TIMES ARE TOUGH along Jamaica Ave., a once-bustling shopping strip in Woodhaven that is now dotted with shuttered stores.
So when merchants there found out that parking meter fees were hiked to 25 cents for 20 minutes, instead of 30 minutes, they were shocked and angry.
"This is a blatant attack on small businesses," said Maria Thompson of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corp.
Shop owners fear that customers, unaware of the new fees, will get slapped with parking tickets.
"I have people coming in from Long Island to shop," said Steve Esposito, who owns the Orthopedic Shoe Clinic on Jamaica Ave. "If they get a ticket, they aren't going to come back."
Matthew Xenakis, owner of Park Place Greenery and Florist, said one of his wholesalers thought he had 30 minutes - and got slapped with a $35 ticket.
"I felt bad," he said. "I gave him the money for the ticket."
Rep. Anthony Weiner and state Sen. Joseph Addabbo met with business owners last week to address complaints that they had no warning about the change.
"Parking spaces are precious things," Weiner said. "You can't use that pressure to balance the city's books."
But city Transportation Department officials said the change was announced very publicly by Mayor Bloomberg this year.
"Most meter rates have remained unchanged since 1992, when the city changed the rate for many meters to 25 cents for 30 minutes," said Transportation Department spokesman Seth Solomonow.
"Also, the new rate will not affect the approximately 8,000 single-space and 3,200 muni-meters, which are already set for higher rates citywide - roughly 40% of all spots in the city."
The change started in February, and are being phased in throughout the city, Solomonow said. Queens work was recently completed.
Some merchants are in favor of the rate hike because it creates more turnover in parking spots. But Addabbo said it hurts consumers and merchants alike.
"Raising fees and decreasing time doesn't help our shoppers," said Addabbo as he stood across the street from Jason's, a party and variety store that closed recently after more than 60 years in business.
"To see a store like Jason's go is just sad. My father took me there as a kid."