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Queens Center Mall Steers Shoppers to its Garage with Bogus Signs on Parking Meters
NY Daily News
Leigh Remizowski

March 7, 2010
View the Original Article


Parking attendants at a Queens mall have been caught red-handed posting phony no-parking signs on street meters that lure drivers into their garage.

The neon-hued signs were marked with an NYPD emblem and taped to meters outside the garage entrance of the Queens Center Mall in Elmhurst.

The signs may have looked official, but they're not, said NYPD spokesman Sgt. Carlos Nieves.

"The precinct was not aware that these signs were being put up," he said in response to inquiries from the Daily News. "The only people that are allowed to put these signs up are the NYPD."

The bogus signs, often reinforced by traffic cones and sawhorses, blocked off 12two-hour meters on 57th Ave. They often appeared on holidays and especially Sundays, when metered parking is free, angry shoppers said.

"It's disgusting," said Bill Terrell, 52, of Flushing, who snapped photos of the signs after he got suspicious. "It's forcing you to go into the garage."

Geraldine Simmons, 58, said she always wondered why the meters were blocked off but grudgingly followed the orders anyway.

"Why should I have to pay for the garage when I'm only going in for an hour and could just pay 75 cents?" she said.

Terrell drove to the mall on a Sunday last month. The meters were blocked off, so he asked a traffic enforcement agent why he couldn't park on the street.

The agent had no answer, Terrell said, so he took matters into his own hands.

"I got out and moved the barricade and parked," he said, noting the agent said there was no grounds to give him a ticket. "When I came out of the mall, other people had parked there, too."

Queens Center Mall spokeswoman Dawn Simon said eliminating street parking was meant to "facilitate traffic flow" during the mall's busiest days.

Garage employees began posting them in 2004 with police approval when the mall was expanding, she said. But when construction ended at the end of that year, so did the validity of the signs.

"Initially, the signage was provided by the Police Department," Simon said. "Rather than have them re-issue the signs over and over, we created signs."

A spokeswoman for the Queens district attorney's office said, as is customary, that she could neither confirm nor deny that they are pursuing the case. The precinct had not filed a criminal complaint, she said.

Ryan Blanch, founding partner of the Blanch Law Firm, said the bogus signs could warrant charges of defrauding the city or obstructing governmental administration - both Class E felonies.

Prosecutors could in theory also charge an offender with larceny by false pretenses, said Blanch, who is not connected to the incident. "They would have to be saying that the parking garage actually stole our quarters from those meters by hanging up the signs," he said.

Scammed motorists said they were angry they were duped.

"I don't think many people know they aren't legit," said Desmond Smith, 33, of Flushing. "I never really knew if they were fake or not."

The parking garage costs $3 for the first hour and $1 an hour after that.

"If you're one minute late, you have to pay a dollar more," said Anna Larussa, 35, of Middle Village. "It's terrible - especially when you're trying to save money."

Terrell, who drives by the mall almost every day, said he has not seen the signs posted since the weekend of Feb. 20, after The News began asking questions about them.

Officers from the 110th Precinct have since informed garage employees that the signs should be taken down, Nieves said.

"We have discontinued them," Simon said. "We will not be putting the signs up anymore."