he had recently received phone calls from local business owners who are fed up with the situation.
When Conley went to 44 Avenue to take a look for himself about three weeks ago, there were more than 30 cars without plates parked on the block — some of them in bad shape. Conley said they had later been towed away.
“It looks bad for the community and it actually has a negative impact on the area,” he said.
A worker at the printing company Craig on 44th Avenue, who identified himself as Alberto, said back in winter one wrecked car was left standing on the street for two weeks.
On Tuesday, there were five cars without plates parked along 44 Street and one wrecked car parked on the sidewalk.
The owner of Queens Star Autobody, Najad Ali, where the damaged car stood, admitted that he sometimes leaves cars outside, but only because he is trying to finish his work quickly. “We are open 24/7 and have many customers.”
With the new businesses and residents, finding parking spots on the street has become a challenge.
“Sometimes it’s just impossible,” said Radek Piekarz, 36, who comes to the area regularly for a job training.