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Whitestone blasts meters

Whitestone blasts meters
Photo by Joe Anuta
By Joe Anuta

Nearly half the Muni-Meters in downtown Whitestone are broken on any given day, a neighborhood civic leader said, and shoppers and small business owners are fed up with the problem.

The portion of the neighborhood known as Whitestone Village is filled with essential shopping outlets — a hardware store, a Laundromat, a cobbler, a grocery store and numerous restaurants for example.

But Devon O’Connor, president of the Welcome to Whitestone civic, said patrons are having trouble running errands without running afoul of the law.

“We’ve got a problem,” said Devon O’Connor, president of Welcome to Whitestone civic group. “People are going to stop coming to the village.”

TimesLedger Newspapers took a stroll around the village with O’Connor Tuesday afternoon and tested 13 Muni-Meters along 150th Street and 12th and 14th avenues. About 40 percent, or seven of the meters, would not accept coins. Several were completely out of order and would also not accept credit cards.

“I hate these stupid things!” Rose Narducci said as she tried repeatedly to jam a fistful of quarters into a machine on 14th Avenue.

Narducci said she was trying to run into the Whitestone Diner for lunch.

The city Department of Transportation said it would inspect the area in question, but added that 99 percent of the meters are functioning at any given time, and urged residents to call 311 when faced with a malfunction.

But that was no consolation to Maria Bartellino, who was pulling her 4-year-old daughter along 150th Street to hurriedly find a meter before she got a ticket.

“We pay taxes!” she said, first trying to pay with quarters at one meter and then walking to another non-functioning machine before simply getting in her car and driving away. “I don’t have a card, but if you get a ticket, it’s $45.”

Lucy Zhang had even worse luck.

She had driven into town from her nearby Whitestone home to do laundry and had a small jar of quarters in her hand.

Just like Bartellino, she first tried a meter on the west side of 150th Street. Then she tried one on the east. Zhang then walked around the southeast corner of 150th Street and 12th Avenue. The third time was not a charm.

Across the street she found a meter that would take quarters, but O’Connor said he tried the same machine Friday afternoon and was denied.

“You’re talking about a lot of walking for senior citizens,” O’Connor said, noting a new doctor’s office recently opened on the corner of 14th Avenue and 150th Street.

And business owners are getting earfuls about the machines as well.

“People won’t stay here because they go to meters to get the ticket. It’s broken, so they just leave,” said Michael Bowles, manager at Freddy’s, a pizzeria on 150th Street.

Several 311 complaints have been called in about the meters. One from March 20 shows that a Muni-Meter had been repaired near the corner of 14th Avenue and the Cross Island Parkway, near the site where Narducci attempted to park for lunch Monday.

Another complaint on 14th Avenue has been open since late January, according to the city’s 311 database. In total, the database showed eight meter complaints dating back from Jan. 11 to Tuesday, although several were listed as being resolved.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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