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Whitestone business owners want help for parking woes

A once-booming 14th Avenue commercial corridor in Whitestone has lost at least three businesses in the past month due to a dearth of parking, two remaining store owners say.

So the businessmen — Bobby Orzo, owner of Malba Market, and Rocco DiNardo, owner of DiNardo’s Restaurant and Pizzeria — have gone to City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) for relief.

The street’s scant parking spaces are occupied most days from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. by the vehicles of commuting workers who drop their cars off in the free spots there each morning before taking the bus from Queens to the Bronx for work, the shopkeepers say.

“That car is here 12 hours a day, this one is here 12 hours. They’re all here 12 hours,” Orzo said, pointing out vehicles in the dozen or so nearby parking spaces, none of which have meters or restricted hours. “This is our crisis here. This block is a white elephant. It’s dying because all these spots are taken all day by these drivers. A real estate guy I was talking to said no one will move into those stores because everyone knows there’s no parking.”

The parking scarcity has led to significant strain for the stores on the block, which runs from 15th Place to Parsons Boulevard. A German book importing and exporting business left, as did Malba Cleaners and Hair on 14th Avenue, and all three businesses’ owners shared Orzo and DiNardo’s concerns.

The pair of small businessmen hope that by getting the city to install signs that limit the length of time people can park or meters at the dozen or so spots will help revive their revenue streams.

Halloran has taken their concerns to Queens Department of Transportation Commissioner Maura McCarthy for assessment. He said 14th Avenue is one of several locations in that section of Whitestone where parking is a major issue and McCarthy is evaluating the overall parking situation in the area before deciding how to move forward with a solution.

“We’re getting Commissioner McCarthy to get us a more comprehensive view of the area,” Halloran said. “Block by block it changes as to what they want us to do. I think we need to do something to ameliorate the problem, but by the same token I want to do something that’s a long-term fix for the whole area, not just a stop-gap, piece by piece solution.”

The DOT said it is reviewing a request for parking meters to be installed on the affected block of 14th Avenue.

DiNardo said he and Orzo have a following of regular customers, but the threat of steep tickets has scared many of them away.

“No one wants to spend $115 for a slice of pizza or a sandwich because they end up getting a ticket,” he said. “If we get meters or signs, I’m going to go get the biggest sign — “Parking Available” — and put it out in front of my store. We’re not asking for the world, we’re just asking for a few spots.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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