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Cabbies not shopping: 31st St. Biz Astoria businesses complain taxi drivers take up their customer’s parking spots

At the end of the N and Q lines, the merchants near 31st Street and Ditmars Boulevard say while the area sees a lot of traffic, few of the cars parked beneath the subway train belong to customers visiting their businesses.

“We’re terrorized by the livery cab drivers,” said Harry Panagiotopoulos, owner of the Igloo Café at 22-26 31st St.

Panagiotopoulos said livery cabs often park on the streets in front of the restaurants, taking up spots for hours at a time. This is just one of the problems Panagiotopoulos said plagues the merchants on the block, whom he said have faced blackouts and unfair competition from vendors who set up shop across the street from their businesses.

While he has discussed these problems with City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), both of whom have offices near the intersection and have worked to get the issues resolved, little has changed long-term.

“We have a lot of concerns about various city services that have not been delivered the way they should,” Gianaris said.

Tom Georgeou, owner of the A & D Meat Market at 22-55 31st St., said customers at his shop often end up double-parking in front and are ticketed by the police. When police or the city Taxi & Limousine Commission try to prevent the livery cabs from parking along the avenue for extended periods, the cabs scatter but come back later.

“The cabs have always been a problem,” Georgeou said.

Anthony Poretto, manager of Rose & Joe’s Italian Bakery at 22-40 31st St., said he did not believe the cabs should be sent away from the area, but there should instead be a taxi stand set up because many people getting off the N or Q subway need to be driven to their destination.

“With bad weather, they’re not going to have the right to get home or get anywhere where they need to go,” Poretto said.

He said some merchants on the block also had trouble with the power grid. Panagiotopoulos said he has had five blackouts at his store in 10 years. The most recent occurred a few weeks ago, when Con Edison did repairs near his cafe and shut down power for six hours when they said it would only be for one hour.

“I had to throw away fish. I had to throw away ice cream. I had to throw away a lot of stuff,” he said.

Vallone said he has been working to try to establish a taxi stand in the area and has tried to boot any vendor illegally operating in the area. He said, however, that much of the problem is the issue of enforcement, and in cases like the vendors, multiple agencies may be involved.

“These are very complicated problems that I’ve been dealing with ever since I was elected,” he said.

Yet Vallone said he continually asks for enforcement and has written numerous letters to agencies about the issues.

“Nobody, nobody is doing more to help the local merchants than I have,” he said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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