By Bill Parry
Enough is enough. For years, car dealerships and auto body shops along Northern Boulevard in Woodside and Long Island City have been parking vehicles on the sidewalks and now City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), transportation advocates and residents are asking the 108th and 114th Precincts for assistance in increasing enforcement on illegal parking on streets and sidewalks from 62nd Street to Broadway.
“Forcing families, seniors and schoolchildren into danger is never acceptable and will not be tolerated in our communities,” Van Bramer said. “Our city’s dealerships and auto body shops have an obligation to obey our city and state laws. If they do not, they must be penalized to the fullest extent of the law. These bad corporate neighbors are neglecting the safety of our communities and putting lives in danger.”
Van Bramer made his comments Tuesday near the intersection where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed on his way to class at PS 152 in 2013. Following pressure from Van Bramer’s office in 2014, the city Department of Transportation designated Northern Boulevard a priority under the administration’s Vision Zero Initiative.
Under the designation, Northern Boulevard became an arterial slow zone, which lowered the corridor’s speed limit to 25 mph and adjusted traffic signals to reduce dangerous speeding.
“In an effort to double down on our city’s Vision Zero initiative we will work with our local precincts to increase enforcement and hold guilty establishments accountable before someone gets seriously injured,” Van Bramer said.
He was joined on a walking tour of the blocked sidewalks by safe streets advocates.
“It is sad to think we have to defend our sidewalks from commercial businesses who see our sidewalks as rent-free places to store their cars, but that is the case on Northern Boulevard,” Make Queens Safer Co-founder Cristina Furlong said. “We want community members to know that this space is theirs. Hopefully, enforcement and a responsibility to their communities they serve will help business owners get their cars off their sidewalks and illegal parking spaces in Queens.”
PS 152 Principal Vincent Vitolo told the street safety advocates he had spoken to dealerships which block the way for kids going to school and they comply for brief periods of time. He also warned of cars going in the wrong direction on a nearby one-way street to get to an auto body shop.
“Northern Boulevard is dangerous enough without pedestrians having to worry about avoiding cars on the sidewalk, which should be a sanctuary for the most vulnerable users of the street,” Transportation Alternatives Deputy Director Caroline Sampanaro said. “Allowing dealerships to park cars on sidewalks sends a dangerous message in a city with a Vision Zero policy.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr