Cabbies Flouting Parking Rules for Mosque Prayer Services, Locals Say

By Serena Solomon on March 21, 2013 9:34am 

EAST VILLAGE — A popular mosque and Islamic community center is drawing a steady stream of cabs that clog streets and flout parking rules so their drivers can attend prayer services, according to local business owners and residents.

The numerous services each day at the Madina Masjid mosque and Islamic Center of America at the corner of East 11th Street and First Avenue is disrupting area business, with mostly cabbies filling metered spaces and parking in front of fire hydrants, in truck loading zones and in bus lanes, locals said.

Though parking for prayer services has been an issue since the religious institution first opened in 1979, tenants noted, mosque members said that they still haven't been allocated official parking on the street or avenue, and remind members to follow street rules.

"They can be triple-parked," said John De Robertis, 34, who is a fourth-generation baker at De Robertis Pasticceria, a 108-year-old East Village bakery.

Not only do the lines of cabs along First Avenue, where the bakery is located, keep customers from parking, he said his own car often gets blocked in.

"If you get stuck, you have to wait 20 to 30 minutes until they finish praying," said De Robertis, who has learned to plan his deliveries of baking supplies around the mosque's five daily services.

Carlo Giurdanella, the third-generation owner of Bella Tiles Company, said cabs have been filling his curbside truck loading zone on East 11th Street and parking in his driveway for years.

"It really is an outrageous situation," he said, adding that his company constantly receives deliveries and has four vehicles that need to travel in and out of the parking lot behind his First Avenue storefront.

Giurdanella was successful in securing a truck-loading zone totaling about four car spaces at his business, but he claims mosque members constantly clog the area and that the NYPD does not enforce the rules by issuing tickets.

Det. Jaime Hernandez, community affairs officer for the Ninth Precinct, said a parking plan is being developed but declined to offer additional details.

In some cases, the parking situation has even turned violent, one merchant claimed. Giurdanella acknowledged he is fighting a pending assault charge from June 2012 for allegedly pushing a doubling-parked cabdriver to the ground when an argument between the two escalated. Giurdanella claims he was attacked and had to defend himself.

His next court appearance is scheduled for April 15.

"The worst is Friday, from 1 to 2 in the afternoon," he said. "That is their holy day, their day of service."

Giurdanella said even wrote to top officials in Washington, D.C., including then-President President George W. Bush and then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, detailing the parking issues.

Daniel Nauke, a founding member of the First Avenue and East 11th Street Block Association, questioned why parking has not been allocated specifically for the mosque.

"A holistic plan must be arrived at that serves the entire community on this block, not just one or another interest group on the block,"  said Nauke, an artist who has lived on East 11th Street for 33 years.

He said parking on the block is further complicated by a nearby school and two churches with parking in area. One church, Mary Help of Christians, recently closed but still has signs reserving a handful of parking spaces, Nauke said.

"The DOT [Department of Transportation] has not kept up with how the block has changed," he added, suggesting a "taxis only" zone be established in front of the mosque.

Hafiz Chowdhury, a mosque member, said Madina's imam, Abu Safian, constantly reminds the 300 daily attendees to avoid double-parking.

"We make a notice, 'Do not block the driveway,'" said Chowdhury, specifically referring to Bella Tiles' parking area.

The mosque has five services each day — at 6 a.m. 1:30 p.m., 5:45 p.m., sunset and 9 p.m. — according to Chowdhury. Memebrs prefer to pray at the mosque, because "if you pray together and with the imam, there is more blessing," he said. 

He said the tile company does not need all the spots it has reserved, nor does it use the area until 7 p.m. as the parking sign states.

"They also have their own garage. I don't know how they got all that space," Chowdhury said. "There is too much space for the trucks."

A spokesman for the city's Department of Transportation said the agency is reviewing the issues.

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