By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — A Columbus Avenue business owner has racked up close to $350 in tickets for parking his vehicle legally — that's right, legally — on his block, he says.
Nick Bazas, owner of Quality Florist on Columbus between West 81st and 82nd streets, said he's been slapped with five $65 tickets over the past few months for "failure to display muni receipt" on his windshield.
Only trouble is, there are no muni meters on the east side of Columbus Avenue between West 81st and 82nd streets, where Bazas was parked. The street is a commercial parking zone with signs for no standing except trucks loading and unloading.
"Do you see a muni meter?" asked a frustrated Bazas, standing on the block where he's been written up repeatedly by meter maids.
Bazas isn't the only one who's been subject to the bizarre ticketing blitz.
Maureen Brummell, a manager at Manhattan Mailroom, a copy shop and post office box store on Columbus between 81st and 82nd streets, said she watches meter maids hand out the tickets every day.
"There's no meter there, so I don't know where they want you to put the money in," Brummell said.
Driver Daniel Qiu sat in his van on Monday, puzzling over why his commercial van got a $65 ticket for failing to display a muni meter receipt.
"There's no meter around to feed," Qiu said.
The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment about why drivers are getting muni meter tickets on a block that doesn't have a muni meter.
The ticket trouble started after Columbus Avenue was redesigned to make way for a new bike lane on the east side of the street between West 96th and 77th streets. Muni meters were installed in place of the old single-feed meters on most blocks except on the east side of Columbus Ave. between 81st and 82nd streets.
The phantom muni meter isn't the only recent change on Columbus Avenue that has locals grumbling. DOT also removed 67 parking spots along the avenue, which merchants say has hurt their business.
Anban Sangarappilai, a salesman at Rose Wine & Liquor, said his store was missing four or five items from its shelves because a delivery truck couldn't find parking last week. Schweitzer Linens, Ellen's Couture, Park West Pharmacy and Maxilla & Mandible all made similar complaints.
But the situation could improve soon.
Business owners recently teamed with local officials including Community Board 7, City Councilwoman Gale Brewer and Borough President Scott Stringer, and gave the DOT a list of recommendations on how to improve the redesigned avenue.
Among the suggestions was a request to restore some lost parking spots and fix confusing signs that leave drivers guessing about where it's legal to park.
In response, DOT "went block by block" and took photos of parking signs to identify which ones were misleading, said Community Board 7 chairman Mel Wymore.
A DOT spokesman said the agency will remove some signs in response to community concerns, and Wymore said the area is "happy with the response."
But Wymore noted that the block where Quality Florist is will have to wait a little longer for a fix to its parking problems.
DOT recently installed a lefthand turn lane on Columbus and West 81st Street, and the agency won't consider changing the number of parking spots on the block until it collects data about traffic flow in the turn lane, Wymore said.