Starving small businesses: Shopkeepers blast city’s new traffic regulations on Flatbush Avenue

Starving small businesses: Shopkeepers blast city’s new traffic regulations on Flatbush Avenue
Photo by Caleb Caldwell

This traffic plan leaves the little guy in the dust.

Flatbush Avenue mom-and-pops are already suffering after the city nixed parking on a stretch of the commercial corridor last week in a scheme officials claim will calm congestion, because the loss of curb space complicates deliveries at many shops and leaves patrons with less spots to pull up outside them.

“For us and trucks trying to make deliveries, it’s impossible — we prepare our food fresh daily, if we can’t get deliveries on time it creates a problem,” said Greg Yerman, who runs Burrito Bar and Kitchen on Flatbush Avenue between Park and Prospect Places. “Small businesses are shunned once again.”

Last Monday, the Department of Transportation installed “no standing” signs on both sides of the thoroughfare from Tillary Street in America’s Downtown to Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Heights, which prohibit parking from 7 am to 10 am and 4 pm to 7 pm on weekdays. The new regulations expand on previous restrictions, which forbade parking on the Downtown-bound side of Flatbush Avenue during the morning hours and within the evening window on the Prospect Heights–bound side.

The increased regulations are part of a six-month pilot program Mayor DeBlasio introduced under his so-called Congestion Action Plan, an initiative announced last fall that he claims will reduce traffic throughout the five boroughs.

The Transportation Department also cut one-hour metered parking from 10 am to 4 pm to create loading-only zones for trucks along three large swathes of Flatbush Avenue, which include the Downtown-bound side between Prospect and Park places, and the Prospect Heights–bound side between St. Marks Avenue and Prospect Place as well as between Park and Sterling places.

But the dedicated loading zones make it even harder for car-using customers to find spots outside stores, according to a local business booster, who argued that eliminating all of that parking for such a large chunk of the day is excessive.

“Our businesses deserve to have loading zones, it just seems odd. These are fairly substantial curb links,” said James Ellis, executive director of the North Flatbush Business Improvement District. “Maybe we don’t need that full block.”

And the many in-progress construction projects along Flatbush Avenue only add insult to injury for shopkeepers mourning the loss of parking — especially because the jobs may be what caused increased traffic on the road in the first place, according to another business owner.

“They’ve been doing construction lately so maybe really it’s the construction that makes the congestion,” said Joe Butrico, who runs Allstar Locksmith and Hardware on Flatbush Avenue between Prospect and Park places. “If you can’t park, it’s not good for business. Plain and simple.”

The store owners and Ellis fully conceded to the street’s congestion problems, but criticized DeBlasio’s program as a quick fix that doesn’t solve anything and suggested the city instead focus its time and effort on enforcing the existing rules of the road.

“It’s symptomatic of this administration creating new regulations instead of enforcing what’s already on the books,” Ellis said. “We by no means thought of congestion as a non-issue, especially on Flatbush Avenue, but we’re bothered how quickly they wanted to implement this, how it’s hitting the local stakeholders, and why they’re piloting a program on its effectiveness in an area that’s already disrupted.”

The pilot initiative’s restrictions don’t affect mom-and-pops on Flatbush Avenue Extension between Fulton and Tillary streets as much as they do businesses further down the road, because parking along that stretch of the street is already more regulated, according to Community Board 2’s district manager, Rob Perris.

But overall, the six-month crackdown on curb use is reminiscent of the much-maligned changes the city made to a stretch of Fulton Street last year, when it installed dedicated bus lanes that shopkeepers in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill blasted as bad for business.

A report on how the restrictions along Flatbush Avenue impact congestion, double parking, deliveries, and curb-regulation compliance on the road will be released this fall, following the pilot program’s culmination, according to the Transportation Department.

DeBlasio’s Congestion Action Plan also calls for amped-up enforcement to keep traffic flowing at intersections across the city, including five in Kings County, at Flatbush and Eighth avenues, Atlantic and Pennsylvania avenues, 86th Street and Seventh Avenue, Tillary and Jay streets, and Flatbush and Myrtle avenues, according to information from the agency.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.