A popular new restaurant and an older established one on City Island that draw crowds are also drawing some traffic backups that concern local islanders.
Police are stepping in to deal with the situation by eliminating some street parking before their parking lot entrances to move the backup off the main road on the island.
Locals said they really began noticing the traffic backup shortly after popular restaraunteur Jimmy Rodriguez opened the Puerto Rican-fare themed Don Coqui in February in the former Lighthouse Restaurant at 565 City Island Ave., near Bridge Street.
The traffic backup was especially noticeable on weekends, long before the annual summer crush of tourist and dining traffic to the island between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
The City Island Civic Association reached out to the 45th Precinct for help, writing to precinct Capt. James McGeown on March 14 that “the establishment’s location at the north end of the island causes delays for everyone who comes to City Island,”
To remedy the traffic tie-ups, and prevent motorists from driving around cars as they wait to turn into the parking lot for Don Coqui and Portofino restaurants, the precinct is experimenting with barring parking at 10 spaces on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and creating a turn-in lane.
“After speaking to the commanding officer, we looked at it and decided to eliminate about ten parking spaces from Seashore to Portofino,” said Lt. Paul Trapani of the 45th Precinct, who called the measures temporary, so far.
He said there is some concern that some motorists seeing the orange cones outside of the restaurant may think that the turn in-lane is a police check-point.
It should take some time before the precinct knows how well the plan works, he said, adding that the traffic experiment was a good example of police and community working together.
Rodriguez, the founder of Don Coqui restaurants and past-owner of Jimmy’s Bronx Cafe and Jimmy’s City Island, said he thinks the turn-in lane is a good example of local businesses working together with the island community, other enterprises, and police.
“We are very excited about how Don Coqui, Seashore and the Chamber of Commerce are working with the community and the police to try to ease congestion,” said Rodriguez. “When you think about it, the residents can get on the island much easier, and the people who are visiting the other establishments in the middle and latter part of the island don’t have to wait 20 minutes for our guests who are trying to get into the restaurant.”
Rodriguez said that he did not want impact other people’s businesses or jobs.
Traffic seems to being running smoother so far, said Barbara Dolensek, CICA second vice-president.