Forest Hills biz owners: Parking plans would ‘kill us’

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The city’s plans to make Metropolitan Avenue and 71st Avenue safer is not sitting well with local business owners.THE COURIER/Photo by Rosa Kim
The city’s plans to make Metropolitan Avenue and 71st Avenue safer is not sitting well with local business owners.

BY MELISSA CHAN AND ROSA KIM

The city’s plans to make a dangerous Forest Hills intersection safer would crush local shops, business owners said.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has proposed turning 14 metered parking spots along Metropolitan Avenue, between 70th Drive and 71st Avenue, into No Standing zones.

The measure is meant to improve traffic flow, ease congestion and make the crosswalk safer for pedestrians and simpler for motorists, a DOT spokesperson said.

Thirteen people were injured at Metropolitan Avenue and 71st Avenue between 2006 and 2010, the DOT said. Two were pedestrians who were severely hurt. In 2011, a left-turning car struck and killed another person who was crossing the street.

But business owners said the change would devastate already struggling stores that rely on more than just foot traffic.

“Without parking spots, we cannot operate,” said Tony Sparacino of Father and Sons Florist. “As little as we have, we need them. It’ll kill the drugstore, the bakery, all of us.”

Sam Cardenli of Piccola Italia said parking is already sparse.

“Sometimes you go around and around and you don’t find any parking,” she said. “If they remove the parking from here, it’s going to make it harder for the customers and we’re going to lose business.”

The DOT said many Metropolitan Avenue businesses have their own parking lots. Surveys conducted by the department show low Muni Meter usage, with only a fraction of spaces being occupied throughout the week.

There are also plans to relocate the 71st Avenue bus stop to 70th Drive and install a painted center median with a left turn bay. The DOT said the projects are not yet scheduled.

“If it happens, there’s going to be an uproar,” Sparacino said.

Forest Hills resident Wolfgang Rapp said he crosses the intersection daily without thinking he is in danger.

“This intersection is nothing compared to Queens Boulevard, which is really a death trap,” he said. “Reasonable people cross the street in reasonable ways. They look around and cars don’t really speed. So that concern about the safety of this area, it’s a non-issue.”

Pedestrian Karah Michaels said she could see the logic behind moving the bus stop.

“Despite the lights, a lot could happen here,” she said. If it’s going to a street where there’s a lot less traffic, I think it would be a lot safer.”

 

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