A ‘lot’ of pain at Red Hook supermarket as grocer bans cars overnight

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The free ride is over in a Red Hook parking lot — and it has some residents overheated.

One of the owners of the Fine Fare supermarket on Columbia Street has overturned a decades-old policy and will no longer allow locals to park their cars in his lot overnight, when the supermarket is closed.

As a result, locals are now forced to search for scarce on-street parking spots, which have been harder to come by since the opening of the IKEA megastore in 2008.

“I’ve been in Red Hook since 1966, and this has never been a problem,” said Lillian Marshall, the president of the Red Hook West Tenants’ Association. “Now all of a sudden, it’s a problem?”

Marshall said that the lot was particularly handy when she’d arrive home late from community meetings, or when friends and family come to visit.

“It’s not like his lot is full of cars at night,” she said.

But Damien Castillo, the Fine Fare co-owner, saw it differently.

“People were parking there overnight, there were abandoned cars, stolen cars,” he said. “People would change their tires there and leave the old tires.”

He said the five-year-old store put up signs advertising the new “bad neighbor” policy, and waited at least 10 days before enforcing it. He added that his supermarket and the Sovereign Bank, dollar store, and other tenants in the mini mall near Lorraine Street pay for upkeep on the lot so that customers — not freeloaders — can enjoy the convenience.

“We just don’t have the space,” he said.

That comment ignited road rage.

“He’s a liar,” Marshall charged. “Maybe he’s angry that he doesn’t get that many customers — he’s more expensive, and his meat is horrible.”

Ray Hall, co-founder of Red Hook Rise, didn’t want to discuss the quality of the offerings at Fine Fare, but he agreed that Castillo’s policy “is pretty unfair to everyone down here that’s been parking here so long.”

Still, Hall said he remains hopeful that a solution can be worked out. “There is always compromise,” he said.

Updated 2:15 pm, October 19, 2011
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