A local assemblyman has stepped into the middle of ticketing war against a row of Pelham Parkway auto repair shops.
The local precinct, under orders from police headquartes has been besieging the shop owners and patrons in a ticket blitz to keep the approach roadway to the parkway cleared of double-parked cars.
“Gentleman…it’s an olive branch that was extended,” said Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, acting as an ad hoc mediator during a Nov. 12 sitdown between 49th Precinct brass and business owners along Stillwell Avenue.
The street behind Eastchester Road, home to several auto shops, was the subject of an aggressive push to curb chronic double and triple parking that obstructed traffic along the two-way street for years, but became even more problematic with the opening of an entrance ramp to the parkway at the end of the street.
“Stillwell Avenue was a one-pony roadway,” said precinct C.O. Deputy Inspector Lorenzo Johnson, who explained why the October enforcement operation was needed. “I asked for their cooperation and never saw it.”
The push was the result of a published report on Stillwell’s traffic issues that was later read by One Police Plaza, which ordered the crackdown.
Johnson soon sent a squadron of cops to Stillwell Avenue, which merchants say had scared off customers fearing ticket happy cops.
But Johnson said he also found infractions that went beyond double or triple parking, including vehicles “with no registration, with no inspection, no license plates.”
The owners in attendance were quick to blame the infractions on Carlos Mele, owner of British Auto Works.
“He’s the main violator,” said Johnson. “But all the cars that we summonsed and towed were also violators.”
Mele had received a total of $1600 in fines for cars under his care.
“Guys are here driving all day long, giving tickets,” said Mele, who’s owned his business for ten years.
Shop owner Hardy Montrone also was worried the blitz has scared off customers.
“The last thing you want is people living in fear of the police department,” said Montrone, adding the blitz “hurts our business, and second of all, portrays you as bad guys.”
A decade ago, cops looked the other way on Stillwell Avenue since it was a commercial dead-end street until the city opened it up to allow riders to easily avoid Eastchester Road and slip onto the parkway.
But cars had to maneuver around to avoid double parked cars.
Some suggested solutions to the problem included traffic agents issuing two-minute warnings to double-parked drivers. Merchants would still have to do their part by “policing yourselves” as Assemblyman Mike Benedetto put it at the meeting, and ban triple parkers.
But Mele pointed out one unintended consequence–a clear road producing speedy drivers.
“We had two accidents,” said Mele. “Someone’s gonna get killed. Then what’s going to happen?”