Tag Archives: Car dealer

BP Katz holds hearing on Bayside car dealership

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Updated Friday, Sept. 19

Members of the Bayside community urged Borough President Melinda Katz to uphold Community Board 11’s decision to remove a Star Toyota and Scion dealership from the area during a hearing Thursday morning.

“For 40 years, this business has been a bad neighbor,” a community board 11 member said. “There’s excess noise in the night and in the day. Unlicensed cars constantly speed through the neighborhood, blowing every stop sign.”

Katz didn’t make a decision during the meeting but she remained skeptical that the dealership was sincere about responding to the community’s complaints about broken sidewalks, trash and fixing the fence.

The dealership’s manager, Michael Koufakis, didn’t attend the meeting but his lawyer, Todd Dale, said that all of the issues that the community raised were addressed.

“When presented with these problems, we took care of it,” he said, referring to the broken sidewalks and fence and all of the trash in the area.

“I find that, as borough president, people clean up right before these meetings and then they go back to their bad habits afterwards,” Katz said.

According to Katz’s spokesman, the borough president will make a decision to either allow the variance to be renewed or echo Community Board 11’s decision. She plans on making her decision before the case goes to the Board of Appeals (BSA), the last stop before a final decision is made. The variance allows the business to operate in a residential zone as long as it cooperates with the community board.

Neighbors of the dealership hope that the BSA and Katz will reject the variance application.

Rennie Xosa lives behind the dealership’s parking lot. He, as well as community board members, said that the lot is used by the dealership to showcase cars to customers, an act that would be illegal under the business’ zoning rules.

“I have this beautiful backyard but I often can’t use it because there are people over there checking the car alarm system, honking the horn, testing how loud the radio goes and all of these other things that shouldn’t be going on there,” Xosa said. “I won’t let these people kick me out of my own neighborhood. I’m staying here and fighting them.”


Bayside residents tell car dealership to hit the road

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Updated Wednesday, Sept. 17, 4:38 p.m.

Community Board 11 unanimously refused to renew a zoning variance that allowed a Bayside Toyota dealership to operate in a residential area after neighbors complained.

Star Toyota and Scion has been operating on Northern Boulevard for 40 years with the variance, but locals want the dealership gone for being, according to one board member, a “bad neighbor.”

“The community wants them removed because they don’t respect us,” said board member Steven Behar. “It’s as simple as that.”

Residents complained that the dealership parked their cars on residential streets and illegally dumped garbage in the neighborhood.

As a requirement of the variance, the dealership must meet with the community board every 10 years so their business can be reviewed.

After reviewing the business this time, the board decided to act on the complaints and vote down the renewal.

There are two more steps in the process: Borough President Melinda Katz is expected to announce a decision on Sept. 18 and, if she supports the community board’s decision, the Board of Standards and Appeals will make a final decision.

“We’re hoping that with the new [mayoral] administration and a real show of community support, we can have the BSA do what’s right for the community,” Behar said. “We’ve tried to solve this with them but they wouldn’t work with us so now it’s come to this.”

But Michael Koufakis, the dealership’s manager, said he’s open to the community’s complaints.

“I’m here every day. If anyone has any concerns, they can call me and I’ll make a reasonable effort to resolve it,” he said. “We will be addressing some of the issues that came to our attention through the community board.”

Further west on Northern Boulevard, a Flushing real estate business attempted to remove a condition in a similar variance.

Paul Luciano, owner of Utopia Real Estate, asked Community Board 7 to remove a restriction contained in the variance that prevents the building’s owner from making any alterations without the board’s permission.

But the board voted to maintain its power over the business, which has been in Flushing since 1957, by keeping the conditions of the variance in place.

“They [the community board] just want to hold the power over us for no reason,” Luciano said.
But locals said they feared changes would alter the nature of the neighborhood.

“If we’re not careful, our area will start to look like Main Street,” resident Terri Pouymari said.


Car dealer tax scam stopped in its tracks

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

A year-long investigation brought the wheeling and dealing of a criminal couple’s auto shop scheme to a screeching halt.

Hooshmand “Danny” Kohanano, 54, and his wife, Fereshteh “Jenny” Kohanano, 41, were charged with $730,000 worth of sales tax fraud in connection with their operation of the Auto Palace, Inc., a used car dealership at 53-21 Northern Boulevard in Woodside.

A Queens County grand jury also returned an indictment charging the dealership’s former finance manager, Julio Estrada, 37 — aka Jay Torres — with defrauding 23 car buyers out of a total of more than $115,000 in cash through a sham refinancing scheme.

“The defendants are accused of serious tax fraud allegations and other charges that, if proven true, could result in considerable time behind bars,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “Tax fraud is the type of crime that makes every New Yorker a victim by cheating the government and the public out of money that is especially needed during this continuing economic downturn.”

According to the criminal complaint, between September 1, 2006, and November 30, 2009, the Hooshmands and Auto Palace, Inc. allegedly swiped more than $728,844 in state and local sales taxes collected from buyers but not handed over to the State Department of Taxation and Finance as authorized.

The defendants are presently awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court on a criminal complaint charging each of them with three counts of second degree grand larceny, one count of second-degree criminal tax fraud, one count of third-degree grand larceny, 26 counts of first-degree falsifying business records, 26 counts of first-degree offering a false instrument, one count of first-degree scheme to defraud and one count of second-degree scheme to defraud.

If convicted, the defendants could face a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison and possibly a fine of up to $10,000 or double the amount of the illegal gain.

As Auto Palace Inc.’s financial manager, Estrada was responsible for finalizing purchases. The Queens DA alleged that Estrada enticed buyers by promising them they could refinance their loans at a better rate after six months of on-time payments. When buyers returned after six months, Estrada instructed them to pay a cash fee ranging from $1,000 to $13,000 in order to refinance their loan.

The Queens DA also alleged that Estrada falsely used several corporate identities, including RoadMasters Auto Sales and P+G Enterprises, and occasionally misrepresented himself as a bank employee to give the appearance that he was able to refinance a car loan.

It is further alleged that Estrada took a total of more than $115,000 in cash from 23 car buyers whose loans he failed to refinance. In some cases, victim’s loans went into default because Estrada had allegedly instructed them to stop paying their loans because the refinanced loans would be going into effect.

Estrada is presently awaiting arraignment in Queens Supreme Court on a 95-count indictment charging him with multiple counts of grand larceny, forgery, criminal possession of stolen property and identity theft, among other misdeeds.