KEW GARDENS — On a recent Monday morning, John Todras was walking with his girlfriend to their car on Beverly Road when a sense of dread set in.
Unlike when the couple parked there the previous Friday, the usually quiet block was now being unearthed by bulldozers. Also new was an orange envelope on the windshield of their white Ford Festiva.
"What the hell is this?" Todras recalled thinking when he picked up the $60 ticket. "There was no warning. We were like, 'What's going on here?' It wasn't surprise. It was shock."
Todras had become the latest victim of confusion regarding city projects to repair water mains in Kew Gardens. As city-contracted crews continue months of fixing decades-old pipes in the quaint neighborhood, drivers are blasting the system by which the Department of Design and Construction tells them to move their cars out of the way.
Both residents and the city generally agree that signs asking drivers to move their cars go up before the water main excavations. What's largely at question is whether the signs are posted with enough advance notice.
Craig Chin, a DDC spokesman, said that the city puts up paper signs at least a few days and often as long as a week before excavations. The day work begins, Chin said, metal signs are posted that warn "no parking" due to temporary construction.
Chin said only four cars have been ticketed in Kew Gardens during the ongoing water main repairs, which began early last fall. He said no cars are ticketed due to the paper signs, but only once the metal ones go up.
Chin added the city towed "a few" cars to nearby blocks unaffected by the water main projects, but he said they were careful to leave notes for drivers directing them to where those cars were moved. He said the city had not received any complaints about the towed cars.
But Todras insists there were no signs up when the couple parked the car on Friday afternoon, nor when his girlfriend returned that night to retrieve something. He suspects that one may have gone up early Monday morning around the corner from where he was parked, since his ticket was issued at about 6:30 a.m.
It's unclear how many drivers have been ticketed in the wake of the water main projects.
The NYPD, which issues parking tickets, did not return a message seeking comment. The Finance Department, which collects the fines associated with the tickets, said a breakdown of tickets issued in Kew Gardens was not available.
But Sylvia Hack, president of the Kew Gardens Improvement Association, said she had heard from many residents who complained about tickets due to the lack of sufficient notice to move cars.
Another civic leader, Dominick Pistone, president of the Kew Gardens Civic Association, said the DDC had also posted signs with inaccurate construction dates.
Kew Gardens residents originally took the signs at face value and moved their cars on days the signs indicated excavation would occur, Pistone said. But then locals noticed DDC was not always there on the days it said it would be. Drivers figured the project on their block was indefinitely postponed and began parking there again, he said. That's when he says they were slapped with tickets.
A spokesman for City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz said she had received complaints about the ticketing and towing. But he said Koslowitz has decided not to criticize the DDC but instead resolve the dearth of parking caused by projects involving water mains and gas, cable and telephone lines.
Koslowitz plans to ask the city to suspend alternate side parking on Lefferts Boulevard and Beverly Road on the days when other parking spaces are already lost to the excavations. She said in a statement that suspending alternate side would "provide some common sense relief to residents."
The Transportation Department did not return messages inquiring whether it would suspend alternate side parking as Koslowitz has asked.
The issue may be resolved before any new parking policies are enacted. DDC said it has completed more than half the project already, and residents said they were told the work will be finished by summer.