Biz owners singing boulevard blues - Queens Chronicle: Queenswide

Biz owners singing boulevard blues

by David Russell, Associate Editor | Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2019 10:30 am

Business owners on Queens Boulevard are concerned.

It’s been two years since the Department of Transportation laid down bike lanes on both the eastbound and westbound Queens Boulevard service roads between Eliot Avenue in Rego Park and Yellowstone Boulevard in Forest Hills, which resulted in the removal of 198 parking spaces.

“I know we have concerns about safety but where’s the concern about the business owner who pays our taxes and struggles and works hard every day to try to make a living here?” asks Gary Taylor, the owner of Tropix Bar & Lounge.

Last year, Ben’s Best Deli closed after 73 years in business. Owner Jay Parker blamed the bike lanes. Cycling advocates said it was really because of changing demographics and high prices.

Whatever the reason was, the owners still making a go of it on the boulevard say customers voice their concerns constantly.

“They all complain,” said Raymond Chen, of Sai restaurant.

Freddy Martinez said clients air their grievances when they are late to an appointment at Presidential Care dental office. Customers with appointments call to say they’re late because they’re looking for a parking spot. And they risk getting a parking ticket on top of hundreds of dollars of dental work.

Several owners told the Chronicle they are losing thousands of dollars. Taylor wonders how things will be in the winter.

“There’s no bikes out here at all,” he said. “And we’re sitting here looking, no business and there’s no bikes. Of course we’re going to get aggravated.”

He added, “People get tired of trying to drive around and find parking.”

Taylor recalled how he was in Black Sea Fish and Grill and saw a family walk in while the father was still driving around. Several minutes later, the family walked out.

“I see that, it broke my heart,” Taylor said.

He realizes when business owners speak out, defenders of the bike lanes say they’re “whining and crying.”

“It’s not about whining or crying,” Taylor said. “It’s about the reality of putting your hard-earned money and all your years’ worth of work into a business.”

Taylor said when the plan was announced, one of the positives, in addition to safety, was that cyclists could pull up and become customers as well.

“I’ve never had one bike pull up there and get out and come into my place,” he said.

Mohammed Abdo owns Forever Furniture and lamented the amount of business lost combined with the rent.

“They’re not going to come and say, ‘You know what? Here’s $5,000 for you because you’ve lost a lot of customers,’” Abdo said. “Nobody’s going to give me help. If I get knocked down, nobody’s going to help me.”

Taylor said a customer at a barbershop on the block had his car towed during a haircut.

“Think he’s coming back again?”

Peter Beadle, co-chairman of Transportation Alternative’s Queens Committee and a member of Community Board 6, said he understands such concerns because the lanes are still fairly new but said they do not hurt. He pointed to a new bakery that recently opened at the former Ben’s site.

“All the doom and gloom of the naysayers that this would destroy businesses never materialized,” he said.