By Arthur H. Gunther III
Nanuet, N.Y. — There’s a shopping center here that’s never been without parking vehicles since it was built in the later 1950s, a remarkable thing because such strips in suburbia — actually almost all of America — just seem to multiply, knocking one another off, their inevitable fate weed- and litter-covered lots and empty storefronts. But not the old E.J. Korvette complex.
This large discount chain of mostly Northeast stores, some with supermarkets, furniture outlets and tire centers, operated in Nanuet, a hamlet 20 miles out of New York City, for about two decades, until bankruptcy in 1980. Ever since, the site has been home to various retailers operating in divided E.J. Korvette space. That means the huge parking lot, about the size of three football fields, has always been used. And therein lies the heart of this essay.
Since the old Korvette store is a long building, it has a fire lane stretching about 60 percent of the length of the parking lot. And it is usually blocked. Maybe it’s a Clarkstown, N.Y., thing, or a Northeast habit, but the cars are ignored by the local gendarmes, at least the ones I have observed.
A run into Posa Posa pizza, or A.C. Moore or the UPS store or other shops means some irresponsible motorists leave the motor running in a lane clearly marked by the traditional yellow lines and painted curb. Newly painted.
Should there be a fire, which certainly is a possibility given the age of the old department store and the modifications made over the years, volunteer firefighters might not be be able to park their rigs, wasting valuable, life-saving moments setting up the “job.”
Motorists park illegally since they are not challenged, at least not often enough. I am in that center about once a week, have been for years, and there is just about always a vehicle or more in the fire lane.
Nearby, in another shopping center, the same situation. I once asked a state trooper, who was also parked in the fire lane while getting a bagel, why he didn’t ask the fellow sitting in the car in front of him to move out of the lane. He said that it wasn’t his “jurisdiction.” Did not know that fire hazards were defined by jurisdiction.
A suggestion beyond the obvious, which is to use common sense and not park in fire lanes, and for police to enforce the law: Keep the fire lane yellow, with diagonal lines and curb in that color, but overlay with deep red markings. This would make the lane more noticeable and make the offenders stand out. It would also pay tribute to our firefighters, volunteer and hired. Red is their color.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who lives in Blauvelt, N.Y. He is reachable directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. This essay may be reproduced.