By Mark Hallum
Elected officials and a neighborhood grocer celebrated a change to the city Department of Transportation’s Select Bus Service route on Cross Bay Boulevard, which will restore roadside parking during certain hours to quell the negative impact the November launch of the controversial bus lane has had on commerce.
The curbside bus lanes were originally active during rush hour from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, but now Cross Bay Boulevard is available for parking all day on Saturday.
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), state Assemblywoman Stacy Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Beach) and Rose Chimienti, the owner of the C-Town Supermarket at 107-66 Cross Bay Blvd. spoke about the change at a Feb. 8 news conference in Ozone Park.
“Today really is a perfect snapshot about how government should work. Business owners, residents and others complained to their elected officials about a Select Bus Service that started in November, wanting change, and change occurred,” Addabbo said. “These businesses along this stretch of Cross Bay Boulevard get parking back on a Saturday. It’s big for them. Many of these businesses lost customers, lost money. Without customers there’s no business, without business there’s no jobs.”
Pheffer Amato remarked on the continuing community opposition to the bus lanes which was heated from the day DOT released the proposed plans to revamp Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevard, but she said the situation is moving in a positive direction.
“As community members we all work together, but it’s really the voices of our community that matter,” Pheffer Amato said. “But in a small community like this, our local stores are the heart and soul of our community and it’s important that [customers] can drive up and do their errands on Saturday, not change their routines at the cost of moving forward.”
Chimienti said she would like DOT and elected officials to work on further expanding parking solutions during the evening rush hour when many of her customers are doing grocery shopping on their way home from work, but is happy with relief the time change will bring.
Chimienti claimed she had seen a 10 percent to 15 percent drop in business since the launch of the bus route.
DOT released a statement Monday announcing that with the change to the bus lane timetable, it will be activating traffic enforcement cameras along the corridor to issue violations to motorists who encroach in the newly installed lanes.
While Addabbo said he recognizes the need for more public transportation and is working to address it, he does not believe it should come at the cost of neighborhood businesses.
Although the bus lane is only freed up on Saturdays south of Liberty Avenue, Addabbo wants to push to make this change along the entire corridor.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall