By Paula Katinas
Bay Ridge — Dominick Vaccaro, owner of Ristorante Vaccaro, a popular Italian restaurant on Fort Hamilton Parkway, said the city’s parking regulations are having a negative effect on his business.
“You have one-hour meters. One hour’s not enough time to eat a nice meal in a restaurant. You get your appetizer and by the time you’re ready for your main course, your hour is up and you have to run outside to feed the meter. By the time you get back, the food is cold,” Vaccaro said.
Fort Hamilton Parkway has a one-hour time limit for parking.
Vaccaro said he always sees customers jump up from their tables to run out to the street to feed their parking meters.
Eighty-Sixth Street, one of the busiest shopping areas in Brooklyn, also has a one-hour parking rule.
John Collucio, owner of Globe Surgical Supplies on 86th Street, said the tight restriction is unfair.
“I had a guy come in that I was fitting for a new knee brace. It took an hour and 15 minutes. This guy got a $115 ticket,” said Collucio, president of the Bay Ridge 86th Street Business Improvement District.
Stories like Vaccaro’s and Collucio’s are all too common in the Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights business community, according to U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, who came to Fifth Avenue on Feb. 23 to call on the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) to give drivers and business owners a break.
Grimm is calling on DOT to install two-hour muni-meters on Fort Hamilton Parkway, 13th Avenue, and 86th Street.
The agency has already begun putting two-hour meters along Third Avenue and the Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District (BID).
Vaccaro and Collucio both said they support the idea of two-hour meters.
The idea behind his request, Grimm said, is to “make an environment that helps create business.”
One-hour meters simply do not give a shopper enough time to shop, eat in a restaurant, get their hair done in a salon, or get their eyes checked at an eyeglass store, Grimm said.
“You may come out to a big summons. If that happens, guess what? You won’t come back here,” he said.
That shopper who doesn’t come back translates into a loss of business for a merchant, Grimm said.
And that translates into the business owner hiring fewer workers, said state Sen. Marty Golden, who joined Grimm at the press conference outside Optical Center at 8310 Fifth Ave.
“Each one of these stores is hiring five or six people,” said Golden, who noted that it wouldn’t happen if merchants are constantly being squeezed financially.
“There is nobody here who hasn’t seen the DOT guy giving out summonses,” Golden said.
“Nothing’s going down. Taxes go up. Nothing goes down. Neither has the price of these summonses,” Golden said.
Dr. Steven Ganz, owner of the Optical Center, said it can sometimes take longer than an hour to examine a customer’s eyes and fit them for eye glasses.
“It adds to a customer’s stress level,” he said.
Some business owners have offered to feed the meters for their customers, Vaccaro said. The restaurant owner said he’s willing to do it, “but that means I have to have a guy there to run out and feed the meters instead of helping the customers at the tables.”
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis called the two-hour meters “a quick fix,” and said “this is a crucial step” to put in place while she, Golden, and other legislators fight for more business-friendly laws in the state legislature.
DOT agreed last month to replace the one-hour muni-meters on Third and Fifth Avenues with new meters that have a two-hour time limit. Basil Capetanakis, vice president of the Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue BID, said merchants are happy about it. He predicted that customers will be happy, too.
“It’s a longer time in order to shop,” he said.
Grimm said he has already reached out to DOT to request two-hour meters for Fort Hamilton Parkway and 13th Avenue.