2005-12-23 / Front Page

Parking Nightmares Continue On Beach 116 Street

By Tori Toth

The bottom sign on the pole says “No Parking,” 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, but it was being ignored when a Wave photographer took this shot Thursday afternoon. The bottom sign on the pole says “No Parking,” 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, but it was being ignored when a Wave photographer took this shot Thursday afternoon.

The new parking layout on Beach 116 Street is causing some major growing pains for visitors and business owners who say the changes are making it hard to do business on the street.

Owners say they’ve been feeling the brunt of the parallel parking project since it began in September.

Now that the “Zig-Zag” center median is gone and the street is in a transition phase, owners believe the lack of customers stems from parking regulations not being in place.

“People are parking here [for long periods] because they can,” said Paul Mastros, owner of the independent athletic wear store Mocean.

Commuters, construction workers, and surrounding residents are being blamed by owners for using the street as a long-term parking lot.

“The construction and street closures killed our whole fall season,” said Mastros.

Vehicles have trouble maneuvering around a FedEx truck that’s double-parked on Beach 116 Street.
Vehicles have trouble maneuvering around a FedEx truck that’s double-parked on Beach 116 Street. Mastros, along with other owners, added the holiday season hasn’t been any better. “Christmas is finished for us,” said Charlotte, the owner of the Shaggy Dog. Her holiday stock still sits on the store’s shelves.

She’s not the only one to be hit by this financial burden though. Mastros said his October-December revenues are down as much as 60 percent. “This time of year is when nearly two-thirds of my gross revenue is generated,” he added.

Some business owners on Beach 116 Street have had to cut corners to make ends meet, including laying-off seasonal help, reducing their stock and holding off on paying bills.

Many believe one part of the problem is that there is no place for customers to park on the street.

“My groomer has been circling [the] block for 10 minutes,” said Charlotte.

A Wave reporter had to circle the block twice before finding a spot to park and interview storeowners.

“It’s not that people from the community aren’t willing, they’re not able to come to 116 Street,” said Mastros’ wife, Cristine. Many owners feel that if it weren’t for foot traffic – which was reduced by this week’s transit strike – there would be no one in their stores besides employees.

Owners are urging customers to use the municipal lot where drivers can find a spot anytime day or night, rather than give up and shop elsewhere.

A parking update previously released by the Rockaway Chamber of Commerce said muni-meters were slated for installation – on the median and sidewalks – by mid-December. Joanie Omeste, the Chamber’s Executive Director, told The Wave this week that meters are coming soon, perhaps next week.

Omeste, who has kept close contact with DOT, explained part of the hold up is due to DOT resources being directed to help New Yorker’s deal with the transit strike.

“The meters are scheduled to be completed by next week depending on the weather,” a DOT spokesperson confirmed.

Owners have also found it difficult to load and unload their delivery trucks because loading zones have not been properly marked yet.

Surf Shop owner Tom Sena told The Wave he usually reserves a space on the street for his deliveries by parking a car in the spot the night before.

On Tuesday, the DOT installed signage at the designated loading zone spots however, the areas are marked with “No Parking” signs with the plan to replace them with “Loading Zone” signs soon. At press time the signs had not been changed.

Commercial vehicles are being permitted to park in the “No Parking” area as long as they’re loading and unloading between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. All other vehicles parked there will be subject to ticketing.

“People need to be aware that they cannot park in those zones [during certain hours] now,” explained Omeste.

In the meantime, some owners say they’ve had no other choice but to block traffic during deliveries. “We have a problem loading and unloading things,” said Jerry Ortiz, owner of Dragons Den, “my driver is double-parked right now.”

Omeste said the reconfiguration is a confusing and difficult time but “merchants need to be considerate of other merchants on the block and not park all day.”

Adding to the confusion is that while the project had been underway for weeks, old “No Parking” signs posted along the curb in front of the Baskin Robbins/Dunkin’ Donuts remained. Motorists parked there since it is allowed under the new scheme and received tickets from Traffic Enforcement agents.

Some owners are also concerned with pedestrian safety. “It’s very inconvenient for parents to park and get their kids out of the car and into school safely,” said Patricia, the owner of the Tutorial School. She feels the “Zig-Zag” median protected children from traffic while getting out of their cars. Now, she said, “kids get out of the car and walk into oncoming traffic.”

The DOT said the new design maintains safety. The median prevents drivers from making haphazard U-turns while giving pedestrians a walkway and safe zone in the middle of the street.

The DOT is not only reassuring residents that the parallel parking project is safe but that it also provides more space.

“Prior parking spaces allotted for 102 vehicles, the new layout provides approximately 136 spots—excluding loading zones,” said the DOT spokesman. The actual number of spots depends on what type of vehicles park there.

Like it or not, Wave internet subscribers can sound off on the Beach 116 Street parking in next week’s Wave by adding a comment to this story on our website, www.rockawave.com

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