Commentary, Queens, Traffic calming

Parking on Queens Boulevard: Good for business, good for safety

This appears today as a letter to the editor, on Page 8 of the Woodside Herald (PDF).

In a June 4 op-ed, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce President Ira Greenberg laid out the Chamber’s transportation agenda for making Queens Boulevard better for business. One of his top recommendations was to allow for parking along the Boulevard at all times. This would not only be good for business, but it would also make the Boulevard safer for pedestrians.

For most of the day parking is allowed along Queens Boulevard, but from 7 to 10AM every weekday, there are No Standing zones on the north side of Queens Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue. From 4 to 7PM, the south side of Queens Boulevard, Roosevelt Avenue and one block of 43rd Avenue are No Standing zones.

This restriction means that if morning drivers commuting to Manhattan stop for juice from Go Natural, they get parking tickets. Evening drivers who stop to pick up a bottle of wine from Lowery Liquors get tickets. Drivers who don’t want tickets shop elsewhere, and that means that Sunnyside gets the pollution, noise and danger from the cars passing through, but receives no economic benefit to offset any of it.

The rush hour parking restriction is not just an economic hardship. Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside has been the site of numerous pedestrian injuries and at least four deaths. There is a very real danger of out-of-control cars injuring people on the sidewalk. In 2007, the New York Times reported that a sixteen-year-old boy named Gonpo Dorjee was seriously injured while waiting to cross the Boulevard at 47th Street. He was unable to walk for months.

One thing that protects pedestrians like Dorjee from speeding cars is parked cars. Without the parked cars, the only things protecting pedestrians from a wayward vehicle are the parking meters, and they will be replaced by muni-meters in a few years. As Ira wrote, “Pedestrians waiting to cross every block feel unsafe as they stand inches from fast moving vehicles.” When we feel unsafe, we shop elsewhere. A double-whammy for the stores along Queens Boulevard: less business from drivers, and less business from pedestrians.

This parking restriction is a relic of the old Department of Transportation, where moving traffic was more important than business or safety. Over the past several years the DOT has made protecting lives a higher priority. We have already seen this change on Skillman, 43rd and Barnett Avenues, where speeds have gone down and injuries are less common.

Removing the rush hour parking restriction is the next step in the direction of safety. It would not have protected Gonpo Dorjee, because he was hit on the corner, but it will protect thousands more. It will also bring more customers to Sunnyside businesses, in cars and on foot. Good for business, good for safety, good for Sunnyside.