Qualimax Car Wash & Lube

defunct brooklyn car wash

Rolling up to this once-vibrant car wash, I couldn't help but reminisce about the blunder from my last visit. Okay, so, note to self: never neglect the basics. My camera’s autofocus was off and, embarrassingly enough, my photos turned out blurrier than the city's morning haze. You'd think after all this time behind the lens, I'd catch something so obvious during a review. But hey, even seasoned shooters have off days, right? After a short hiatus from photography, I probably was a tad rusty. This time around, I made doubly sure I got it right.

The site, a casualty of fire damage, lay exposed, its innards spilling out for all to see. An odd mishmash of household clutter and heavy-duty waste was thrown about as if the place had held a garage sale for discarded items. The scene hinted at the handiwork of unscrupulous contractors using this dilapidated garage as their personal landfill. In its heyday, the lube bay was buzzing with activity, with workers navigating beneath a sea of vehicle underbellies tainted with city grime.

Beyond the clutter, what caught my attention was the graveyard of cars left behind, each bearing the signs of life on the hectic Utica Avenue strip. Marked by graffiti and seemingly abandoned, I speculated these vehicles must have been stuck in a limbo of unpaid invoices. It felt like an open-air museum of New York City's vehicular past. Meanwhile, tucked away near the train line, street mechanics worked in the shadows, saving overhead costs by ditching brick and motor formalities. I've spotted their kind around NYC, often hovering near automotive suppliers such as AutoZone, Pep Boys, and O'Reilly Auto Parts, or just a few blocks away from licensed mechanic shops.

Speaking of car care, it’s staggering to think about the scale at which New York operates. Just picture this: NYC's streets are swarming with taxis, cabs, and personal vehicles, and only about 100-200 car washes cater to them. Surprisingly, less than 10% of these establishments have union backing. It's not just about hosing down cars, you see. The city mandates that you possess a Car Wash License to operate one. But here's the catch: You can bypass this license if car cleaning isn't your main gig or if you run a DIY wash station. Red tape, always keeping things interesting.

Diving deeper into its history, this lot has seen its share of change. From its inception as the Sinclair Auto Repairing joint in the 1940s to the Qualimax Car Wash with its faded grand opening special advertisement, the place has witnessed the ebb and flow of the city's dynamics. However, its current state tells a darker story. Open violations by the Department of Buildings, a sordid history of crime, and the aftermath of a devastating fire leave more questions than answers. And with the real estate market boiling over, who knows what the next chapter holds for this 4,200 sq. ft. space?

Now, there's a twist to this narrative. This isn't just another abandoned property in the city. In 2013, the walls of this establishment witnessed a chilling armed robbery. By 2018, a fire had consumed a significant portion, demanding the presence of a small army of firefighters. Today, with its doors sealed and wrapped up in green boards, its future seems as uncertain as its ownership. Buried under an LLC's cloak, Qualimax's real proprietors remain elusive. But there's a silver lining: locals have dreams for this space. For Pastor Gil Monrose, it's more than just a rundown car wash. He envisions it as a haven, a community center where kids can find solace and safety. "I don’t know who owns it," Pastor Monrose once mused, "But I know who can."

While the future remains uncertain, one thing's for sure: diving deep into NYC's public records, especially the DOB website, can test the patience of even the most diligent. It's a labyrinth of never-ending traffic, much like the city itself. But for now, the Qualimax story remains a puzzle – waiting for the next piece to fall into place.


1. News 12 Staff, "Fire breaks out at car wash in East Flatbush", January 13, 2018, News12Brooklyn

2. Nadal, Emily, "Trash into Treasure: A Vision for an East Flatbush Dumping Ground", November 16, 2020, Bklyner

3. Nadal, Emily, "From Dump to Dream", November 16, 2020, NYCITY NewsService



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