HUNTERS POINT — Give 'em a brake.
A newly enforced parking regulation in Long Island City has claimed nearly a block of precious parking spaces for government employees, drawing the ire of residents in the parking-starved neighborhood.
Several neighbors said they parked in their usual spots on 47th Road off Jackson Avenue on a Sunday night two weeks ago, only to wake up Monday morning to find $100 parking tickets on their windshields.
A new sign had gone up, apparently overnight, designating a stretch of the street for authorized "New York State vehicles" only from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays — taking away approximately seven or eight parking spaces in the rapidly growing neighborhood, residents said.
"All of a sudden, everyone got tickets on the block," said Maria DeTommisso, 62, who said parking in the neighborhood has become increasingly problematic in the 20 years she's lived there, as more people moved to the neighborhood and as more public parking spaces have been taken away.
But on a recent weekday, cars marked with placards from both agencies were parked on 47th Road, in the spaces where DeTommisso said she used to leave her car.
"They keep stealing all the parking," she said, adding that she's collecting signatures from neighbors to try and get the new sign removed. "It's so unfair."
A spokesman for the city's Department of Transportation said the new sign that went up this month was actually to replace one that had been knocked down previously, and that the authorized vehicles-only regulation has been in place on that block since the 1980s.
The spokesman also said that the DOT works with the NYPD to place stickers on new parking signs, indicating the date the sign was installed, and that "enforcement agents are instructed to note these stickers and use their discretion for the five day period after installation."
But residents say they've been parking on the street without restrictions for years, until the most recent sign was installed — and that they were ticketed the very next day.
"It infuriates me," said Tobi Kahn, 60, an artist who's had his studio on 47th Road since the late 1970s.
He says he often drives around for more than an hour looking for parking, or gets to his studio two hours before the workday to temporarily park in a metered spot while he waits for a public space to open up.
"I find it morally bankrupt that people who live on this block can't park on this block because of government parking," he said.
He and other residents said state employees already have plenty of designated spots nearby, including a stretch of 47th Road a block away, between Jackson Avenue and 21st Street, that's also set aside only for authorized cars.
"It's an abuse of power," said Nick Vaglica, who works in an insurance office on Jackson Avenue. He said he often sees government vehicles parked in the neighborhood's few public spaces while their authorized-only spots sit empty.
"The few spots we do have, you see the DOT cars, every day," he said. "They park wherever is convenient for them."
Neighbors who were ticketed after the new sign went up two weeks ago are trying to fight their fines, and have enlisted the help of local City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.
He is also pushing to pass a bill in the council that would require the DOT to give residents 72 hours notice before putting up new parking signs.
"If you are going to change the parking regulations you should tell people, you should give them advanced notice," Van Bramer said.
"It's a pretty simple issue of fairness to me."