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Maspeth meter hike hurts shops

A jump in meter rates and parking tickets is hurting the borough’s small businesses already struggling in the rough economy, Woodhaven shop owners and elected officials said last week.

The city recently increased parking meter rates in Woodhaven, Maspeth and Ridgewood by 63 percent, making drivers there now pay 25 cents for 20 minutes instead of a quarter for half an hour.

“This really hurts us,” said Maria Thompson, executive director of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corp. and the Woodhaven Business Improvement District. “We’re fighting the mall every day of our lives, and this just makes that fight so much worse.”

Woodhaven BID President Matthew Xenakis, who owns Park Place Florist, and Steve Esposito, owner of Orthopedic Shoe Clinic on Jamaica Avenue, said the rate spike pushes shoppers out of Woodhaven.

According to store owners and lawmakers, the city did not notify area businesses or politicians about its decision to boost the meter rates. Thompson said the rates increase just before Easter.

“The time on the meter was reduced, but the street signs weren’t changed until after that,” state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D−Howard Beach) said. “The city should’ve changed the signs to gives residents warning.”

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner added: “These meters were put in to help the flow of shoppers, not to line the city’s coffers.”

There has been a 42 percent increase in parking tickets issued between 2002 and 2008, according to city statistics, and Weiner and store owners said this also deters shoppers from both coming to places like Jamaica Avenue. Some 10 million parking tickets were issued in 2008 alone, the congressman said.

More than 1,000 parking tickets were issued between 91st and 92nd streets on Jamaica Avenue, Weiner said.

“I have people coming in from Long Island and Brooklyn, but now they’ll say, ‘Why should I come here if I’ll get a parking ticket?’” Esposito said.

Thompson said the new meter rates and ticket−happy officers are enough to possibly push some struggling stores out of business. The Woodhaven BID contains at least 360 stores, and there are currently 26 vacancies, Thompson said.

“We’re suffering,” she said.

The city is currently phasing in a plan to increase rates for 47,000 single−space meters and 730 muni−meters citywide.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.

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