2008-04-25 / Front Page

'No Parking' A Sign of BC Problems

By Nicholas Briano

The Department of Transportation has begun placing "No Parking Any Time" signs along many of the streets west of Cross Bay Boulevard as part of a plan to restrict parking on the "substandard width streets" in the island community, sparking widespread anger on the part of its residents.

"No Parking Anytime" signs like this one on a west side street in Broad Channel will leave many residents scrambling around Broad Channel for new parking spaces. "No Parking Anytime" signs like this one on a west side street in Broad Channel will leave many residents scrambling around Broad Channel for new parking spaces. This is the second time in the past few years that the DOT placed the signs in Broad Channel in an attempt to satisfy a 30-year-old law that mandates the signs because the streets are too narrow, a DOT official told The Wave. Last time, however, the signs mysteriously disappeared a day or two after they were erected and the city agency never replaced them, several locals said. That allowed motorists to park along their narrow streets.

Now, however, a spokesperson for the DOT told The Wave this week that the signs are a response to several calls to 311 that complained of double parking and an inability to get through the streets.

Residents argue, on the other hand, that they have no place else to park but on the narrow streets in front of their homes.

Many of the homes are small, without either driveways or garages. The nearest parking is on Cross Bay Boulevard, but that boulevard is filled with the parked vehicles of people who live on the busy thoroughfare. There is no parking allowed along the boulevard's central mall.

The residents point out that there are no other parking facilities in the town and some say, perhaps facetiously, that they would have to park either in Rockaway or in Howard Beach should the signs stay in place.

Local politicians are joining with residents to overturn the three-decade-old law that mandates no parking on substandard width streets, but officials say there is little chance that will happen, because emergency vehicles cannot get to a fire or emergency medical situation should people be parked along the street.

According to Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska, the board and a number of local politicians, including Congressman Anthony Weiner, Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, and Councilman Joseph Addabbo, Jr. have sent letters to DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Maura McCarthy in an attempt to have DOT reconsider its decision, since few accidents or emergency problems have been documented while cars have been parked on the streets in question.

Gaska, however, understands that DOT reserves the right to enforce and put up the signs that lawfully belong there.

"There are regulations on the books for those signs," Gaska said. "DOT has told us that the signs must go up because the streets are of substandard width."

Craig Chin, a spokesperson for DOT, also says that the signs must be kept on Broad Channel streets because it is in accordance with city regulations to do so.

"The signs were put up because the regulations have been in effect for years," Chin said. "The streets are too narrow, and emergency vehicles and cars must be able to pass through."

Chin added that there is no standard width for streets, but that DOT engineers looked at the streets and decided that they were too narrow for standard emergency vehicles to drive down and turn to around if there were cars parked at the curb.

"It's an issue of public safety," he said. "We would need the fire department to certify that the streets were wide enough for engines to turn around before we could make any changes."

Councilman Joseph Addabbo, Jr. says he received a large number of calls to both his Rockaway and Howard Beach offices when people began to notice the signs being installed.

"I am asking DOT and the commissioner to reexamine the situation, because Broad Channel is limited geographically in where residents can park their cars. There may not be a need to have these signs placed along Cross Bay Boulevard." Addabbo said.

"We never had any problems in the past when the signs weren't there," he continued. "Emergency vehicles always got through, so therefore, if it is not broke, don't fix it."

The Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department (BCVFD), which is generally the first responder agency in Broad Channel, doesn't think that cars parking on its narrow streets create a problem for its members.

We have no problems with our emergency vehicles [getting through the streets]," Eddie O'Hare, the president of the BCVFD and Broad Channel resident, said. "[The problem is], there is not enough parking for all the cars."

O'Hare has his own ideas on why the the parking regulation should be modified for Broad Channel.

"Years ago when the law was written, Broad Channel was mainly a summer community. Now people live here all year round," he says. "There were simply less houses and less cars thirty years ago. They are going to have to change this because, where are we supposed to park our cars?"

Even though many residents are upset about the regulations, DOT says it was calls to 311 about the issue that raised their awareness of this situation and prompted them to come out to Broad Channel to reinstate the no parking regulations.

"As long as someone is complaining about it, they will keep coming back to put the signs up," Gaska said.

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