Long Island City restaurant owners say lack of parking is hurting business

Photos courtesy of Gianna Cerbone-Tiola

Two chefs who own restaurants on Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City claim that the insufficient amount of parking in the area is making it harder for customers and employees to dine and work.

Gianna Cerbone-Teoli, owner of popular Italian restaurant Mandicatis Rustica on Vernon Boulevard and 46th Road, said that she tries to offer valet parking to her customers but that in the past year, a “blitz” of ticketing occurs when she parks near her restaurant.

Though the parking around her restaurant is metered, she said that traffic cops “almost hound” customers who may be a minute or two late to feed their meters and that tickets have also been handed out for unloading groceries on Vernon Boulevard.

Cerbone-Teoli also said she is frustrated because she has not seen this kind of treatment for restaurants along Jackson Avenue or Center Boulevard.

“What I don’t understand is why do other areas have different privileges than this block?” she said. “They’re allowed the valet parking and they allow cars to be double parked.”

She added that the majority of traffic cops are “very nice,” but a few of them have been slapping on the fines.

Cerbone-Teoli has reached out to Captain John Travaglia, commander of the 108th Precinct, with her concerns and said he has “been amazing” with trying to get answers for her. But Travaglia told QNS that the 108th Precinct issues mostly moving violations, and the captain encourages his officers to stop dangerous behavior on the street rather than parking violations.

“We have not issued many summonses in that vicinity for parking violations [in the last 12 months],” Travaglia said.  “It is not the type of enforcement that I want my officers to do because I focus them on larger traffic safety concerns in the region.”

The Queens North Traffic Enforcement Unit is responsible for issuing parking summonses, he said. An officer for the unit directed QNS to the NYPD press office. A spokesperson for the agency said the NYPD does not keep track of parking summonses by block or address but by precinct.

As of April 24, 1,140 parking summonses had been issued in the precinct in 2016, which is less than the 1,402 tickets issued in the precinct in the same time period of 2015.

Cerbone-Teoli said the problem also stems from the NYPD Traffic Unit parking their cars around her restaurant. These cars hinder customers’ abilities to park and discourage them from dining at her restaurant, she argues.

Jeff Blath, owner of Alobar Restaurant at 46-42 Vernon Blvd., said his employees have been struggling to find parking and have to frequently rush out to feed their meters.

He said that NYPD Traffic Unit cars park along his restaurant and the boulevard, making it harder for his employees to park their own vehicles.

“The biggest thing for me is my employees can’t park,” Blath said. “They can’t leave work every hour and 45 minutes to check on their meters. Besides that, if they’re driving to work they have to leave [home] an extra half hour or 45 minutes earlier to look for parking.”

Blath said there are empty lots around Long Island City and Sunnyside that can be turned into parking lots. He also observed that it seems to be a symptom of irresponsible planning around Long Island City.

“I think other things that can be done is, all of these developers, they keep developing here like crazy. Why don’t we get what we need out of them when they build here?” Blath said. “When they’re asking, ‘Can we build here?’ you say, ‘Yeah, you can build here and get tax abatements, but we need from you a school or parking lot.”

Cerbone-Teoli said she has filed official complaints with the city but that she has not heard back.

“I’m losing a lot of business because of this,” she said. “If you can’t park the car, you’re not going to come and eat.”

The NYPD did not respond to requests for comment about the issue of Traffic Unit parking as of press time.




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