To Queens Community Board 1, Some Businesses More Worthy Than Others

Are small businesses that cater to cyclists less desirable than those who look to draw motorists? That seems to be the position of Queens Community Board 1.

A good percentage of these business patrons don't count to Queens Community Board 1. Photo: DNAinfo

DNAinfo reported yesterday on the board’s refusal to endorse a bike corral proposed by The Queens Kickshaw, located on Broadway between Steinway and 41st Streets in Astoria.

Owners Jennifer Lim and Ben Sandler, the wife-and-husband team who opened the popular restaurant and cafe in March, say a “good percentage” of their customers arrive by bike — enough that Transportation Alternatives has declared The Queens Kickshaw a bike-friendly business. Yet without proper parking, customers have nothing to secure their bikes to other than a nearby meter.

Lim and Sandler went through the city’s CityRacks application process, but their request was denied by both the CB 1 transportation committee and the full board. Since DOT chooses to defer such decisions to community boards, these budding entrepreneurs are back to square one.

And here’s the kicker:

[T]he board denied the request “because it’s going to take up a very valuable parking space,” said Lucille Hartmann, District Manager.

She said the parking is crucial for merchants on Broadway and Steinway streets, which are major shopping areas.

“Many businesses there are competing with shopping malls where there is parking available,” Hartmann noted.

Got that? Community Board 1 quashed a request from a business for more parking on the grounds that it would take parking from businesses.

Speaking with DNAinfo, Hartmann suggested Queens Kickshaw customers could be accommodated by two new bike racks that will soon be installed at a library across the street. There was no word on where library patrons might park.

Hartmann was not available for comment on the board’s decision. Meanwhile, Lim and Sandler — who, it must be said, are being awfully gracious about this — are giving it another shot. They have posted an online petition, which they plan to present to the board once they gather enough signatures. At this writing they have 324 names and counting.

  • CB1 logic

    Library patrons should not be allowed to park their cars in public parking spaces since they are not spending money at car-dependent businesses.  If one parking space is so “valuable,” the clearly it must be reserved for drivers who are spending money, not reading books.

  • Anonymous

    Steinway Street businesses need to get on-board with the parking reform movement.  Why is the city allowing strip malls to build all that parking and then charge nothing for it? Off-street parking need to have meters attached to them.

  • Eric McClure

    323 names and counting.

  • Anonymous

    I think it speaks volumes that the QCB1 District Manager a) believes that the businesses on Broadway in Astoria are directly competing with suburban shopping malls for car-driving customers despite one study from 1/2-mile away showing 82% of shoppers live in the immediate neighborhood and fewer than 8% of shoppers arrive by car, but also b) that this is a good policy worth supporting and endorsing – that is, encouraging driving and parking as the prioritized mode of travel for getting to businesses in a walking-heavy, transit-rich urban environment where the congested public streets can offer little more than one or two parking spaces per storefront. Take one good look at the businesses on that stretch of Broadway – Duane Reade, a diner, a chicken place, two banks, two pizza shops, liquor stores, insurance, nail salons, a public library – it’s not exactly regional shopping material  (as opposed to apparel, housewares, electronics or appliances). Looks more like the walk around the corner kind of stuff to me. So I seriously question the reasoning the chair of the board is using when determining which modes of travel to prioritize when supporting or condemning applications for street improvements – it seems arbitrary if not biased.

  • jrab

    I don’t believe the comparison is with suburban shopping malls but with urban strip malls; there is one a couple blocks away on Ditmars & 41st St that has lots of free parking and a similar mix of “walk around the corner” shops as IvoryJive says.

  • J

    @IvoryJive:disqus You’re talking about Broadway, and you’re correct that it’s mostly local-oriented businesses. The CB manager, however, is worried about Steinway, which has a lot more regional business, such as apparel and furniture, which tend to be more auto-centric. It’s a shame that a locally-oriented business is punished because the nearby BID doesn’t know how to market itself to anyone but drivers.

    If history has taught us anything, it’s that when urban areas try to out-suburb the suburbs, they always fail. Steinway needs to try a different tact and embrace it’s urbanity, focussing on improving transit access, encouraging new delivery options, and improving the streetscape. An all-parking strategy will, at best, will preserve the status quo. More likely, it will lead to a sustained decline of Steinway businesses, as suburban areas with free, unlimited parking and lower prices chip away at the motoring customer base.

  • Ian

    Before people pile on Ms. Hartmann, let’s remember that she is just the messenger passing along the board and committee’s decisions here, which she had no input in.  

    As someone mentioned in one of the comments, Steinway St. needs a new tactic to differentiate itself from trying to compete with shopping malls.  There are some gems between 30th and 34th Ave, but too often its feels like they are sandwiched between some oddball and mall-chain stores.

  • Streetsman

    IMO trying to position Steinway as an alternative to regional shopping malls by prioritizing automobile parking is an exercise in futility. What they should be doing is trying to position themselves as alternative instead by being walkable, transit-accessible, and with a bustling, gritty urban flavor – diverse product mix, ethnic food, public space and people-watching. And I just think it’s a little disingenuous for the CB chair to favor the interests of some businesses over others. This coffee shop is a local business too, their customers travel by bike so they would prefer more accommodation for bicycles, and the board is rather arbitrarily rejecting that request in favor of OTHER businesses that supposedly prefer automobile accommodations. I don’t know if these other businesses have even publicly voiced that concern regarding this specific proposal or if the the board has taken it upon themselves to cast this judgment. Regardless, it’s basically selective favoritism. Not a month ago this same board rejected a proposal supported by most throughout neighborhood to put a plaza on a nearby street. It was rejected primarily because the adjacent business wanted the area for deliveries. Here now an adjacent business has their own request for how the street in front of their business could respond to their needs, but this time it’s being rejected in favor of the many throughout the neighborhood that desire parking. So it’s quite clear that the previously applied rationale that an adjacent business’s needs are paramount in determining the use of the street was completely fallacious – they are just quite transparently furthering their own agenda of seeking to preserve as much driving and parking as possible, which I find it hard to believe is in any way representative of the preferences of the community at large or beneficial to the economic growth of the neighborhood.

  • Chris O’Leary

     What do you expect from a Community Board that, in 2012, still doesn’t even have a website? They’re stuck in the dark ages.

  • Jennifer Lim and Ben Sandler the wife and husband who even thinks to open the restaurants. suburban shopping malls are really have proper arrangement about parking and all these facility, which you didn’t get from strip malls.

  • Ian

    Streetsman: If you talk to some of those in the business community, they’ll tell you that Steinway offers this already.  Its just that the area is set up as they see fit.  Call it selective favoritism if you want.  Or protectionism.  These folks are trying to preserve certain qualities amidst the influx of people moving into this neighborhood.  Creating change in deep-rooted, prosperous ethnic neighborhoods isn’t as smooth or as fast as advocates may like.  But with presence and persistence, things can happen, even if they take a little longer.

  • Ian Turner

    My guess is that the mindset here is not actually that customers with cars are more important, but rather that cycling is not a real form of transportation, so introducing bike parking will not bring in customers. Rather, the perspective — shared by the majority, as far as I can tell — is that bicycling is a form of recreation, in which case added bike parking is more like adding a park than enabling commerce.

    This is sort of a part of the mythos of our society, the idea that the bicycle is a tool for recreation and not transportation. Like any mythos, it’s reflected pervasively: In the types of typically bicycles available for sale; in the way our transportation systems are designed; in the way bicycles and their operators are portrayed in advertising and media; and in the perspectives and opinions held by the citizenry. And like any mythos, change is hard and takes a long time, though I think the winds are certainly heading in the direction of bicycling as transportation.

  • In this case the answer is to add bike parking for 50 bikes at the library. This would also allow people to ride to the subway.

  • Peter

    Queens QB1 simply hates people who don’t have cars. They’ve shown it time and time again. They’re living in the 1970s but determining our future. Worst of all, many of them don’t even live in the community. How is it possible to be on a community board if you don’t live in the community?

  • mindfeck

    The bike racks at the library are not in the street. They do not take up a parking spot, nor do they block the sidewalk. It was obviously a better solution.