The Mexican bar and restaurant receives most of business in the afternoon, when people get out of work, according to employee Daisy Luna. Both customers and employees rely on the parking spots along Roosevelt Avenue.
A new city initiative might interfere with that routine. Last October, Mayor Bill de Blasio and city officials announced a new pilot program to ban curbside loading and parking on congested commercial corridors during rush hours.
Starting the week of March 19, parking along Roosevelt Avenue from 74th Street to 90th Street will be banned from 7 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. Cars will only be allowed to pick up and drop off passengers, and deliveries are only permitted on off-street loading docks.
The “Clear Curbs” pilot program will run for six months. The city will then collect data on traffic, double-parking, delivery activity and other regulations.
But many businesses that will be affected along the busy avenue, such as Delicias Mexicanas, said they were not even informed of the impending change.
“I just found out about it now, I’m upset,” Luna said. “People might not even come in because they can’t park.”
Luna said parking is already difficult in the morning because of restrictions around nearby schools. Take away the metered spots on Roosevelt Avenue, and employees like Luna would have to take even longer to find a place to park.
“I pay the meters when I can’t find parking, so they’re going to lose $10 a day from me,” she said “That’s how much I pay everyday.”
The program has angered local leaders like Leslie Ramos, executive director of the 82nd Street Partnership, a business advocacy organization in Jackson Heights. She was particularly upset with the lack of warning to businesses just weeks away from its implementation.
According to Ramos, city officials are planning to do outreach with fliers, including ones in Spanish, this week.
“You cannot give businesses, a community, less than two-weeks notice for something that is so impactful,” she said. “They have deliveries that they’ve scheduled ahead. They have contracts with people.”
Rather than reaching out weeks prior to its start, Ramos said she would have wanted a public hearing or a study on when and where businesses have deliveries, what their alternatives are, and how they will be impacted.
Ramos said while she knows traffic can be an issue on Roosevelt Avenue, she said it rarely ever “comes to a complete full stop.” The reason why it’s so busy, she said, is because so many people are visiting small businesses to shop.
“It’s not enough to justify jeopardizing all of the small businesses and their operations,” she said. “It’s rush-hour traffic, but it’s also rush hour for the businesses.”
Most companies get their deliveries and merchandise early in the morning, around 7 a.m., she said. They also have steady business in the late afternoon, when customers leave work, pick up their kids and buy items from local shops.
“So you’re hurting them for six hours, the most impactful hours for these businesses, just so you can speed up traffic slightly,” Ramos said.
Instead of implementing a ban on parking and loading, Ramos suggested other possible solutions to the congestion issue. She recommended having more traffic enforcement agents guide drivers to prevent gridlock, especially at high-volume intersections like 74th Street, 82nd Street and Junction Boulevard.
She also noted that despite the fact it's just a pilot program, six months can harm businesses significantly or even lead to closure.
“Most of our businesses operate on a month-to-month basis,” Ramos said. “A couple bad weeks can push a lot of our businesses out of business.”
Ramos has already met with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and brought the issue to the attention of local elected officials.
Ramos said she plans to write a letter to DOT, the Department of Small Business Services (SBS), and other city agencies to warn them about the impact of “Clear Curbs.”
“Right now, the city is saying cars and car speed is more valuable than small businesses and community needs,” she said. “It just doesn’t make sense. Let’s solve the problem before we create another one.”
Like Delicias Mexicanas, workers at shops along the corridor said they have not heard of the changes and fear the negative impact.
Louis, an employee at Rent-A-Center, said losing the front to unload items is bad for business.
“Parking lots are normally packed behind us so it’s very bad,” he said. “It may help traffic flow, but it’s also bad for all of the businesses here. If you can’t park in front of the business, how
are they going to come in?”
“Our business is low because of the parking already,” added Sikah, a manager at Looks Threading and Spa. “People complain about parking now, they have to go to other further places to park and it affects the work we do as well.”
Hans King, owner of Sol Kings on 85th Street, said he has seen the impact of the loss of parking in other neighborhoods like Chinatown. Some shops become “quiet” because there are fewer customers, while others are still busy.
“It depends,” King said, “so we have to wait and see.”
A manager at EZ Pawn said many of his customers already park illegally at the bus stop because they can’t find any other spot.
“It’s a $125 ticket because the meter maids are relentless,” he said.
A DOT spokesperson confirmed the “Clear Curbs” program would be in effect from Broadway to 90th Street, and that they met with the 82nd Street Partnership last week.
The spokesperson added that the agency is doing outreach to businesses to alert them to the coming changes.
Meghan Sackman and Anthony Olskey contributed additional reporting for this article.