By Carlotta Mohamed
A city pilot program to ban curbside deliveries in Queens has small business owners warning that they may have to close their doors because customers unable to find parking have fled.
City Councilmen Francisco Moya (D-Corona) and Mark Gjonaj (D-Pelham Bay) along with the DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and the NYPD toured the bustling thoroughfare of Roosevelt Avenue last Friday to speak with residents and small business owners affected by the mayor’s Clear Curbs Initiative.
Under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Congestion Action Plan — a series of steps designed to ease congestion in busy thoroughfares across the five boroughs — the Clear Curbs Initiative six-month pilot program was implemented in March banning curbside loading along the Roosevelt Avenue corridor in Jackson Heights from Broadway to 180th Street in Corona during peak hours from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The rules allow for expeditious pick-up and drop-off of passengers and delivery trucks to off-street loading docks. NYPD staff were assigned to pilot locations to enforce the new restrictions of keeping curbs clear.
The tour was at the halfway mark of the six-month pilot program, which has crippled businesses, created perilous traffic conditions, and led to steeper ticketing for residents and delivery drivers along Roosevelt Avenue, according to Moya.
“Clear Curbs has decimated business along Roosevelt Avenue,” said Moya, whose district includes the thoroughfare. “Small business owners here fear they may have to shutter their shops before the pilot program even wraps up in a few months. This all could have been prevented if the DOT spoke with these people before imposing its initiative on them.”
On June 12 at a hearing before the City Council’s Committee on Transportation, the DOT said before the signs went up in each Clear Curbs pilot, the agency sent street ambassadors to visit businesses throughout the zones and distributed informational materials about the pilot.
Leslie Ramos, executive director of the 82nd Street Partnership in Jackson Heights, said the city gave notice of the initiative a day before the program started, but did not reach out to businesses on the side streets, which have been affected as well.
Business owners have complained about the lack of customers, unavailable parking and the possibility of having to cose their stores because they are unable to pay the rent.
Jimmy Jaber, owner of Home Design Furniture, located at 88-03 Roosevelt Ave., said “business is not looking good” at all.
“There has been a 50 percent drop in business since the regulation was enforced,” said Jaber, who started his business in January. “Customers get upset from tickets on their cars, and they go down to other stores where there is available parking.”
Jaber said if he had known about the regulation, he would not have considered opening a store in the area, as he pointed to a car across the street that was being towed for parking by the curb.
Just a couple of blocks down, restaurant owner Doris Duenas, of Pollos Mario Colombian Restaurant and Bakery at 86-43 Roosevelt Ave., said there was no business inside or outside.
“I will be forced to close my business if this continues,” Duenas said, as she showed her deserted restaurant. “It used to be full before the regulation. Now people cannot park when they want to eat in or pick up food.”
Glen Mirchandani, who owns Devisions Jewelry, located on 82nd Street off of Roosevelt Avenue, is suffering the same fate as every other business owner along the corridor.
“I have been in this neighborhood for over 30 years, and this is the most challenging period I have ever faced,” said Mirchandani. “This program is jeopardizing my work of nearly three decades. I have clients in the tri-state area that have stopped coming for lack of parking and steep fines.”
On May 9, Moya, Gjonaj and City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo (D-Fort Greene) announced the Protect NYC Jobs and Businesses Act in response to the Clear Curbs Initiative. The measure would require city agencies to notify affected community boards, Business Improvement Districts, and Council members of any project that significantly disrupts street usage.
“We don’t need six months to know that this has been a disaster for small businesses and should be immediately ended,” said Gjonaj, chair of the Committee on Small Business. “The significance of dialogue between government and the private sector cannot be understated, and The Protect NYC Jobs and Businesses Act ensures that nobody is ever caught off guard again.”
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), who also represents sections of the Clear Curbs- affected stretch, said the city agency needs to seriously study the initiative and, hopefully shelve the program.
“When mom-and-pop shops suffer, the entire neighborhood suffers,” said Peralta. “I understand this is a pilot program, but I believe DOT has enough data to determine that Roosevelt Avenue is not the right place for this initiative.”
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmoha