‘Everything’s a big screw up’: Queens shopkeepers blast traffic program that they say is costing them a fortune

Photo by Jenna Bagcal/QNS

Several Roosevelt Avenue businesses in conjunction with the 82nd Street Partnership, held a rally Wednesday, May 9, in Jackson Heights to voice their disapproval of the Department of Transportation’s Clear Curbs initiative.

Since March 9 of this year, owners said that their businesses have taken a big hit due to new parking restrictions on Roosevelt Avenue that, they claim, make it more difficult for their customers to find spots in the area.

Leslie Ramos, the executive director of the 82nd Street Partnership, compared Clear Curbs to a “six-month pay cut” for businesses on Roosevelt Avenue. Over the past two months, businesses that are part of the 82nd Street Partnership formed the Roosevelt Avenue Business Coalition in order to combat issues like the DOT program.

“We are here to say ‘no’ to Clear Curbs. We need our parking back. We need Clear Curbs to end today. Not in six months, not down the road,” Ramos said.

By Jenna Bagcal/QNS

Clear Curbs is a six-month pilot program which bans cars, trucks and other vehicles from standing or parking between 7  to 10 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. It’s designed to improve traffic flow during peak travel periods. The program has been affecting Roosevelt Avenue businesses located between 90th Street and Broadway.

Business owners said they have noticed a lull in customers at that time, when usually their stores would be busier. Some have also said that truck deliveries to their stores have been difficult. They have often had to reschedule times for trucks to make their deliveries to work around the new rules.

One of these owners is King Hui, who has owned Roosevelt City Pharmacy on 79-18 Roosevelt Ave. for about one year. Hui said that business had been trending upward until Clear Curbs was instated back in March.

He added that the pharmacy sells other products in addition to medicine, which before March, would generate foot traffic to the business after 4 p.m.

“During the first two weeks [of the program], I noticed a 20 percent drop in revenue. Other businesses I’ve talked to have had a 30 percent or 40 percent drop. Everything’s a big screw up,” Hui said.

Hugo Calle, who owns Angelo’s Jewelry on 80-10 Roosevelt Ave., said that though parking has not been a problem for him, his customers have been complaining about finding parking around his store. He added that he also notices a big difference in business between 4 to 7 p.m. and said since the store closes at 8, it has been negatively affected.

“I have a small garage to park in at the back of my store, but customers call me about parking; there’s not enough. All businesses [on Roosevelt Avenue] are quiet after 4,” Calle said.

Photo by Jenna Bagcal/QNS
Photo by Jenna Bagcal/QNS – Hugo Calle, owner of Angelo’s Jewelry

Other Jackson Heights residents said that the negative effects of the program have reached beyond business owners. Phil Wong, who lives in the area, said that when he takes his mother to the orthopedic doctor, there is nowhere for him to park outside the office. Because of this, Wong said he often had to double park or circle the block to find parking while his elderly mother went to her appointments alone.

Photo by Jenna Bagcal/QNS
Photo by Jenna Bagcal/QNS – Phil Wong said that he is a “victim” of the Clear Curbs program

Because of the large population of elderly residents in the area, taking public transportation is often not a viable option, especially since there are no elevators at the 83rd and 90th Street train stations and buses sometimes require many transfers. Ramos also said that people frequent Roosevelt Avenue from Long Island and across the Tri-State area, making cars a necessity for those individuals.

Ramos and several business owners emphasized that they want the DOT and Mayor Bill de Blasio to have meetings with those affected in order to gain feedback about their opinions and specific needs.

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