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Residents suspect parking collusion

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Several residents of a Holliswood apartment complex are incensed about a ban on parking on a city street in front of their building — especially since they believe the management helped get the prohibition so residents would have to pay parking fees.

The ban in their area of the complex was triggered by a Fire Department memo to Cunningham Associates L.P., which manages the complex, pointing out access problems for fire trucks in another area of the complex entirely.

The street in question, the Grand Central Parkway service road, is owned by the city and marks the northern boundary of the sprawling triangular-shaped complex, which is bounded by the parkway on the north, Whitehall Terrace on the southeast, and Francis Lewis Boulevard to the southwest.

Residents who live in the northeast section of the complex on 210th Street, south of the Grand Central Parkway, say management took advantage of a Fire Department memo recommending parking restrictions in another section of the complex farther south.

A few residents allege that Cunningham Associates wanted the parking ban not because of fire safety but because of profit — they say they are now forced to pay garage fees of at least $700 a year for spaces under the building.

Maureen Ragland, who has taken the lead in fighting the new parking ban in front of her building at 210-40 Grand Central Parkway, said that before the ban some 20 cars could parallel-park there. She calculated Cunningham Associates stands to reap additional garage fees of up to $14,000 a year from her area alone.

“We feel it is a quality-of-life issue,” Ragland said. “When I was looking at Cunningham Heights Apartments before I moved in, one of the things I liked about this building was that it had alternate-side parking in front of it.”

Now, she said, the walk from the garage up the steep hill leading to her building is a major inconvenience in the late evening and burdensome when she must carry packages from her car. She said her neighbor, a new mother, must now carry her infant up the winding hill after parking in the garage.

The impetus for the parking bans began when Lt. John Dell of Engine Company 301 in Hollis wrote a Sept. 5 memo to Cunningham Associates under the header “Parking in Front Of 86-72 208th Street.”

In the memo, Dell said cars parked at that location created access problems and he recommended preventing parking at the circle end of the block. Cunningham then eliminated the island in the circle and banned parking at the circular end of the block.

Dell, however, did not mention any parking restrictions on the east leg of the Grand Central Parkway service road.

But Edward Weiss, manager of the Cunningham Heights Apartments, wrote to Community Board 8 in a Sept. 7 that “we have received a directive from the Fire Department — copy enclosed — to create a ‘No Standing-No Parking’ Fire Zone on our private parking lot off of 208th Street.”

Weiss then inserted a sentence which the residents say was instrumental in eventually getting parking privileges on the city service road revoked:

“ . . . we also show the dead-end circle on Grand Central Parkway service road that should also have a ‘No Standing-No Parking’ fire zone.” Weiss sent a copy of his letter to City Councilman Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis).

A staff worker at Cunningham Associates’ management office, located inside the complex, said Weiss was not available to respond and referred all inquiries about the new GCP service road parking bans to the Department of Transportation, saying the department was responsible for the new No Parking signs.

Mark Lefkoff, chairman of Community Board 8’s public safety committee, wrote back to Weiss that “for the safety of the residents in your development, we concur with the recommendation of the Fire Department.”

Leffler, acting on Weiss’ letter, in turn wrote an Oct. 23 letter to William Baier, Queens commissioner for the city Department of Transportation, saying “fire engines have difficulty making turns within the complex at two locations due to head-on parking of vehicles.” He urged the DOT “to have the area surveyed and the appropriate signs placed at the dead-end circle.”

Leffler, when reached at his office, was asked if he was aware that complex manager Weiss had apparently magnified the scope of the Fire Department’s area recommendation.

“I was not aware of that, no,” he said, explaining that the Fire Department should have unencumbered access to all roadways in the complex. But he added, “Let me check this.”

“We’re not going to give up, that’s for sure,” Ragland said.

“We’ll go to court eventually, if necessary,” she said, adding she spoke with the Department of Transportation.

“They said a reversal can be done,” she said. “We will use all channels available to us, because we feel this is just being done for financial gain.”

Susan Seinfeld, a Leffler staffer, said her office received a letter Tuesday from Cunningham Heights tenants asking that her office urge Community Board 8 to remove the controversial signs.

Reach reporter Daniel Arimborgo by e-mail at timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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