“We already have high property taxes, water and sewer rates keep going up, and now we have the latest thing,” said State Senator Tony Avella at his Bayside office last Friday morning. “How much more can we take?”
The city has already raised parking meter rates in Downtown Brooklyn from $1 to $2 per hour. On November 1, it will do the same in the commercial areas of Flushing and Jamaica.
Rates at all other meters in the two boroughs will increase from $1 per hour to $1.25.
“Why does the city feel it needs to raise this revenue on the backs of people who need to park,” Avella added. “This will hurt consumers and small businesses.”
Kevin Forrestal, president of the Queens Civic Congress, said he often drives to Flushing not because he wants to, but because it is the only convenient way to get there.
“If I could get from Jamaica to Flushing on public transportation without spending two or three times as long as it would take in a car, then it might make sense,” he said.
Forrestal believes that the increase is just another effort by the de Blasio administration to make driving in New York City more inconvenient.
“The mayor and some members of the City Council have an aversion to cars,” said Forrestal. “This is price gouging and a desire to remove cars from New York City.”
“Nobody in this area is driving because they want to, it's because they have to,” added Avella.
Jerry Wind of the Bellerose Hillside Civic Association used to work in Downtown Flushing, commuting from his home in eastern Queens. He often parked in the old Municipal Lot 1 and fed the meters all day.
“It's the working people of the city that this is going to hurt,” he said.
Suzanne Peritz, president of the Rocky Hill Civic Association, believes raising the rates will only drive more shoppers from Queens.
“I already know a lot of people who go to Nassau County to shop because they have big lots and free parking,” she said.
Avella said the restaurants on Bell Boulevard fought to have two-hour meters so that diners wouldn't have to leave during their meal to feed the meter.
“But soon if you park on Bell Boulevard, you are going to pay $2.50 for parking before you even set foot in the restaurant,” he said. “Who is going to eat here? Who is going to shop here? People are just going to go to Nassau County.”
Forrestal agrees. He says there is nice gym one mile from his house, but he still drives to a different gym in Nassau County for one reason.
“There is no place to park at the gym near my home, but the one on Lakeville Road has a parking lot,” he said.
John Choe, executive director of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, said his group is concerned about the increases.
“Anytime costs go up for Flushing businesses, the chamber is always going to be concerned,” he said. “We are definitely going to be keeping an eye on this.”
Choe said the timing was particularly bad, with commercial rents in the area rising and the minimum wage set to increase.
But he hopes one benefit of raising the rates will be that shoppers will park for shorter periods of time and free up parking spaces, which is exactly what the Department of Transportation (DOT) contends.
In a statement announcing the increases, DOT argued the increases will actually benefit businesses.
“Parking meters play a critical role in providing an efficient street network, allowing for the efficient delivery of goods and services as well as providing curb turnover as a resource for customers to access storefront businesses,” it read.
The agency also states the increases will bring New York City more in line with what it costs to park in municipalities of a similar size.
But with the recent loss of two large municipal lots in Flushing, Choe said the days of cheap and available parking in the neighborhood are over.
“And there is nothing that the chamber or anyone else can do to bring that back, so businesses are going to have to adapt,” he said.
Choe said the chamber is reaching out to its members to help them with marketing and other strategies to help with the bottom line.
“Anything that we can do to help them expand their customer base,” he said.