Tag Archives: parking

Pols call for end to JFK employees parking on residential streets


| amatua@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angela Matua

Residents living near JFK International Airport say they’ve had enough of airport employees parking on residential streets and are asking local city and state representatives to do something about it.

City Councilman Eric Ulrich and Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder recently sent letters to the top 10 freight and passenger airlines to request that they actively pursue solutions to the problem. JFK employees are reportedly parking their cars in Howard Beach, Ozone Park and other neighborhoods near the airport and then taking the AirTrain to work.

“TSA and other airport employees should be parking their vehicles on Port
Authority property, not in front of homes in Ozone Park and Howard Beach,” Ulrich said. “Hopefully they will take action to alleviate this problem to free up much-needed parking for homeowners.”

Howard Beach resident Alison Zinkeiwicz said JFK employees who park in residential streets also contribute to the uncleanliness in the area.

“Not only is it a inconvenience for resident parking, but most do not have any regard for the cleanliness of our streets,” Zinkeiwicz said in a Facebook post. “They’ve thrown litter onto our sidewalks and streets from their vehicles without a second thought.”

Mary Filomena, a Howard Beach resident of 20 years who lives near the AirTrain station in Howard Beach, says this problem has been ongoing for several years, with people parking on her block to not only use the AirTrain but to avoid paying for parking in the LIRR parking lots.

“These residents who live around the station have put up with this parking problem long enough and deserve to enjoy their property and use the streets around it,” Filomena said. “I have health problems and can not walk to the train station from my house, however short the walk, I need to park my car close by and I can never do this. ”

Goldfeder and Ulrich are scheduled to meet with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) authorities this month to brainstorm possible solutions. According to the Port Authority website, JFK airport employs 37,000 people. In their letter, the elected officials pointed out that the Howard Beach AirTrain station has accommodated 700,000 passengers this year.

“Our middle-class families work hard and deserve to enjoy the community they invested in, without having to spend their days and nights circling the block looking for parking,” Goldfeder said.

A spokesperson from the TSA said they will have a better idea of  next steps to solve this problem after their meeting with Goldfeder and Ulrich.

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Study: Bell Boulevard needs nearly a thousand more parking spots


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel

Confirming what many Baysiders already believed to be true, a study concluded that Bell Boulevard needs nearly one thousand more parking spaces to meet the needs of shoppers, commuters and residents alike.

The study commissioned by the Bayside Village Business Improvement District (BID) and funded by City Councilman Paul Vallone continues the process of finding a solution to overcrowded parking conditions on the boulevard.

According to the report released this week, approximately 3,400 spaces are needed in total to accommodate all of the parking needs, but only 2,500 of those spots are currently available. Issues of short parking supply on Bell Boulevard arise from the multiple different functions which the strip serves in the community, attracting thousands of people and their vehicles to the area every day.

Lyle Sclair, executive director of the Bayside Village BID, emphasized how important it was to organize a plan to alleviate the parking strain on all of the different demographics using Bell Boulevard.

“We have to understand how to balance that without putting undue pressure on any group,” Sclair said. “I don’t think anyone would tell you that parking was working for any one group.”

Of the total 3,400 needed spots, an estimated 1,400 are generated from commercial and office uses on the boulevard. Another 1,033 spots are needed for commuters, with 23 percent of Long Island Rail Road users connecting to the Bayside station by driving themselves alone and parking their cars in the neighborhood.

An additional 1,000 vehicles were also factored in for residents who live in the area. While there are approximately 1,713 registered vehicles in the study area, many of them are parked off-street in private driveways or garages.

Several options were introduced in the study for both long- and short-term solutions to ease the scarcity of parking spot in Bell Boulevard.

“We don’t want to recreate the wheel but you have to look at every possible solution out there,” Sclair said, “and that’s what we’re trying to do with the parking plan.”

One of the solutions explored in the study was to construct a parking structure in an appropriate site, with the current location of the Department of Transportation Municipal Lot used as an example. A private developer or the BID would have to build the structure as the Department of Transportation does not perform that service, and this would have a price tag of around $10 million in city permits and design and construction costs.

A long-term surface parking lot was also looked at as a possible solution in the study. This could cost around $5 million in construction costs without factoring in the cost of the real estate, and would involve a private developer acquiring multiple local properties for the project.

“We looked at all of those programs to see what was reasonable, and what was feasible,” Sclair said. “You want as many ideas out there as possible, so you can actually get things done.”

To download the complete parking study and read more information about local parking, visit the Bayside BID’s website.

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LIC residents call on DOT to return hundreds of public parking spaces


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

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.”

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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.

Photo courtesy of P.C. Cheng

Hundreds of people waited hours to make sure they got a space at the Court Square Municipal Park for the month of June. (Photo courtesy of P.C. Cheng)

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.

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Bayside Village BID to hold April 14 hearing on local parking woes


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Those having a hard time finding parking near Bayside’s Bell Boulevard can vent their frustrations at a special public hearing the Bayside Village Business Improvement District (BID) will hold on the topic on Tuesday, April 14.

Residents, drivers and merchants alike are invited to attend the session scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. at Bayside United Methodist Church, located at 38-20 Bell Blvd.

The Bayside Village BID, with the assistance of Councilman Paul Vallone, recently hired an engineering firm to examine parking problems in the area around Bell Boulevard and form potential short- and long-term solutions. It is reportedly part of a revived attempt to fix parking problems in the area launched more than a decade ago.

In a letter, Bayside Village BID Executive Director Lyle Sclair said that attendees will learn information on some of the “best practices from across the region.” BID members and residents can also share their ideas and input on how to ease the pain for all drivers.

Meanwhile, Sclair urged local businesses to sign a pledge that they would keep spots in front of their shops free as much as possible.

“Many of the business owners signed a pledge that they and their workers would not park on Bell Boulevard in the metered spots that are designed for customers,” Sclair wrote. “We understand that you may need to use the parking in front of your business for pickups and deliveries. The pledge is not meant to discourage you from using the space in front of your store for business operations, but once you are done, please move your car to the surrounding side streets.”

BID members who cannot attend the April 14 meeting may schedule one-on-one consultations regarding the plan earlier that day from 3 to 6:30 p.m. at the BID’s office located at 213-39 39th Ave., Suite 310.

For more information, click here or call 718-423-2434.

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Parking in Ozone Park pedestrian plaza still not reinstated


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

Though a part of a controversial Ozone Park pedestrian plaza has been removed and is ready for parking, customers at local businesses still cannot use the area for parking because issues over signage have to be addressed.

In the beginning of November, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that they will be pulling back a section of the pedestrian plaza, located on Drew Street and 101st Avenue, to reinstall parking. This announcement came after business owners complained that the lack of parking, among other issues, has caused their sales to drop drastically.

But even though the DOT has removed the portion of the plaza already, signs have been put up reading “No Standing Anytime,” stopping people from parking there.

According to a DOT spokeswoman, interim parking signage is expected to be installed in the coming weeks. She also said the DOT is in the process of planning a more permanent parking measure in the area and that they continue to work with the community on the issues with the plaza.

Business owners in the area complained that the lack of parking and the cutoff of the two-way traffic, which was allowed before the plaza was installed on Drew Street, has crippled their business.

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They held a meeting in August with the DOT and the Bangladesh American Community Development and Youth Services (BACDYS), which is the organization that is in charge of the maintenance and upkeep of the plaza, to talk about the issues they have faced since it was installed in November of 2013.

There, Dalila Hall, DOT commissioner for Queens, said the DOT would review the issues with it and come up with a plan. The reinstatement of parking was the outcome of the meeting, but the business owners have said they won’t stop fighting until the whole plaza is removed so they can have the two-way street back.

They have started a petition signed by both Brooklyn and Queens storekeepers, as the plaza is on the borderline of the boroughs, that asks for it to be removed entirely.

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City accepting proposals to develop 200-unit building on Flushing parking lot


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre


The city is asking for proposals to build a mixed-use, mixed-income building with 200 apartments in a municipal parking lot in Flushing.

Flushing Municipal Lot 3, located adjacent to the LIRR Flushing station on 41st Avenue and Main Street, has about 156 parking spots and is operated by the Department of Transportation.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is accepting proposals for the 43,200-square-foot lot to help address Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 10-year housing plan to create 200,000 affordable housing units in the city. Although the proposals will target housing, all proposals must produce a plan to replace the 156 parking spots currently on the lot.

Community Board 7, which includes Flushing, has about 250,100 people, making it the most populous district in the city.

The HPD said the proposals must have 50 percent of the 200 new apartments as two-bedroom apartments or at least 40 percent with family-sized rooms.

 

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Residents ask for parking lines along Lindenwood streets


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

SALVATORE LICATA

Residents of Lindenwood want parking to be spot on.

More than 100 cars can be parked nose-first adjacent to the Belt Parkway on 157th Avenue between 77th and 80th streets, but that number is often reduced because there are no marked parking spaces.

Street signs tell drivers to back in at a 90 degree angle but since spaces aren’t marked, there are often wide gaps between vehicles too small for parking, which cut down the available space for other drivers.

So residents and politicians are calling for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to draw lines perpendicular to the curb to create defined parking spaces.

“A small effort from the DOT will allow local residents to have more parking spaces to access their neighborhood,” said Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder, who wrote a letter to the DOT urging them to do so.

Some residents have received summonses for parking haphazardly along the avenue but feel they are not at fault due to the city’s lack of designated parking spots for them.
“Marked legal parking spots are unclear and people are receiving summonses,” said Joann Ariola, president of the Howard Beach-Lindenwood Civic Association. “Redefining the lines will clear up all confusion when parking.”

The DOT is still reviewing Goldfeder’s request and did not have a response for how they would handle this situation.

 

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EXCLUSIVE: Bayside BID to study DOT lot expansion to solve community parking woes


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Building up may be the best way to build up Bayside businesses, and Councilman Paul Vallone allocated $20,000 for a study to solve the parking problem near Bell Boulevard, which many residents and business owners say is the No. 1 issue in the community.

The Bayside Village Business Improvement District (BID), which supports hundreds of businesses along Bell Boulevard between Northern Boulevard and 35th Avenue with sanitation, event planning and marketing services, requested the funding to conduct a feasibility study to build a multilevel parking lot. The parking structure would expand the current Department of Transportation (DOT) municipal lot on 214th Place and 41st Avenue.

“It is no secret that the popularity of this commercial hub makes parking difficult for those commuting via the Long Island Railroad and customers frequenting stores,” Vallone said. “Potentially expanding the municipal parking lot on 41st Avenue could greatly alleviate parking concerns and ensure continued success for the businesses that call Bell Boulevard home. This study is a step in that direction.”

A representative of the BID said the feasibility study will identify and estimate costs to expand the lot, examine financial impacts on the neighborhood, analyze the supply and demand for spaces, and determine possible mixed-use options for the new structure. The lot may expand up, but representatives aren’t sure how many levels at this moment.

Currently, the parking lot has dozens of spaces, but residents and business owners say it’s usually filled.

“You can’t find a [parking spot] there on nights and on weekends,” said John Bonavita, co-owner of Fiamma 41, a restaurant that opened eight months ago on 41st Avenue between Bell Boulevard and 214th Place. Bonavita said that the restaurant added valet parking on weekends specifically to counter complaints about the lack of parking.

“The fact that they would add parking would be a plus for the boulevard,” he said. “I lose a lot of business because people say they can’t find parking.”

 

 

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Authorities and Hamilton Beach residents use trucks to fight trucks


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Roger Gendron

Police towed three trucks and one school bus illegally parked in Hamilton Beach on Monday and Tuesday in a new effort to stop an old problem, according to authorities.

“It’s an out of the way location, a hidden spot where they think they’re safe parking overnight,” Deputy Inspector Jeffrey Schiff of the 106th Precinct said. “It’s a quality of life issue for the locals.”

The police have also issued summonses for unregistered cars parked in the small neighborhood that is already ailed with other transportation issues like small, narrow two-way roads and potholes. Residents and police are hoping that this will be enough to put an end to a problem that has been going on for several years, according to Schiff.

While Hamilton Beach may seem like a good hiding place for truck and car owners illegally parked in the area, Schiff is paying close attention to residents’ complaints and plans on towing more trucks in the near future. But part of the problem of towing such large vehicles is that special, heavy-duty tow trucks are needed and the NYPD has a limited amount of these tow trucks.

“There are 76 commands in New York City that want the same thing done,” Schiff said. “So it’s a logistical thing. This wouldn’t be a problem if you could use regular tow trucks.”

 

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Precinct helps ease parking problem outside Fresh Meadows school


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Police have stepped in to ease a daily parking problem outside a Fresh Meadows school that has frustrated parents and put students at risk for at least a year.

Parents dropping off their kids at P.S. 173 have been double parking and blocking the school bus stop during the morning rush about 8 a.m., residents said.

“Sometimes they’ll let the kids out in the middle of the street and have the kids run across to get into school,” said Jim Gallagher Jr., president of the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association.

At times, students are also left stranded in the middle of the road until traffic clears, said former PTA President Alan Ong.

The “No Standing” street on 67th Avenue gets backed up with at least 15 cars at a time, according to Gallagher.

Short-tempered parents have cursed and threatened volunteer parents who try to move traffic along, residents said.

“It’s a dangerous situation,” said John Callari, a nearby resident. “I almost got run over one morning when my wife and I were taking our grandchildren to school.”

Two traffic safety cops at the 107th Precinct have been easing congestion at the school for about half an hour every day, for the last two weeks.

They will continue “as long as resources are there,” a community affairs officer at the precinct said.

Summonses have been issued to illegally parked drivers in the past, but the precinct wants their main goal to be making sure parents understand the danger.

“We’re trying to work with everybody to educate motorists,” the officer said. “Keeping the kids safe is always the priority.”

The school has more than 900 students, from kindergarten through fifth grade, said Ong, who is now a member of Community District Education Council 26.

The Department of Education did not comment.

“Many other schools in the city are experiencing the same problem,” Ong said. “We need to somehow, someway bring awareness to parents. The last thing we want is an accident.”

 

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Scobee Diner site plans move forward


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The city’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) has approved a variance that would pave the way for a new building at the former Scobee Diner site in Little Neck. 

The variance gives new owner Lion Bee Equities permission to move the vacant restaurant’s parking lot to the back of the property, converting some spaces in a residential zone to commercial spots.

Lion Bee Equities officials say the move, adopted Dec. 10 by the BSA , will improve safety and decrease traffic near the 252-29 Northern Blvd. site. It was given the green light last summer by Community Board 11 and then-Queens Borough President Helen Marshall.

Larger plans for the Great Neck-based company include demolishing the diner and transforming the site into a two-story mixed commercial and community facility with a CitiBank on the first floor and a dentist’s office on the second.

The CitiBank would include a drive-thru ATM with a Little Neck Parkway entrance. There will be 17 parking spaces in the new lot, including one handicapped space.

Scobee closed in 2010, when restaurant owners failed to reach agreement on purchasing the property from the landowners.

The plans will now go to the city’s Department of Buildings for review.

The department recently approved permits for E. Gluck Corp., a Long Island City-based watch manufacturer, to move into the long vacant site of the former Leviton building along Little Neck Parkway, according to Community Board 11.

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Unhappy Housing Authority residents offered payment plan for new parking spots


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Rory Lancman

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is offering an installment plan to ease parking rate hikes on burdened drivers.

“Increases are a way of life, but if it’s falling on the residents, at least give us ample time to prepare for this increase,” said Craig Kinsey, president of the James A. Bland Resident Association. “Not to give these residents enough time to pay—it was totally unheard of, insensitive and immoral.”

NYCHA increased parking costs this year for residents paying for unreserved spaces. Costs went up to $265 for most drivers, $212 for seniors and a whopping $500 for on-site employees.

NYCHA spokesperson Zodet Negrón the agency is getting rid of unreserved parking lots and changing them to reserved ones starting May 1.

She said the shift, which will designate a specific spot for each driver, will improve safety and make enforcement easier.

Conversion plans were released last December, with notifications reaching residents in March and April, according to the agency. But residents in the borough’s two NYCHA houses said authorities did not give them enough time to make payments.

“My son is going to college. I’m paying deposit fees for tuition, deposit fees for room and board,” said Monica Corbett, president of the Pomonok Residents Association. “I’d be stuck if I had to choose between my son’s education and parking fees. I’d be parking on the street.”

Drivers in 43 developments throughout the city now have the option to pay in four installments instead of in full.

The first payment is due April 30.

The installment plan is only available this year for residents who have not yet paid the lump sum.

“It’s better than paying all at once,” Corbett said. “It’s a new avenue for the Housing Authority. But sometimes when you don’t include the major stakeholders, things get lost in translation.”

NYCHA began a new partnership with Greystone Parking Services in March. The payment plan was offered “in response to concerns expressed by many residents,” a spokesperson said.

Kinsey lambasted the agency, saying NYCHA should have included residents in earlier discussions.

“You put a band aid on the wound, but the wound is there,” he said. “We’re working check by check like every other individual who is two checks away from being homeless. These are not objects. These are people that you’re dealing with.”

 

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Flushing Commons finally moves forward


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of New York City Economic Development Corporation

The long-delayed Flushing Commons project is finally starting this fall, with accommodations for parking and small business, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) has announced.

The $850 million project, a decade in the making, got the green light Tuesday, March 12, and construction is planned to start later this year. The two-phase project will include more than 600 residential units, 500,000 square feet of commercial space and one of the largest YMCAs in the country.

“The new plan, which will maintain all existing parking spaces during construction, is the culmination of years of work to address community concerns,” said NYCEDC President Seth Pinsky. “We now look forward to the start of this critical project that will create thousands of jobs and a major mixed-used destination, complete with open space and a brand-new YMCA.”

More than 2,600 construction jobs and 1,900 permanent jobs are projected to come from this project.

A deal between the city and developers, The Rockefeller Group and Flushing-based TDC Development and Construction Corporation, is expected to be inked sometime this summer, according to the NYCEDC.

When the project is complete, there will be a total of 1,600 parking spaces, a 500-slot increase from what is currently there.

To ease parking problems and not disturb business, the project was split into two phases beginning first with the south side.

The 62,000-square-foot YMCA, with two pools, a full-size gym and an indoor running track, will headline the first phase of the project. Other components include 160 units of housing, 350,000 square feet of commercial space and a 1.5 acre space with a fountain plaza and amphitheater.

Phase 2 will have an additional 450 housing units, another 150,000 square feet of commercial space and 15,000 square feet of community space.

Borough President Helen Marshall said the phase split “also addresses the need for adequate parking during construction.”

Surrounding small businesses that could be affected by construction might be eligible for EDC’s business interruption program. The program, with $2.25 million set aside, can help eligible business owners with outreach and other means.

 

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LIC residents blame parking problems on Manhattanites


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Long Island City dwellers have circled the block for the last time.

Residents of the rapidly-developing district, sick of searching for scarce parking, blame Manhattanites for using the neighborhood with lax street-side laws as their personal parking lot.

“It’s a convenient place for those living or working in Manhattan to leave their cars for the day or weeks,” said Peter Johnson, a Long Island City resident who claimed the problem has persisted for years.

One Manhattanite who works for Citicorp left her car parked at the edge of Johnson’s house for several months. She told him she occasionally stopped by during her lunch break just to turn the car on to recharge the battery.

“[She had] no qualms about taking the parking that should be for residents,” said Johnson.

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), street storage of vehicles is prohibited. On streets that are without regulations for alternate-side parking, including residential neighborhoods, cars are not allowed to remain in the same spot for seven consecutive days.

Johnson suggested resident parking stickers as a possible fix to the parking problem. The DOT said residential permits are not under consideration as the agency does not have the authority or funding to implement a system.

“We do know that people are leaving their cars on the streets for long period of time,” said Community Board 2 Chair Joe Conley.

In May of 2012, board members conducted an impromptu experiment, scrawling dates and times on cars in dust along 47th Avenue and 48th Avenue to track their movement. Cars didn’t move for several weeks.

As part of a separate cleanliness initiative, Community Board 2 reached out to the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) in hopes of bringing street cleaning to the neighborhood. Conley believes the parking regulations necessary for street cleaning will alleviate some traffic tension.

“Throughout the rest of the district we have alternate side parking so cars have to move,” said Conley. “In Hunters Point we don’t have restrictions so cars can stay there forever.”

Conley also believes the area’s booming population and residential upswing has attributed to parking woes. The formerly industrial neighborhood, which mainly saw circulation increase during week days, is now subject to seven straight days of traffic. Conley added that while LIC has always suffered from a serious parking shortage, turnover of parking is essential to residents and businesses in the neighborhood.

 

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Parkland at center of MLS stadium project


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

DSC_0985w

Major League Soccer (MLS) officials presented plans for a 25,000-seat stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park to the Queens Borough Board on Monday, December 3.

But while the league promised the board that soccer would be a good neighbor to the community, questions arose regarding parking, access, replacement of the 10 to 13 acres of parkland that would be eaten up by the stadium.

Professional soccer could kick off as soon as 2016, should the project be approved, said MLS President Mark Abbott. He acknowledged this was a lofty but plausible goal for the league.

Abbott assured the board that seven of the nine existing recreational soccer fields would be completely refurbished before the first shovel breaks ground at the stadium site at what is now the Fountain of Planets. By making the borough’s largest park its home, Abbott said MLS is committed to investing in the park and “making it better for the people who use [it].”

“The idea is, we’re coming here to be a partner with the park.”

Roughly 20 to 25 games would be played at the stadium per season, Abbott said, which includes an average of 17 regular season home games. Although the stadium would be within earshot of Citi Field and the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the league plans not to host any games when the Mets are playing, or during the two weeks of the U.S. Open, alleviating congestion.

Regardless, many are concerned that parking for games will spill into the neighboring community and disturb residents’ day-to-day life.

League officials are currently working with the Mets to reach an agreement to use their parking facilities — mainly the lot that used to be Shea Stadium — but do not have a time frame for when executives will sit down with Mets management, Abbott said.

But one of the biggest concerns was where the parkland would be replaced.

Abbott, fielding questions from board members and councilmembers, said MLS will not pick a site for the lost acres without getting full community feedback from the surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’ve started to look at some sites, but that’s something we need the community’s input on,” Abbott said.

The league has set up several town hall meetings in or around the park to hear the community’s thoughts of where they would like to see new greenspace.

Councilmembers Peter Vallone and Mark Weprin agreed that before any official stance could be taken on the proposal, a dedicated, well-researched site for the new land has to be chosen.

“I don’t think we can responsibly take a position until we know all the details,” Vallone said. “Especially regarding what parkland would replace the park. This has to be parkland that effectively replaces and is as usable as this parkland is.”

Weprin said he was currently open minded to the idea, but many of the concerns first had to be addressed before any decision could be made.

“I think it could be great for economic development in the area,” he said. “But there are a lot of concerns that I would like to see addressed before we approve it. To reject it out right would be a mistake.”

Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, however, hopes Queens residents will oppose the project, saying that any replaced land would never be the same as that lost to the project.

“These things are never of equal value, and never of equal usefulness,” he said. “And the community always gets ripped off.”