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Overzealous traffic cops are the bane of Belmont

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What’d you call an $85 cannoli? A parking ticket on Arthur Avenue. According to Jerome Raguso, overzealous parking cops are the bane of Little Italy.

“Yeah, the city needs money,” Raguso said. “But these guys are out of control.”

Raguso owns Gino’s Pastry Shop on E. 187th Street, between Hoffman Street and Arthur Avenue. He belongs to the neighborhood’s merchants association.

“A dear customer of mine was circling the block,” Raguso said. “He couldn’t find a spot. He sat at the wheel, double-parked. His wife ran in to place an order. A parking cop knocked on his window. He told the cop, ‘We’re about to leave.’ He got a ticket.”

Monda Parubi of Madonia Brothers Bakery told a similar story.

“A man came in to buy a loaf of bread,” Parubi said. “He left his car double-parked for two minutes. He was in-and-out. A $4 loaf of bread. He got a ticket for $150.”

For Raguso and Parubi, parking tickets are a business problem. Their customers hail from Westchester County, upstate and New Jersey.

“One ticket – you lose a customer,” Raguso said. “It’s a hassle for them. One ticket – they don’t come back no more.”

The neighborhood could use more parking. A municipal lot on E. 187th Street accommodates 57 cars – that’s it. Thousands of tourists descend on the neighborhood every Saturday.

“We have a private parking lot – 18 spots,” said Pasquale Rigoletto restaurateur Tommaso Terracciano. “We have 180 chairs. Too many chairs. Too few spots. Simple.”

According to Terracciano, Arthur Avenue deserves respect.

“We have a nice area,” he said. “Parmesan. Mozzarella. Vegetables, sausage, desert! We make the city a lot of money.”

July 2007 to June 2008, parking enforcement issued 1,049 on Hoffman Street between 3rd Avenue and E. 187th Street, 1,523 on E. 187th Street between Hoffman Street and Hughes Avenue, 651 on Hughes Avenue between Crescent Avenue and E. 186th Street.

Last December, Councilman James Vacca proposed a five-minute “grace period.” Too often, Vacca said, parking cops linger at nearly expired meters, ready to pounce. Councilman Joel Rivera supports the bill.

“Of course, we need parking tickets,” Rivera said. “But we can’t nickel and dime our shoppers, our residents.”

Rivera and Community Board 6 district manager Ivine Galarza have appealed to the NYPD. No luck. Galarza was ticketed for double-parking recently.

“I was there for an instant,” Galarza said. “They don’t ask you to move. They see you and give you a ticket.”

Rivera hopes the new Belmont Business Improvement District will lend Arthur Avenue merchants a hand. The BID could lobby for a multi-level public parking facility.

According to Anthony Biancardi of Biancardi Meats, four traffic enforcement agents prowl Arthur Avenue.

The problem has worsened recently, Biancardi said.

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CNG: Community Newspaper Group