BY NICK BUGLIONE
It’s a beautiful afternoon in May, the weather is warm and the sun is out — the perfect opportunity for you to enjoy a day of window-shopping down anyone of Queens’ bustling streets.
But you know you won’t. Where will you park? Maybe you’ll just rent a movie instead.
With two million people living in this borough and a tremendous reliance on cars over public transportation, searching for a place to park in Queens has become a competition sport for some, and a turn-off to local shopping for others. The shops may have just what you want at the right price, the restaurant may be the best in the city, or the neighborhood might be a delight to live in, but if you’re one of the thousands in Queens with a car, you’ll make your shopping, dining and renting or buying decisions from behind the wheel.
“This is a problem we deal with regularly at meetings,” said Dan Andrews, spokesman for Borough President Claire Shulman. “The borough president has been working on it for a number of years.”
Since he moved to northwest Queens from Greece in 1972, poor parking has been an omnipresent fact in George Alexiou’s life.
According to Alexiou, an active member of Community Board 1, because of the area’s population and the number of cars owned per family, street parking in his neighborhood and nearby communities is near impossible.
“It’s always a problem,” said Alexiou, who lives on 21st Avenue and 36th Street in Ditmars with his wife and daughter. Alexiou recalls when he lived in Astoria years ago and sometimes had to park four or five blocks away from his home at the end of a day.
“I can never find parking when I go to [George’s] house,” Community Board 1 District Manager George Delis said.
Delis added that the regions proximity to Manhattan is a key factor in the problem, as those commuting into the city tend to park their cars on the streets and municipal lots and take public transportation across the river.
“Parking is at a premium now, it’s unbelievable,” said Delis. “At 31st Street between Ditmars and 31st Avenue we have triple parked cars.”
Luckily for Alexiou, he has access to a garage where he and his wife can park their respective cars, yet he pays $110 a month for his daughter’s parking space at another local garage. “I really don’t know what else we can do,” he said.
The Great Muni-Meter Debate
Part of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) response to Queens’ cry for more room has been a move to replace individual parking meters with new municipal or “muni-meters,” increasing the overall number of spots on a block.
Slowly phased in all five boroughs, these single machines are placed at the end of streets and operate much like a conventional parking meters. Those wishing to park feed change into the machine and are issued a decal indicating their allotted time.
Motorists then attach that decal onto a visible area of their automobile, so authorities can monitor the amount of time a car has spent in a particular spot. Though still in its experimental stage, muni-meters are increasingly being installed to create a higher turnover in parking and eliminate the clutter created by individual machines.
But according to Norman Tabachnick, store manager of Chateau Jewelers on Austin St., muni-meters have “prohibited people from shopping.” Tabachnick said the hour and a half parking limit the new meters impose on drivers has simply compounded an already existent problem.
“If our patrons park there, even if they put more money in, they get ticketed,” said Tabachnick, explaining that with the old meters drivers could put extra change in after their time has expired. “The meters should all have two hour time frames and if someone wants to pay $2 for four hours they should be allowed to do it.”
While his business hasn’t experienced a sharp decline since the implementation of the muni-meters, Tabachnick said customers have been quite vocal about annoyances the new machines have created.
Tabachnick added that complaints he and other local merchants have issued with the DOT have largely fallen on deaf ears. Yet DOT spokesman Mark Patterson claims these criticisms of muni-meters are “baseless” and have been blown out of proportion.
“They should bottle up their complaints because those muni-meters are not moving,” he said.
According to Patterson, by replacing individual meters with a single machine per block, extra parking spaces have opened up and the aesthetics of the neighborhood have improved.
Patterson also made it clear it’s against the law to feed extra change in any parking meter in New York City after the allotted time has expired.
“If you put money in for 30 minutes, after that time is up you must move your car,” said Patterson, adding that because muni-meters alert authorities to exactly how long a car has been parked and prevent drivers from putting extra money in the machines, a higher turnover in parking is created.
Still, other Queens residents have logged complaints that muni-meters pose problems for the elderly and disabled, who can have trouble getting the machines to work and simply traveling to the machine and then back to their car.
Patterson said, however, that the new muni-meters are not going to fully replace the individual meters in the city. The DOT asks that if residents desire the removal or installation of parking meters they should call 894-8337.
Municipal Parking Sale
Though the 26 city-owned municipal lots located throughout Queens have partially relieved the parking burden in certain areas, New York City’s recent proposal to auction off at least some of its facilities has left residents uneasy.
Casting doubt over the future of community parking, three of the lots potentially up for sale are in Jamaica, an area where inadequate parking has long been a concern.
According to Community Board 12 District Manager Yvonne Reddick, the city has proposed to sell two municipal lots located on the east and west sides of 168th Street between 90th and 91st Avenue, and one on Archer Avenue and 165th Street.
“We have a parking crisis in downtown Jamaica,” said Reddick, who went on to note that the possibility of losing those lots could have potentially disastrous affects on the neighborhood. “We’re hoping it will remain, whoever it goes to, as a parking facility.
“There is a local development that is looking at it and they would like to take the lot and keep it as parking,” she said. “We don’t know whether they’re going to get it or not.” However Reddick added there is no guarantee the company who purchases the lot would keep it as a parking facility, nor would they be legally bound to do so.
Not long ago, Community Board 11 faced a similar problem when the city planned to sell the sole municipal lot in Bayside, located on 41st Avenue one block east of Bell Boulevard.
According to Community Board 11 Chairman Bernard Haber, because sale of the lot would have “killed the economy on Bell Boulevard,” local residents petitioned the Department of Transportation, mayor’s and borough president’s offices rescind the proposal.
While Reddick said her community is not necessarily against the auctioning of their lots, they are, however, very concerned that they remain parking facilities if sold.
Thousands of cars are towed, ticketed or immobilized in Queens each year because of parking violations. Here’s what you can do in case your car gets impounded or booted:
- If your car is towed, you should first contact the local police precinct.
- The police will then direct you to the marshal’s office or the holding lot where your car is being stored. There you will have to pay a towing fee plus a fine for your parking violation before you can redeem your vehicle.
- If a boot has been placed on your car, and the official is still present, you can pay to have it removed at the scene. If not, contact the local police precinct.
Dubbed the “Parking Pal,” Lou Camporeale, creator of the Parking Pal Motorist Education Company, has been known to patrol the borough’s busier streets feeding quarters into meters near expiration, saving drivers from potential tickets.
To get tips on parking and motorist education visit Camporeale’s web site at www.parkingpal.com or send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Parking Pal, P.O. Box 350-003, Brooklyn, NY 11235.
Park It Where?
The following is a list of the existing municipal parking lots in Queens:
- Astoria Field—29th St. between Astoria Boulevard and Hoyt Avenue South.
- Bayside Field—41st Avenue and 214th Place.
- Broadway 31st Street Field—31st Street, South of Broadway.
- Court Square Garage—45-50 Court Square between East and West Court Square.
- College Point Field—College Point Boulevard and 14th Avenue.
- Ditmars No. 1 Field—33rd Street South of Ditmars Boulevard.
- Ditmars No. 2 Field—33rd Street North of 23rd Avenue.
- Far Rockaway No. 2 Field—Beach 21st Street, between Mott and Cornaga Avenues.
- Far Rockaway No. 3 Field—Beach 14th Street, between Mott and Cornaga Avenues.
- Flushing No. 1 Parking Deck—Between 138th and Union Street and 37th and 39th Avenue.
- Flushing No. 2 Field—Prince Street between 38th and 39th Avenues.
- Flushing No. 3 Field—41st Avenue, between Main and Prince Street.
- Flushing No. 4 Field—College Point and Northern Boulevard.
- Jamaica No. 2 Field—East Side of 168th Street, between 90th and 91st Avenue.
- Jamaica No. 3 Field—West Side of 168th Street, between 90th and 91st Avenue.
- Jamaica No. 6 Garage—Archer Avenue and 165th Street.
- Queens Borough Hall Garage—Between Union Turnpike and 82nd Avenue.
- Queens Center No. 1 Field—Between 57th and 59th Avenue and 92nd and 94th Street.
- Queens Center No. 2 Field—Between 59th Avenue and the L.I.E.
- Queens Plaza Garage—Queens Plaza South at Jackson Avenue.
- Queens Village Field—Jamaica Avenue and 218th Street.
- Rockaway Park Field—Beach 116th Street between Beach Channel Drive and Rockaway Boulevard.
- Rosedale Field—At Rosedale Station of the LIRR, Francis Lewis Boulevard, between Sunrise Highway and North Conduit Boulevard.
- Steinway No. 1 Field—30th Avenue and 38th Street.
- Steinway No. 2 Field—Steinway Street between 31st Avenue and Broadway.
- Sunnyside Field—Queens Boulevard from 32nd Place to 48th Street.