By NATHAN DUKE
Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) and Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) are calling on the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) not to follow through on plans to expand loading zones on Austin Street’s busy commercial strip.
Hevesi and Koslowitz said that they are attempting to facilitate a dialogue among the DOT and the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce and local business merchants, who say that the expansion of the zones would limit parking for their customers.
The DOT has proposed a variety of changes to Austin Street, including new 60-foot loading zones that would provide 36 spaces with 30-minute limits for trucks. The zones could be utilized from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Monday through Friday.
Between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., there would be eight loading zones providing 24 spaces, while three loading zones with nine spaces would be available between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
“If the businesses that these loading zones are intended to help are against them, then what is the point of this proposal?” Hevesi said. “Unless the DOT provides some reasonable explanation, then this remains an unnecessary solution in search of a problem.”
In a statement, a DOT spokeswoman said that the aim of the initiative is to establish curbside regulations that help to ease congestion and promote safety.
“Our own observations and the feedback the DOT has received from community stakeholders make it clear that under current conditions, trucks making deliveries are forced to park in the street, in bus stops or in crosswalks, creating congestion and dangerous conditions along Austin Street,” the spokeswoman said. “This program will move such activity to more appropriate locations and times of the day, while allowing delivery zones to be used as parking spaces at times of the day when demand is highest.”
Community leaders said that the zones would take away parking from the commercial strip during loading times. The Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce also voiced concerns that the signage regarding the loading-zone times could be confusing for shoppers attempting to park on Austin Street.
“While I can appreciate the DOT’s concern with traffic flow on Austin Street, the remedy cannot be at the expense of our local stores,” Koslowitz said. “We need only to witness the turnover in storefronts on Austin Street to realize that even a small dent in commercial activity could be fatal to many businesses.”
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