Oct. 7, 2020 By Christian Murray and Michael Dorgan
Revved up engines, screeching tires and the din of loud music booming out of car windows are among the sounds that are waking up residents throughout Sunnyside late at night.
The noise stems from drag racers who have been tearing up and down the streets and avenues of Sunnyside late at night—often on their way to empty parking lots on 48th Street by Northern Boulevard to burn rubber with hundreds of onlookers.
“It’s been happening every weekend, and two or three random nights during the week,” said Monica Hall, a born and bred Sunnysider who lives on 49th Street by 39th Avenue. “It’s so loud my dogs hide behind the furniture.”
The complaints about drag racing have been piling up in the past two months, with the trouble spots including 39th Avenue, Skillman Avenue, 43rd Avenue as well as 43rd and 48th Streets.
There have been 32 complaints about drag racing in the 11101 and 11104 ZIP codes from Sept.1 through Oct. 5, according to 311 data analyzed by the Queens Post. For the same period last year, there were just two for those zip codes.
The data also shows that 25 of 32 complaints concern incidents in Sunnyside Gardens and in the Long Island City area near the Home Depot parking by Northern Boulevard, a popular venue for drag racers.
Antoin O’Duibhir, who lives on 39th Avenue by 48th Street, said that the noise has become too much. He says that many of the drag racers tear up local streets with their souped-up cars and then go down to the Home Depot parking lot.
“It’s been going on for weeks,” O’Duibhir said. “It’s like shotguns going off out the back of them. You hear these big pops going off.”
O’Duibhir, fed up by what’s been going on, did some investigative work and checked out what was happening at the Home Depot parking lot on Saturday night.
“I went down there at midnight and there were crowds and crowds of people,” he said. “I would say 500 people and lots of cars too.”
He said that he was stunned by the number of attendees and how organized it was. He said there was even drone capturing footage of the event.
“They have nice cars, souped-up Mercedes and BMWs,” he said. “All have nice wheels, mufflers and dark windows.”
The cars take turns ripping donuts, he said. In one instance, which he recorded, the driver was doing a spin while a passenger was hanging out the car window trying to get the crowd to cheer him on.
“It’s dangerous,” he said, adding that someone will get killed. He said the vehicles spin so close to the spectators.
O’Duibhir said that he noticed that many of the vehicles coming in and out of the parking lot are going at a great rate of speed.
The problem of drag racing is not just confined to these events but it has become a major problem across the area, residents say.
“It’s become very pervasive,” said Lisa Deller, chair of Community Board 2. She said that the board has received numerous complaints from Sunnyside Gardens residents about noise on local streets as well as noise from the former National Wholesale Liquidators parking lot on 48th Street.
“This is a new problem that everybody is talking about,” she said. “It has never been like this before.”
Kristen McGowan, a resident of Sunnyside Gardens, said she sees drag racers going up and down 43rd Street where she lives. She said that she saw about 60 cars, with music blasting between Barnett Avenue and Northern Boulevard on 43rd Street a few weeks ago.
“They have these pop-up parties and then drag race and do donuts,” McGowan said. “It’s noisy and disturbing and extremely dangerous.”
Diane Ballek, who is the president of the 108 police precinct community council, said that the problem is throughout the district, including on the south side of Queens Boulevard.
“It’s happening everywhere and we would need an army to stop it,” she said. She said hotspots also include 43rd Street between 50th Avenue and the Queens Midtown Expressway and on Review Avenue between 37th Street and Laurel Hill Boulevard.
Ballek said the drag racing problem is taking place within the confines of the 108th and 114th Precincts.
For instance, the Home Depot and the National Wholesale Liquidators parking lots are part of the 114th Precinct. The 108 precinct, which covers Sunnyside Gardens, ends on 48th street just north of Barnett Avenue.
The police, in a statement, said they recognize the problem and both precinct heads are working to rectify it.
“The Commanding Officers are aware of the condition at the location and are working with community partners to address it. Precinct personnel will continue conduct patrols in order to correct it.”
Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, a resident of Sunnyside Gardens, did not respond for comment.
Home Depot also did not respond to the Queens Post for comment before the time of publication.
Hall, however, said it “blows her mind” how nothing has been done about the issue to date.
“It’s really loud, insanely loud,” she said. But most worrying, Hall added, “Someone is going to die.”