Lot of Questions

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They paved paradise and put up a parking lot—without permission. A bayside parking lot on Beach 80th Street is raising a lot of questions.

If you drive along Rockaway Freeway and pass by Beach 80th Street, you may notice a bustling business advertising beach and JFK Airport parking, with free shuttle service to the airport, for a can’t-beat price at about $6 a day, and it’s drawing in big business. By September, the Beach 80th Street Flea Market, which opened at the privately-owned lot on the east side of Beach 80th Street in July, was no longer in operation, as signs advertising the cheap parking went up.

However, as cars started to fill the other massive lot on the west side of Beach 80th Street, Jon Gaska of Community Board 14 and others wanted to know —who allowed them to operate there? Gaska contacted the City in the fall.

That particular parcel of land is owned by the City and operated by Small Business Services (SBS) and the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC).  It was long slated for development into a bayside marina as part of the Arverne By The Sea project. The once abandoned six-acre site that includes tidal wetlands was supposed to have a marina that included waterfront access, boat slips, a community garden, a wooden boardwalk, and a building that would contain retail stores and a restaurant. Signs claiming the marina is “Coming Soon” still stand, from as far back at 2008. However, it never happened.

With the 2008 recession and Hurricane Sandy coming into play in 2012, the project was put on pause. However, in 2013, when the NYCEDC announced the Game Changer competition to help revitalize Hurricane Sandy-impacted communities with as much as $18 million in federal funding for projects, ABTS developers submitted plans to get the ball rolling on the marina. Yet Game Changer was later disbanded and nothing came from it. Plans for the marina once again fell to the wayside.

With the comeback of the Rockaway ferry in 2017, ABTS developers were once again eyeballing the site with the hopes of putting their plans back into action. “The Marina parcel was always considered part of the Arverne by Sea development plan,” an ABTS spokesperson said. “The Arverne by the Sea team expended a substantial amount of money and effort over the years on its marina plan including successfully completing numerous environmental studies and having its plan fully approved by the City Public Design Commission.

“The ABTS teams remains committed to having the Marina parcel part of the award-winning Arverne by the Sea development and looks forward to working with the City to insure its completion and its success.”

There’s only one problem—the parcel of land now appears to be occupied by the parking lot and airport shuttle service company, Park It JFK. And with that, questions started to arise about how this company got permission to operate on this city-owned land, designated for the marina project.

According to the EDC, the takeover of this property for such use was never permitted.  “We are aware of this encroachment issue and we have sent EDC staff to the site, first to survey conditions, and then to discuss the situation with the operator of the parking lot, who claimed to have a valid agreement on the site with a third party. This is not an authorized use of this city-owned site,” an EDC spokesperson told The Rockaway Times (RT).

On Tuesday, January 9, the RT called Park It JFK to find out more. A friendly, chatty man who referred to himself as Victor and claimed to be a co-owner of the company, seemed to confirm the third-party claim, saying that his partner, Steve, had an agreement with someone by the name of Dr. Patel, who they said had a lease with the city for the land. Steve was allegedly out of town and couldn’t be reached.  Victor said he and his partner cleaned up the property to the tune of $130,000 and they have invested more than $200,000 in the property.  Further, he claimed to be paying $30,000 a month in rent to the alleged landlord.

A rep for EDC said a “Dr. Patel” was unknown to them but they were continuing to investigate.

The RT decided to pay the office of Park It JFK a visit on the morning of Wednesday, January 10. When we asked to speak to “Victor,” the employees in the office-trailer said they didn’t know a Victor, who the RT spoke with twice on Tuesday. They claimed that they had no idea who answered the phone. Additionally, the employees did not have any contact information for the mysterious Dr. Patel, but said they would leave our contact information, which we provided them, for Steve, who “Victor” had referred to as his partner on Tuesday.

Hours later, The RT made yet another phone call to the Park It JFK office and asked for Victor again.  The person, who we saw in person earlier, said “He’s not here right now.”  We said we were told earlier there was no such person.  Upon this, she hung up.

In the meantime, we did more digging into Park It JFK. On Monday, January 8, the RT contacted the Department of Consumer Affairs, as such businesses are required to have a license to operate through the agency, and the Port Authority, which partners with off-airport parking lots and requires them to pay a fee to make drop offs at the airport. In the FAQ section of the ParkItJFK.com website, it said a Port Authority fee would be collected upon arrival.

Consumer Affairs stated, “Park It JFK at 350 Beach 80th Street in Rockaway does not have a DCA parking lot license.”

“Park It JFK does not have a relationship with the Port Authority,” a Port Authority spokesperson said. “They are not a permitted Off Airport Parking Operator.”

By late Monday afternoon, after the RT had reached out to the city agencies, and made an inquiry on the Park It JFK website, ParkItJFK.com was taken down, and seemingly all of their social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were either deleted or changed names to “EasyJFKParking.”

While the ParkItJFK.com website was removed, preventing customers from reserving their parking plans directly through the company, as of Wednesday, a third-party website, Way.com still had the company listed and was accepting reservations, which customers pre-pay for through the website. Park It JFK also continued to accept reservations by phone.

The idea of only paying $6-7 for daily airport parking may seem alluring but locals are encouraged to take a look at online reviews of the business.

Who’s really behind Park It JFK?  That still remains a mystery and as of press time, The Rockaway Times was still piecing things together. Stay tuned.

As for the city’s plans, a spokesperson said, “EDC is working with City Law and enforcement actions are in progress.”

At the Community Board meeting Tuesday night, Gaska said he expects the parking lot business “to be evicted by the spring.”

Maybe like the sign says, the marina will be coming soon.

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