By Crystal Simbudyal
Shanel Mendonca, a mother from Queens Village who works full time, sometimes until late in the evening, often arrives home to find a neon orange cone blocking the pavement in front of her neighbor’s home. Sometimes, it’s a garbage can that blocks her way. But the purpose is always the same: to reserve a parking space. Her neighbors’ driveways remains empty most of the time.
“It is ridiculous that people hold parking spaces,” said Mendonca. “To avoid conflicts with my neighbors, I just park a few blocks up and take a walk several minutes to and from my car.”
Street parking, a first-come, first-serve aspect of life in New York City, has become a source of strife in Queens Village. Block after block, orange traffic cones and garbage cans stand in the street, rankling relationships among neighbors who jockey over scarce parking spaces.
Mendonca, a Queens Village resident of 17 years, faces this problem everyday, as her next door neighbors hold a parking space every time they leave their home. Mendonca’s family often needs to park more than one car, so if her driveway is full, she has to park on the street. The situation, she said, “has become frustrating.”
Among the 7,588 households in Queens Village, 46 percent own at least two cars and another 38 percent own one car, according to the 2013, Queens Village Census Data & Community Profile.
Police officers say it is often difficult to determine whether a cone has been legally placed or not. Cones can indicate a range of issues “from temporary construction or a dumpster drop across the street from a house that is going under construction,” said a local police officer who asked not to be identified.
While reserving a private spot on a public street is illegal, the Police Department seems to have little appetite for enforcement, judging by the widespread use of cones and garbage cans to save spots.
Mendonca said she had called 311 on several occasions to report her concern about parking spots being held but has never gotten a positive response. “Cops do not do anything about this,” she said. “They hardly ever pass through this block anyway, and a few blocks over orange cones take over the road.” She notes that people prefer to park curbside instead of in their driveways because it is often harder to navigate in and out of a driveway.
Mendonca recalled an instance when her sister moved a garbage can out of the street so that she could park. Her neighbor waited patiently for her to get out of her car. He then told her that she was in his spot.
Kamey Tywarie, a Queens Village resident of 13 years, said the problem began about four years ago when more businesses opened in the neighborhood.
“There is a home health agency building up the road from me and employees and visitors come in the morning and take up parking,” said Tywarie.
Another problem, said Tywarie, are the commuters who take mass transit and park their vehicles near the subways when they go to work or school.
Once, Tywarie says, her car was scratched with a nail along the sides after she parked in front of a Queens Village home. It wasn’t until a year later that one of her neighbors warned her against parking in the area. “I never reported it because I didn’t have enough proof,” Tywarie said.