Dec. 29, 2014 By Christian Murray
The Department of City Planning has put forward a plan that would extend the Vernon Mall beyond 51st Avenue toward Borden Avenue.
The new public space, however, would result in the loss of about 30 parking spaces—with many of these spaces currently being used by NYPD employees.
Penny Lee, who works for the Dept. of City Planning, told community board 2 members last month that the public space would replace the “unsightly strip” where cars are currently parked. She said the new public space would complement the current mall, which has trees and benches. Furthermore, it is across Jackson Avenue from a children’s playground.
Lee said that she had been discussing the concept with a colleague for years. “This has been an issue on our agenda for some time, particularly as development has occurred around this intersection.”
Several board members were hesitant about the plan. While they appreciated the concept of additional public space, they were concerned that the lost parking spaces could hurt local businesses.
“Parking is a big issue,” said Sheila Lewandowski, a Long Island City resident and board member. “It is very important … for the local businesses.”
Meanwhile, Al Volpe, another board member, was very opposed to the plan. “You are going to kill the businesses down there,” he said. For instance, Volpe claimed that the majority of Manetta’s customers drive to the restaurant–and the loss of the parking spaces would devastate its business.
Other board members expressed concern that parking is already tight and that it is only going to get worse as the community grows. Furthermore, if NYPD personnel can’t use these spaces they will just take up other spots in the neighborhood.
However, Joe Conley, who was chairman of the Community Board 2 at the time, said that City Planning would look to find alternative parking in the neighborhood to make up for the loss.
Lee said that the Department of Transportation is also looking into programs—such as Park Smart– that might help alleviate some of the parking issues. That program aims to reduce the amount of time someone parks at a spot– by charging a much higher rate the longer a motorist parks.
Nevertheless, the decision as to whether to proceed with the City Planning’s concept comes down to one question, one board member said. Do people want more public space or do they want parking.