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Queens Community Outraged After Car Dealership Gets Service Road Through Promised Park Project

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - A Queens community is at odds with a local car dealership over the renovation of a nearby park.

More than 100 people gathered at Travers Park in Jackson Heights calling on the city to keep promises they say were made about expanding a pedestrian plaza, reports CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas.

"We are here today yet again to demand that Howard Koeppel and his car dealership get this service road out of our park," said one protestor.

Koeppel Mazda opened a location last fall along Northern Boulevard.

The $1 million construction project included creating a service entrance on 78th Street, an area the protestors say the city promised would become a pedestrian plaza.

The crowd booed as a car made its way into the dealership.

For 10 years this community fought to secure $13 million dollars to renovate the park.

Now they say cars coming into the dealership pose a safety threat to the children who come here to play.

"We shouldn't have to come to the park and worry about our children within these parameters," said Suchetha Sachdev, a Jackson Heights resident. "It should be just a safe zone."

Councilman Daniel Dromm says the city's departments of Transportation, and Parks and Recreation promised cars would be banned on this section of 78th Street.

"Why are they giving Koeppel Mazda exception and ruining our park as planned?" said Dromm.

On Saturday, a DOT spokesperson released a statement about the site:

Parks and DOT remain committed to opening up pedestrian access on 78th Street. The contractor is currently finishing up the first section of the project—the new lawn area along 34th Ave and Staunton Field-- and is expected to begin working on the 78th street plaza portion this summer. Given that the adjacent car dealership has reactivated a legal curb cut that dates back many years, we are actively working on assessing all options. No changes have been finalized at this point and we look forward to continuing to work with the community on this project.

A representatives from Koeppel Auto Group refused an on camera interview but sent CBS2 a statement instead, asking the community for a compromise that includes physical barriers to protect the children but still leaving this lane open so cars can enter the dealership.

In the statement the Koeppel Auto Group said it was a "victim" and they were not aware of plans for the plaza as the construction of their dealership was underway.

"They should be allowed to run their business but just keep it on that side, and keep this side for the kids," said Matty Bayley, another Jackson Heights resident.

But protestors want the city to keep its promises, and they're calling on the mayor to get involved.

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