Stores That Cater to Cabbies Bitter About New Bike Lanes
By Patrick Hedlund
DNAinfo News Editor
EAST VILLAGE — The homemade chicken curry and vegetable samosas at Little Pakistan Deli on Second Avenue are not selling like they used to — and store manager Tariq Ahmad thinks he knows why.
Standing behind a bevy of South Asian delights at his diminutive shop near 12th Street, Ahmad estimates he's lost about three-quarters of his customers since the installation of new curbside bike lanes along the heavily trafficked block.
“I don’t think we can survive,” said Ahmad, who has worked at the store for 20 years, adding that his cab-driving customers can no longer drop in for a quick meal due to a loss of parking on the street.
"They find somewhere else to go."
While the new lanes on First and Second avenues are a boon to local bicyclists, they are bleeding business from ethnic eateries that used to rely on a steady stream of taxi drivers parking curbside to stop in for food or to use the bathroom.
Other South Asian eateries in the neighborhood also complained of a drop-off in business because of the new lanes, which have eliminated dozens of parking spots on the busy strips since they were unveiled this summer.
The bike lanes, which are separated from traffic by rows of parking, have reduced the total number of parking spots due to the reconfiguration of vehicle turning lanes at each intersection.
Employees at the Pak Punjab Deli and Grocery at the corner of Second Avenue and East Third Street said the store has lost half its business due to the new parking regulations, which brought the total number of spots on the east side of street down from about eight to three.
“These businesses lose — [with] no parking, no customers come in,” said a man working the counter Monday morning at the deli, which has served up traditional Indian and Pakistani food for the past dozen-or-so years. “It creates a lot of trouble.”
The cabdrivers lucky enough to snag a parking spot near the deli also grumbled about the street redesign, saying it reminds them of how traffic moves in small villages but not a city like New York.
Ahmad noted that 90 percent of his shop's patrons are cabbies, mostly from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.
“I’d like to complain, but I don’t know where to go,” he said, noting that some loyal customers park their cabs on Third Avenue and walk over to get food.
A Department of Transportation spokesman said that the city has been working to accommodate local merchants affected by the bike lanes. He added that the DOT reached out to all the businesses on First and Second Avenues where the lanes were installed to inform them of the new regulations.
Other merchants that rely on taxi traffic said that despite the negative impact on business, the city is safer overall with the new bike lanes.
“I don’t have any problems. The city is better,” said Gary Patel, owner of the Hetal Convenience Store on First Avenue near East Seventh Street, noting he's fine with the fact that he has lost about 10 cabdriver patrons a day due to the new lanes.
“Customers are still coming.”