Forest Hills Chamber denounces new truck loading zones
by Jennifer Khedaroo
Jul 31, 2018 | 950 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For year, the central commercial corridor in Forest Hills has faced issues with congestion and double-parked trucks, as well as a lack of parking and safe crossings for pedestrians.

In an effort to combat those issues, the Department of Transportation (DOT) will start testing a number of new measures this month along Austin Street and its side streets from Yellowstone Boulevard to Ascan Avenue.

Those changes will include Plus Time metered parking, which will allow a third hour of parking at a higher rate, enhanced crossings for pedestrians, and more blocks that have metered parking until 10 p.m. to increase availability for restaurant patrons and movie-goers.

“The DOT are changing the meters until 10 p.m. because they have this crazy idea that it creates more turnover,” said Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce president Leslie Brown. “They don’t care that over 70 percent of the spots turnover already.”

However, there is one change that is causing controversy for Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce and its members. And that’s the installation of truck loading zones.

The DOT is adding 12 new 60-foot loading zones that will be in operation Monday through Friday from 7 and 11 a.m., which would provide 36 spaces for trucks for a 30-minute limit.

Between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., there will be eight loading zones providing 24 spaces, and between 1 and 4 p.m. there will be three loading zones with nine spaces.

But Brown says the removal of any parking spaces in favor of loading zones is detrimental to the businesses in the area.

She has been observing traffic since the DOT revealed its plans, and said while there are times when congestion is a problem on Austin Street, it’s not an everyday problem.

“There is an overwhelming amount of hours where there isn’t congestion,” Brown said. “The trucks aren’t there for a long period of time, they have other places to go. They’re not spending the day here, they’re making deliveries all over.”

The goal of the loading zones, according to DOT project manager Matt Garcia in an earlier presentation to Community Board 6, is to limit space to promote deliveries during off-peak hours.

“We want to dedicate commercial space at the curb so trucks can do their deliveries and keep moving,” said Garcia. “Because customer parking is so important to the businesses on Austin Street, these commercial spaces at the curb will revert back to passenger parking as the day progresses.”

But Brown said the changes back and forth from commercial to regular parking can be confusing for drivers.

“We’ve polled a lot of people, and they told us that whenever they see a loading zone sign, they don’t park their car because they’re worried it will be towed,” she said.

A DOT representatives said that if the changes aren’t having a positive impact or worsen the situation, they will make adjustments. But Brown doesn’t buy it.

“The DOT and the City of New York know that this has failed elsewhere and that it has killed businesses, and yet they continue on with the plan even though they know it’s not good,” Brown said.

She added that other chambers of commerce from around the borough have reached out to her about forming a coalition to fight DOT initiatives like loading zones, metered parking and bike lanes.

Brown said she has heard from several business owners that say they may not renew their leases with all of the changes coming.

“They think their businesses are going to be so adversely affected,” she said.

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