By Bill Parry
For too many years he has watched car dealerships and auto body shops along Northern Boulevard parking vehicles on public sidewalks and now City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) is doing something about it. Last week he introduced two bills cracking down on businesses citywide that park cars on sidewalks, creating a hazard for pedestrians who are forced to walk on the street.
Sidewalk parking by business is not only particularly dangerous for people with disabilities or parents with young children, it causes structural damage to sidewalks, which are not designed to hold the weight of parked cars. While it is currently illegal to park on a city sidewalk, the law is under-enforced and for many businesses, the $115 ticket is not a deterrent.
Majority Leader Van Bramer’s bills will hit businesses where it hurts by increasing fines and allowing the Department of Consumer Affairs to revoke the business licenses of repeat offenders.
“When businesses use sidewalks as parking lots, it puts communities in danger,” Van Bramer said. “Too often, these establishments figure in the occasional parking ticket as just a cost of doing business. We need to hit them where it hurts. My bills, introduced with Council member Espinal, will increase fines and allow the Department of Consumer Affairs to suspend or revoke the business licenses of repeat violators. By punishing businesses in a real and tangible way, we can get cars off the sidewalks and keep communities safe.”
The first bill, Intro 1179-2016, makes parking vehicles in a sidewalk or crosswalk a violation for the following types of DCA-licensed businesses: used car dealers, parking garages and lots, tow companies, and car washes. The bill states the commissioner will suspend or revoke the license of businesses found to be in violation more than twice in one year. The second bill, Intro 1180-2016, directs the commissioner of Finance to implement increasing penalties for repeat violators.
“It is absolutely unacceptable for car dealerships to use the pedestrian sidewalk as an extra parking lot for their vehicle inventory,” Make Queens Safer Co-founder Laura Newman said. “Cars on the sidewalk force pedestrians into traffic. Car dealerships tend to be on heavily trafficked roadways where pedestrians are placed at great risk stepping off the curb and into oncoming traffic. The sidewalk is the pedestrian safe zone.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr