Aug. 23, 2018 By Tara Law
Two Forest Hills elected officials have taken a stand against a Department of Transportation plan to expand loading zones on Austin Street, arguing that the city’s program would hurt local businesses.
The DOT’s loading zones plan, set to be implemented in a couple of weeks, will prohibit cars from parking on parts of Austin Street between 69th Road and 72nd road, along with adjoining roads, for a few hours each day. The agency said the plan is intended to reduce traffic on the busy thoroughfare caused by double-parked trucks.
But in a joint statement released on Monday, Councilmember Karen Koslowitz and Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi expressed their opposition to the project, alleging that the program will cause confusion for drivers, take away too many parking spots and cost businesses income.
The statement noted that the Queens Chamber of Commerce opposes the project “unequivocally,” and that Koslowitz and Hevesi feel they must align themselves with local business owners.
“While I can appreciate DOT’s concern with traffic flow on Austin Street, the remedy cannot be at the expense of our local stores,” Koslowitz said. “We need only to witness the turnover in storefronts on Austin Street to realize that even a small dent in commercial activity could be fatal to many businesses.”
Hevesi, meanwhile, said the DOT’s project should not move forward without support from the area’s small businesses.
“If the businesses that these loading zones are intended to help are against them, then what is the point of this proposal?” Hevesi said. “Unless the DOT provides some reasonable explanation, then this remains an unnecessary solution in search of a problem. Therefore I stand in opposition to these loading zones.”
Dozens of spaces will be converted into 30-minute loading zones for trucks during certain hours of the day, with the number of loading zones gradually reducing later in the day.
The greatest number of loading zones at any given time would be nine loading zones from 8:30 a.m. or 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m., which would encompass 27 parking spaces. From 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., there will be seven loading zones encompassing 21 parking spaces. From 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., there will be only one loading zone encompassing three parking spaces.
An existing loading zone on Austin Street between 72nd Road and Austin Road will continue to be open only to trucks from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
In a statement, the DOT noted that the planned number of loading zones was significantly reduced from the first proposal, which was presented in March. The original proposal called for 12 new loading zones from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., eight loading zones from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and three zones from 1:00 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The DOT said that it had moved around the zones and reduced the number in response to feedback from businesses.
The DOT also presented data from a survey of businesses last October.
In the survey, 70 percent of business survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed to the statement “trucks disrupting traffic is a problem.” About 38 percent of respondents cited “trucks” and “double parking” as the biggest transportation issue on Austin Street.