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Workers hog parking along Austin Street

Doris Wahn, of Rego Park, pays for a parking space she snagged early Tuesday morning before the onslaught of workers and shoppers invade Austin Street. Photo by Joe Anuta
TimesLedger Newspapers

Indolent employees who feed parking meters in a Forest Hills shopping district are starving local shops of customers, according to business owners in the area.

Some people who commute to work on Austin Street park along the bustling strip in the morning and stay there until closing time, disregarding the two-hour time limit.

“They are too lazy to walk,” said John Xerakias, owner of the Austin House Diner, at 72-04 Austin St. “I’m here six days a week and I have no trouble finding a parking spot.”

Xerakias, who said he parks along side streets or across Queens Boulevard, accused employees of nearby hair salons and banks of squatting in spaces that could be used by paying customers.

The vehicles of workers often take up nearly 15 spots near his business for eight hours a day, Xerakias estimated, and if the two-hour limit were enforced, that would equate to about 60 shoppers who could have used the spots.

“The system doesn’t work,” he said, since a gaggle of metermaids invade the Forest Hills downtown area on a nearly daily basis but do not enforce the time limit. “They have about 45 traffic cops just producing money for the city.”

To enforce the rule, the police could use chalk marks on the tires of cars, Xerakias said, and then the city would get revenue from the tickets.

The NYPD could not be reached for comment.

But an employee of a business on Austin Street who did not want to be named because she was not authorized to speak with the press said she sometimes has no choice.

“But where do the people who work here park?” she asked.

The woman said she sometimes parks farther south into Forest Hills, closer to Metropolitan Street, but at night she does not feel safe walking to her vehicle. She recently heard about an armed robbery near 71st Street and cited rising crime all around the city as reasons not to walk alone after sunset.

In addition, she said that in inclement weather she needs to park closer to work.

“Sometimes there are just no other options,” she said.

The woman said she would rather not have to park on the street, but garages in the area are too expensive and parking in the vicinity of the Forest Hills Gardens Corp. is prohibited.

“Everyone’s against the same thing here,” she said, suggesting that local business employees should be given a pass to park in the Gardens to alleviate the parking woes.

But Leslie Brown, president of the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce, had no sympathy for meter-hogging workers.

“It’s laziness,” she said. “They take up customer parking.”

Brown said businesses that are members of the chamber get a discount at the Allied Austin Park Lot, at 70-00 Austin St. Employees can park for $7 or $8 a day.

Brown said she would not like to see the two-hour rule more heavily enforced because some activities in the district — like dinner and a movie or getting hair or nails done — take longer than two hours.

She said people should be parking, like Xerakias, across Queens Boulevard and walking to work.

“We requested [workers] be good neighbors and business people and not take up spots,” she said. “But there’s no way to enforce it.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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