MARCIA MOXAM COMRIE
Finding a place to park in downtown Jamaica is increasingly becoming an
exercise in frustration and according to local residents, merchants and officials
the situation is driving business right out of town.
Putting Businesses In Park
According to Carlyle Towery, director of Greater Jamaica
Development Corp., (GJDC) "There is not adequate, affordable off-street
parking." We are losing revenue to Nassau County because we dont have adequate
parking in Jamaica.
"If we are going to compete,
we must have parking, he said. The first question about vacant office space down here is
where are we going to park," said Towery. "It is a big disincentive,
Veronica James, a frequent shopper on Jamaica Avenue said its a
"real turnoff going down there."
"I dont have much of a choice but to shop on Jamaica Avenue
because the prices suit my budget and they have stores that are unique to my needs,"
The lack of public parking spaces (top) coupled with
limited garage space (above) has made parking in Jamaica a headache for motorists and
PRESS Photos by Ira Cohen
"They have the uniforms for all
my kids schools, they have fabric stores for my sewing and their prices fit my
budget so I cant go anywhere else," she added.
Although James said she may not have a
choice, Celeste Whitehead said he does. Shes mad and shes not taking it
"I got several tickets down
there," Whitehead said angrily. You shouldnt be penalized just for trying to
buy a shirt. Its ridiculous that you have to pay for parking when you can
find it and its ridiculous that they have these meter maids ticketing your
car if youre a minute late."
So Whitehead does what an increasing number
of people are doing. Shes taking her money out of the neighborhood.
"I drive out to Valley Stream and park
hassle-free," she said. "When you go to Green Acres there are no meters and no
one ticketing or towing your car. You stay as long as you want and its a stress-free
experience for me. I shouldnt have to be stressed just to buy an outfit there are
too many other things to worry about," she said.
Mileage On Local Cash Registers
For Chuck Wallace, the
manager of Toys R Us, located on Jamaica Avenue and 168 Street, the parking
problem is as simple as dollars and cents.
"Its cut down tremendously on
the per capita purchase at our store," said Wallace. "A person will come in but
since theres no parking many take public transportation so they cant buy big
items to take them onto the train or bus. Our free-standing stores (such as the one in
Valley Stream) do more than twice the business we do on Jamaica Avenue," he said.
According to Wallace, who is a
co-chairperson of the Jamaica Parking Coalition, plans for the privitization of the lots
behind his store by GJDC will be helpful because the removal of the meters will give
driving customers more time in the stores.
"We have customers now who come in and
dont have enough time to spend in the store," he said. "Theyre
rushing to get back to their cars before they get ticketed. But if things dont
improve well have to gear the store toward what the customers actually buy
the small items such as diapers, well have to do other things to be
Wallace also told the PRESS that the
Parking Coalition is now trying to create a mandate that each time a new project comes to
Jamaica it will have to come with its own built-in parking facility. He also revealed that
the lack of parking in the courthouses is an effort to prevent acts of terrorism, hence
the parking for the judges alone.
There is an influx of
vehicular traffic in the heart of Jamaica over the past decade and a half, according to
The close proximity of affordable shopping
along Jamaica Avenue (including the 165th Street mall), government buildings including the
Social Security Administration building and three court houses, the NYPD Crime Lab, the
Department of Motor Vehicles, an unemployment office and the main public library for the
borough makes Jamaica a destination of convenience but also a parking nightmare according
to those who live and work in the area.
Janet Barkan, executive director of the
Jamaica Business District (Jamaica BID) views the situation as bad for business.
"Because we have great development
going on weve lost a lot of parking," said Barkan. "But Jamaica is going
to lose. If shoppers cant find parking they will go to Green Acres and the Miracle
Mile and Woodberry Common and we will lose the eight and a quarter percent tax.
People are smart, theyll go where the
parking is and Jamaica will lose, the borough and for that matter, the city will lose, all
the hard work of the past 2025 years will be almost be for naught; and thatll
be very sad for this community and all the people who worked so hard to bring economic
development and jobs into this community," she said.
Developers In Gear
Towery explained that from
time to time as development demands, parking spaces are used for construction of new
Unfortunately, when a site is developed it
rarely comes equipped for its own parking needs and its employees are left to compete with
transient parkers for the few available street-side parking slots.
The new family court on Jamaica Avenue,
according to Towery and Barkan, displaced 300 parking spaces and now has only 20 spaces
The Civil Court on Sutphin Boulevard is
also built on what was an interim parking lot.
The NYPD Crime Lab has its own lot
but, without a certificate of occupancy the $2 million lot sits empty while its employees
compete for street parking, according to sources.
"Their employees are parking all over
the streets," said Towery. "And the Finance Administration has only one fifth of
the parking space it requires. You cant have government workers taking up all the
curbside parking. The permitting is out of control. Were pleased to have these
agencies but in Queens people have to drive and must have parking," he said.
And Towery is not alone in his
dissatisfaction. According to one source, some of the officers from the Crime Lab
"just flip their visors and go to work. They are doing it with impunity."
Social Security, according to Towery,
"came on line" with two levels of parking but they were later taken out of the
plan and the building meant for 3,000 and which has 16 to 17 hundred jobs, has only 45
parking spaces. To add to the dilemma, the new movie theatre/shopping mall currently under
constriction at Parsons and Jamaica is on what used to be a busy parking lot. To their
credit, according to Towery, the developers are putting in more parking spaces than what
they took. When they bought the lot, the Mattone group displaced 300 parking spaces but
upon completion the center will have 400 spaces for its employees and customers.
However, its not just official lots
that are being displaced. Towery allows that there were areas such as Sutphin Boulevard,
where shoppers and employees used to park without charge but as development continues,
those spaces get lost to commercialization.
While the problem is vexing,
the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. is not ready to throw in the towel. The non-profit
organization recently took control of three of the areas busiest parking facilities
and will soon embark on a major rehabilitation project on these facilities.
"We have a parking master plan,"
"Government doesnt want to hear
about parking, they want to promote mass transit but we must provide for our own parking
requirements. We just bought the (parking) garage on 165th Street and Archer Avenue and
the two lots at 168th Street behind the 103rd Precinct and behind the library," he
According to Towery, GJDC has taken over
the garage and the municipal lots (muni-lots) because the city was not investing in them
nor were they managing them up to standard.
"We want to set up a tax exempt
bond," said Towery.
"We see this as an opportunity to
provide affordable, off-street parking at a lower rate to support the existing economy of