Court Square Wants Its Parking Back

Residents and business owners around Court Square in Long Island City joined city Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) outside of a five-story parking facility last week, to call on the city Department of Transportation to restore 190 public parking permits that were withdrawn by the agency in April.

“The city has to have sensible parking,” Van Bramer said on June 12. “But the Department of Transportation, a few months ago and without consultation, changed the rules.”

Van Bramer said that in addition to reducing the number of monthly permits, the DOT imposed a new policy to distribute 210 permits on a first come, first serve basis. But because the permits must be renewed monthly, the policy has created a “Hunger Games” like situation, leaving people to fight in line to renew their existing permits.

“I am calling on [the DOT] to rescind both of these policies which are not helping anyone in Long Island City,” Van Bramer said.

Jane Esposito, of the Trane Company, an air conditioning manufacturer which relocated to Long Island City in 1999, said the company previously had 23 spaces for employees to park, but are now down to just 13.

“I think it’s very, very inconsiderate,” Esposito said. “We’ve been here 16 years and I think [the DOT] needs to turn it around.”

However, according to a DOT spokesperson, the policy which sets aside 120 spaces, also frees up more space for short-term parking, with no loss to the existing parking space.

“This not only allows for all motorists to have a fair chance to apply for a monthly permit, but also allows for more short-term parking in the area, which is home to several courts, a museum and a law school,” the spokesperson said. P.C. Cheng, an attorney and resident of Arris Lofts, located just across the street from Court Square, said when the DOT implemented its policy, it took away permit parking spaces without notice or parking alternatives.

“This whole fiasco started because DOT took those monthly spaces away,” Cheng said.

Cheng, who has been a monthly permit holder since 2008, said she was outraged when she discovered another 52 parking spaces, in front of the toll booth on the ground floor of the garage, reserved to store DOT surveillance vans, which only need the space to park overnight.  She said in addition to the 52 parking spaces, the DOT painted “permit only” on 30 to 40 parking spaces on the upper levels of the garage.

Photo by Daniel Offner.

According to Cheng, if the department were to restore all of the monthly parking, convert the spaces on the bottom floor into muni-meters and eliminate spaces designated “permit only,” it would solve a large portion of the community’s parking woes.

“They can use these spaces efficiently and actually make money and bring revenue to this city,” Cheng said. “If only DOT will listen and actually serve this community, we can restore this parking and eliminate this entire chaos and debacle that we’ve been facing.”

Toni Duckworth, another Long Island City resident, said the worst part is not just the long lines they’re forced to wait on for a monthly pass, but that much of the on-street spaces on the block are restricted for authorized vehicles only.

“Not only can we not park in our garage, we can’t park on the street outside our building,” Duckworth said. “If you live and work in LIC and have a 11101 ZIP code, you should have some sort of priority to some people who are driving in from Long Island who only need it every once in a while.”

In its response, the DOT said it is not in the agency’s nor the local public’s interest, for these vehicles to be parked on the street instead of housed in a DOT facility.

“Given this is the second month the new system is in place, DOT plans to review data obtained after several months of implementation and will make any necessary changes, if needed,” the DOT spokesperson added. “DOT is also working to implement an electronic permit reservation system that will allow for a faster and more streamlined process, which we expect to roll out this summer.”

This story originally ran in the June 18 edition of the Queens Tribune.

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