Residents in Long Island City want the Department of Transportation to know that its decision to take away hundreds of public parking spaces at one parking garage is not in their favor and the agency needs to return what belongs to the community.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer gathered with angry residents Friday morning to call on the transportation agency to restore 330 public parking permits that were taken away by DOT at the Court Square Municipal Parking Garage, located at 45-40 Court Square.
“The DOT a few months ago without consultation decided they were going to change the rules, they were going to make it more difficult for the people in this community to park their cars, make it more difficult for them to get to work on time, take their kids to school, do all the things they need to do,” Van Bramer said. “These seem like small matters, but the truth is it’s the small things that make a big difference in the quality of life.”
Along with removing over 50 parking spaces last December in order to make room for DOT vehicles, the policy of the garage was changed two months ago making 210 parking spaces available on a first-come, first-served basis.
“It’s a wrong decision. It’s a foolish decision. It requires to be reversed not tomorrow but today,” resident Rama Rao said. “We are a community here. We contributed through Arris Lofts and other buildings around here to build Long Island City what it is today.”
According to residents, for the past two months they have had to wait hours in line during days designated by the DOT in order for them to pay their existing monthly parking and also ensure they get the spots for the following month.
“This is ‘The Hunger Games’ of monthly permit parking,” said P.C. Cheng, an LIC resident who has been parking at the garage since 2008.
Lines of hundreds of people fill the parking garage during those days and people have to wait in the middle of active driveways, some bringing in chairs to wait, according to residents. They say parking spaces have also been taken away to make room for a DOT storage facility surrounded by a fence.
Cindy Vitari, who has been living in the neighborhood since 2007, said last month her husband had to wait four hours and was late to work.
“The sudden change is undemocratic. It’s not right for the residents of Long Island City,” Vitari said. “We have had to fight for space in our schools and anything to do with our public transportation, with our parking being taking away now, too.”
Van Bramer said that his office was never contacted in regard to the change and he is calling on the DOT to give the spaces back to the people that live and work in Long Island City.
“I am calling on them to rescind both of these policies which are not helping anyone here in Long Island City; they’re only making life more difficult for these folks who have invested in Court Square, invested in Long Island City,” Van Bramer said.
According to a DOT spokesperson, the DOT seeks a fair and efficient balance between daily and monthly permits and after hearing concerns from local stakeholders, the agency decided to implement the policy change in order to allow motorists to apply for 210 monthly spaces on a first-come, first-served basis.
The remaining 120 spaces, which used to be monthly spaces, are now being using for short-term parking and according to the DOT no spaces are being lost with the change of policy.
“This not only allows for all motorists to have a fair chance to apply for a monthly permit, but also allows for more short-term parking in the area, which is home to several courts, a museum and a law school,” a DOT spokesperson said.
In regard to the spaces being taken by DOT vehicles, the spokesperson said the agency’s operational fleet, which carry speed camera equipment, is kept there to be in close proximity to the unit they serve and are dispatched from. DOT also added that the spaces taken are not part of the 330 spaces made available to the public.
DOT also plans to implement an electronic permit reservation system this summer that will allow for a faster process.
The agency plans to review data obtained in the next several months and then make any necessary changes, if needed.