By Mark Hallum
City Councilman Francisco Moya (D-Corona) has announced the city Department of Transportation will terminate its Clear Curbs initiative along Roosevelt Avenue early after business owners told elected officials that the program to ban street parking for personal and commercial vehicles was killing their profits.
Questions were raised about the six-month program, which started in March, when DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and other city officials toured Roosevelt Avenue in July, speaking with business owners who criticized the city’s campaign to ease the flow of traffic.
“This program was instituted to drive down traffic congestion along Roosevelt Avenue in Queens and other major thoroughfares in Midtown and Brooklyn, but in practice, it left small businesses decimated and put nearby residents at risk as delivery trucks pushed off the main roads flooded into residential side streets,” Moya said. “This is a welcome relief for the affected residents and small business owners. Time after time, small business owners told me they feared they wouldn’t survive the six-month pilot period.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Congestion Action Plan banned curbside loading and parking 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., which had harsh repercussions for businesses in Community Board 3 and 4.
“While raw numbers and data are all too often at the forefront of infrastructural improvements, there is a human element that is too often overlooked,” Community Board 4 District Manager Christian Cassagnol. “In order for our communities and commercial corridors to truly thrive, open dialogue and a general understanding of our communities’ needs must be brought to the table well in advance. Our commendations to our colleagues in government and to all those who stood by us.”
The pilot program came as a surprise to business owners both on the main drag and Roosevelt Avenue itself as the announcement was made by DOT only the day before that the street parking would become scarce. The city agency claimed, however, it had sent ambassadors to the areas that would be affected.
“While the program’s intention was to reduce traffic congestion, its impact to our local businesses was devastating,” Philip Papas, chairman of Community Board 3, said. “Several businesses closed or were on the verge of closing. The negative effects of the project outweighed any potential positive outcome. After discussing these results with our elected officials, city agencies and our business community, the project has been terminated.”
Jimmy Jaber is the owner of Home Design Furniture, located at 88-03 Roosevelt Ave. He claimed during the July tour by city officials that his business had been in bad shape since the pilot’s launch.
“When decisions are made that affect the small businesses of our district, the community needs a seat at the table,” state Assemblywoman Ari Espinal (D-Jackson Heights) said. “I thank Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and the mayor’s office for hearing our concerns and putting an end to the Clear Curbs program, which brought unnecessary hardship to the small businesses along Roosevelt Avenue.”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall