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Kew Gardens is a Parking Nightmare After Garage Closure, Residents Say

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | October 7, 2014 6:08pm
 Locals claim the recent closure of a municipal garage in the neighborhood worsened the situation.
Kew Gardens Business Owners Say Parking Shortage Affects Their Stores
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QUEENS — Kew Gardens business owners are pushing the city and elected officials to help them with the growing parking problem in the neighborhood, which they say significantly hampers their businesses.

Residents and officials blame the issue on a host of factors, including second driveways, Long Island Rail Road commuters and longer bus stops to accommodate articulated buses.

The quiet Central Queens neighborhood, known for its charming leafy streets, has been struggling with the shortage of available parking spaces for years.

But the problem got worse recently after the city closed a decrepit 500-spot municipal garage that served nearby Queens Borough Hall and Queens Criminal Court.

“This is terrible,” said Grace Anker of local ceramics studio The Potter’s Wheel, on 83rd Avenue, one of the business owners who started the petition last week. “They are killing us.”

The shortage, locals said, affects numerous businesses, including restaurants, a movie theater, stores and beauty salons, because people who cannot find a place to park get frustrated and leave, they said.

“If it takes you 20 minutes to look for a parking space, you are going to give up,” said Gigi Pierre, a real estate agent at Prime Realty.

Pierre said that there are currently more than a dozen vacant storefronts in the area and blamed lack of parking for it.

"Businesses need more customers than just local residents to survive," she said.

The shortage of parking has also been caused by numerous commuters, who leave their cars in the area "for 10 or more hours ... just so they can take the Long Island Rail Road ot MTA subway," which stop in the neighborhood, business owners wrote in the petition, which they intend to send to several city agencies and elected officials.

A number of homeowners in the area have also added second driveways to their properties, taking away sorely needed spaces. It was not immediately clear whether the homeowners had done so legally.

"In most cases, two driveways are not permitted but there are circumstances when they are allowed, depending on the type of building, zoning district and size of the lot," said Peter Schottenfels, a spokesman for the Department of City Planning, which oversees the zoning that would permit driveways.

The neighborhood also lost several parking spots last year, when the MTA made adjustments at local bus stops before introducing longer, articulated buses on the Q10 line, which runs from Kew Gardens to JFK Airport.

“Eventually all that starts to affect your business,” Anker said.

The garage closure made the situation even more frustrating, locals said.

“Now, early in the morning there is a gridlock along some of the streets where cars are looking for spaces and are hovering around, waiting for somebody to pull out," said Murray Berger of the Kew Gardens Civic Association.

The MTA admitted that several spaces were removed as a result.

In their petition, local business owners are asking the city to look into ways to alleviate the problem, for example by adding metered parking or changing regulations in the area.

A spokesman for the Department of Transportation said in an email that drivers are allowed to park on the streets regardless of where they live as long as they obey parking regulations.

The spokesman also said that before the closing of the municipal garage, the agency checked private parking lots in the area and found that they can accommodate the volume of cars which previously parked in the garage.

The DOT, the spokesman said, will continue to monitor the area "to see what other adjustments can be made."