FREE PARKING

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Photo by Bob Doda
Insufficient street sweeping on Bell Boulevard forced the hand of the DOT, who recently removed ‘No Parking’ signs.Photo by Bob Doda
Insufficient street sweeping on Bell Boulevard forced the hand of the DOT, who recently removed ‘No Parking’ signs.

Morning coffee, sesame seed bagel, expensive parking ticket – just a typical workday along Bell Boulevard in Bayside.

Thanks to pressure by City Councilmembers, the Bayside Village Business Improvement District (BID) and an investigation by The Queens Courier, certain ‘No Parking’ signs along Bell Boulevard have been removed.

For years, traffic officials have been enforcing the Department of Transportation (DOT) street signs that indicate street sweeping is taking place on the boulevard from 8-9 a.m. on either Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday. Here’s the rub: storeowners, residents and elected officials have not seen a Bayside street sweeper in years.

“We haven’t had a street sweeper in my tenure as chair,” said Jerry Iannece, President of Community Board 11. “Why ticket people at all if they aren’t sweeping the street? It’s ridiculous.”

According to the Department of Sanitation (DSNY), Community Board 11 has always had a high rating in terms of sidewalk and street cleanliness, therefore the need for a street sweeper has not been noticeable or apparent.

Upon further investigation, the DSNY told The Courier on September 9 that they would send inspectors to Bell Boulevard to inspect signage. In an email on September 10, the public information office of the DSNY said that they would request that the DOT remove the signs.

The DOT also told The Courier that they would inspect signs on Bell Boulevard on September 9, but follow-up calls and emails were not returned. Following heated meetings with the City Council and the Bayside Village BID, the DOT informed The Courier on November 17 that they had been in touch with the DSNY and signs would be removed within two weeks. By November 22, ‘No Parking’ street sweeping signs along Bell Boulevard and corresponding side streets had been removed.

“We are talking about thousands of tickets, millions of dollars in fines,” said Councilmember Dan Halloran days before the signs were removed. “All of these people received summonses illegitimately. It’s disgraceful.”

Halloran and fellow Councilmember Vincent Ignizio of Staten Island lambasted the DOT during a recent City Council meeting for “having the gall to take money from their citizens for something they are not doing.”

Currently, the Bayside Village BID employs uniformed workers to keep Bell Boulevard clean using a broom and a garbage collector.

Local storefronts along Bell Boulevard are excited about the prospect of serving more morning customers who otherwise would not have stopped for fear of traffic violations.

“People were always worried about their cars,” said Jo Ann Gaia of Bagels and Cakes. “I think the DOT should tell us why they removed the signs.”

“No more ‘No Parking’ signs mean more customers and better business,” said Mario Crandre of Top Bagels and Grill.

The removal of signs coupled with the extended parking meter limits from one hour to two hours on the Boulevard ends one of the busiest months in Bayside traffic history.

“It’s about time,” said Iannece. “Our residents are being ticketed enough already.”

According to Halloran, sign removal will continue “throughout all of Community Board 11 where there is no street sweeping” and outstanding ticket violations should be dismissed.

. “I am calling for the Department of Finance to dismiss any outstanding tickets for ‘no parking’ violations due to street cleaning on Bell Boulevard,” Halloran said. “These tickets are an unjust tax on the working people of Northeast Queens. I won’t stand for my constituents getting pushed around by city government.”