In the fair town where I keep all of my stuff and sleep most of the time – referred to as Ridgewood and straddling the border of Brooklyn and Queens in what many people flippantly refer to as “the greatest city in the world” – is a road called Onderdonk Avenue. This road, much like the prominent Brooklyn/Queens family it’s named after, is of small importance on a global scale, but of rather large importance locally.
“Good morrow. My name is Benjamin Treadwell Onderdonk, and I may or may not be related to the Onderdonks mentioned here, or I might be. I probably am.”
Most of Onderdonk Ave is a one-way residential street where one would expect to find children playing on the sidewalk. What makes it different from many aesthetically identical streets in Ridgewood is the fact that it connects the arterial road Flushing Ave to the arterial road Myrtle Ave – which generates a massive amount of traffic passing between the two roads. Calling a road “arterial” is a perfect metaphor – imagine a couple of heart veins delivering loads of red blood cells into that big chamber of the heart. Except the red blood cells are violently impatient motorists in variously sized SUVs and your kids are playing with a ball on the sidewalk.
About four blocks away from Myrtle on Onderdonk is a widely recognized purveyor of pizza known as “Domino’s.” Domino’s prides itself on pumping “affordable” hot pizza into the gullets of Americans. And, if you’ll remember our heart analogy from the last paragraph, these guys are poised to pump said pizza into said gullets with efficiency which could only be topped by the invention of liquid pizza.
“Longtime pizza chain known for delivery.” Sounds exciting. Tell me more.
And boy do they have the staff to deliver! Despite their bang-up reviews on Yelp! – and the fact that this chain is located smack in the heart of a city that is celebrated worldwide for its hole-in-the-wall pizza joints – this branch of Domino's gets a ton of business. Every day, during the evening American post-work-battle-off-depression-with-food-consumption hour know as “about 6:30ish,” the automobiles of Domino’s employees can be found double-parked for almost the entire block. To put this into additional perspective: Onderdonk is a one-way road with street parking on both sides of two lanes of moving traffic – a lane for cars and a bike lane (which also serves as a lane for cars whenever the cars feel like it). So, on this particular block, there’s a row of parked cars, and then a row of double-parked Domino’s cars next to that, and then a small corridor for rush hour traffic to squeeze through, and then – why the hell not, this is the greatest city in the world after all and everyone deserves a car – another row of parked cars next to that.
Domino’s is, literally and figuratively, clogging our arteries.
Someone, maybe someone who doesn’t live in this town, might ask, “But how does the business owner handle the massive amount of parking tickets her/his employees accrue on a daily basis?” The answer is that s/he does not. In my almost eight years in this neighborhood, I’ve never seen a single parking ticket on one of these cars ever. Not once. And if you think the store owner would ever pay an employee's parking ticket, then you've obviously never delivered pizza before (I have).
Someone else, maybe someone who does live in this town, might ask, “But what makes these scofflaws different from say, a FedEx or UPS truck, which are frequently seen with parking tickets, but parts of large international corporations who must just factor those tickets in as a cost of doing business?” The answer to that is: there is none. The only difference I can discern in that comparison is a presence or lack of parking tickets.
I don’t actually live in this particular part of Ridgewood but, if my ostentatious smugness and obsession with cycling infrastructure hasn’t already given me away yet, I’m a bicycle commuter and I pass through this area almost every day for most of the year. I’ve done so on and off since I moved to this nook of the Wood way back in Two-Double-Aught-Seven – back when Ridgewood didn’t even have bike lanes and we had the unique New-York-City joy of mixing with agitated traffic that had a few extra feet of roadway with which to terrorize us. Nowadays, under Mayor Bill “Can’t We All Just Be Groovy?” De Blasio and his Vision Zero campaign, cyclists can cruise down that reclaimed bit of roadway in a neat-o bike lane resembling a lumpy patchwork quilt made out of cement on either Woodward or Onderdonk Aves. The Woodward path feeds conveniently into the cyclist deathtraps that are Flushing and Metropolitan Aves – on Metro alone, I pass two ghost bikes going to work every day.
But I will say that the presence of bike lanes, despite the bumps, delighted me so much that I wrote one of my rare blog posts about them and, in classic If-You-Give-a-Mouse-a-Cookie fashion, shamelessly encouraged anyone willing to rattle a spear to ask the Department of Transportation for more aspects of road design to help keep me and my fellow Ridgewoodians’ bodies separate from the hoods, tires, and windshields of cars. The presence of bike lanes has indeed made that stretch of my commute feel safer, and motorists do seem to recognize the presence of cyclist traffic more. Give me a choice of something or nothing? Something, please. And thank you.
In my first years here, in the before-the-bike-lane days, I’d make my way down Onderdonk as I do down any road where I mix with traffic – cautiously, optimistically, and as quickly as safety will allow. I’ve found that the only thing motorists hate more than a slow cyclist is a cyclist making better time than them (read: most cyclists), so attempting to keep pace with the flow of traffic is important to me. In these olden days, when approaching any area where cars are simply prioritizing their safety and convenience over yours – which, on Onderdonk, crescendos into Ridgewood’s pizza-induced blood clot – I’d check to make sure I could merge, take the full lane with the motor vehicle traffic, and cruise past the double-parked drivers.
Any old day on Onderdonk. Sometimes it's better, sometimes it's worse.
I do exactly the same thing today, the only difference being that the cars are now parked on top of cycling infrastructure, instead of just being in the middle of the street. The other day, I took the lane as I normally do, but the difference was that I saw a fellow cyclist crossing the street to confront the Domino's drivers. I was moving swiftly at the time, as not to get rear-ended by a car, so the only detail I caught was the other cyclist, white light flashing atop his helmet, opining, “But what you guys are doing is illegal!”
My desire to stop and listen, or potentially offer my two cents, was trumped by my not wanting to be associated with the dude firing vitriol and helmet photons at pizza delivery drivers. Their parking habits are my norm. Additionally, the owner is the person who needs to find a solution to this problem, not the drivers. So with my past and my present in tow, I scurried along, not really thinking twice about the encounter – it’s my cost of doing business, after all.
Until the next morning, a Saturday, as I lazily perused the internet for “things” to “read,” and happened across another Ridgewoodian who also took issue with this branch of Domino’s. The tweet was time-stamped around 2am and said the double-parked drivers had woken him up playing music out of their cars – which, I’d like to remind the reader, are ostensibly used for delivering pizza and not as multi-ton, fossil-fuel-burning jam boxes which happen to wield the power to kill humans – and that he’d filed a 311 complaint. Then it occurred to me. Yes. 311. That is a thing people do. I figured if this guy, myself, and perhaps the blinky-helmet-other-cyclist guy filed formal complaints, something might finally be done. So I did something I’d never done before, and filed a 311 report.
I did receive a reply, that day, complete with what I deemed to be quite dramatic and “police-y” ALL CAPS, detailing the fact, in so many words, “that someone had been sent to say something to the business owner, probably about the double parking” and that the cars had been moved – a claim I quickly refuted by hopping on my bike and riding over to the Domino’s where, feeling no shock, discovered that the Domino’s cars were doubled parked for almost an entire block, per usual. Although I wasn’t surprised to see behavior I had witnessed literally hundreds of times in the past years, I was surprised at the finality in the tone of the 311 report. Report received, police dispatched, owner spoken to, cars moved. Case closed.
“The Police Department responded to the complaint and took action to fix the condition.
PO LOIODICE ON TS, SGT CASTRO ON DESK AND NOTIFIED, PO FLORIO AND PO KUCIK RESPONDED TO LOCATION AND SPOKE WITH BUSINESS OWNERS ABOUT CARS BEING DOUBLE PARKED AND MANAGER HAD THE VEHICLES MOVED.” Then, it closes with the number 91 for some reason.
Notice the car-to-people ratio in this picture.
The truth of the matter is, this is just my and a few other people’s tiny sliver of a widely practiced and mostly-ignored traffic problem in this city. The phenomenon has even reached Twitter-legitimacy. But winning even the littlest battle would feel significant. Times are a’changing, or trying their damndest to. It might be nearly impossible to solve the problem of an individual person (or the police, for that matter) double parking or parking in the bike lane. But, if putting on a uniform – Domino’s or otherwise – is supposed to do one thing, it’s make you accountable.
But who doesn’t love their pizza hot and fresh though, am I right? You are such a chump, however, if you order pizza from a chain restaurant in New York City. You’re either a native here, and should know better, or you moved here from some other far-far-far-inferior geographic pizza region and are depriving yourself of one of the best parts of “the greatest city in the world” (for pizza, at least). The only other possibility is that you have childhood pizza nostalgia for some chain but, dump that, you’re an adult now, find a local pizza place you like and order from them forever. Despite their parking practices, my opinion is always “let’s not order from Papa Jonhomino’s,” and I believe a far more effective course of action, rather than boycotting this branch or filing 311 reports, would be to order instead from your local purveyor of heart-murdering deliciousness – or one of the following prime pizza locations in Ridgewood. And come visit if you're not from around here – while you're at it, ride your bike here. Not only will you stay ahead, calories-wise, of the pizza you're about to eat, but now you're on the up-and-up on the bike lane situation here, thanks to me (you're welcome).
Pisa Pizza – 6568 Myrtle Ave, Glendale – Technically Glendale but they deliver to parts of Ridgewood. This place is a total hole in the wall, emphasized by the fact that it DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A WEBSITE. On the outside, it looks just like any old pizza place. But it’s not. It’s mouth heaven. This spot has the most solid slice of plain cheese pizza I’ve ever eaten in my life. Additionally, the fried eggplant on a pie? Just shut up and eat it. The penne vodka with fried chicken cutlet and a side of garlic knots? You’ll eat it compulsively until it makes you sick. Pro tip: if you save half of it, you can eat it for lunch the next day and it won’t (entirely) make you break Deadly Sin #4: Puking from eating too much rich, delicious Italian food.
Photo from Bushwick Daily
Houdini Kitchen Laboratory – 1563 Decatur Street, Ridgewood – This is one of those fancy sit-down restaurants in a repurposed raw-cork processing plant or whatever in what can only be described as the “rapey” part of Ridgewood where it gets all industrial and side-streety for a hot minute. It doesn’t even have a sign out front. The kind of up-its-own-ass pretentiousness that only exists in this town and probably Paris. You get to sit there and feel so much cooler than your friends back home. It’s a new player to the Ridgewood pizza game, and excellent, and it’s received all sorts of reviews from sources that are supposed to matter. It's worth a trip for the ambiance and to experience the charming inkling that you may get mugged as you walk there. Or they deliver, if you’re opposed to leaving your house in order to stuff hot cheese and bread into your biggest facehole.
"To Take Out" as in "You Are Not Welcome to Eat it Here"
Burek’s Pizza – 6855 Forest Ave, Ridgewood – This place doesn’t even serve pizza. I have no idea why it’s called “Burek’s Pizza.” For years I thought it was a front for the mob, but no, they do serve food there, and that food is burek. "What’s burek?" you ask. Quit asking questions and try something new!
Corato I: Not just pizza, but also restaurant.
Corato I and Corato II – 6694 Fresh Pond Road, Ridgewood and 6091 Myrtle Ave, Ridgewood – These places have solid pizza, but nothing to write home about, unless you come from somewhere that doesn't have pizza (in which case, wow, let’s open up shop there and fill that gap). But even at this level, it’s indescribably better than Domino’s, and these guys have been in the neighborhood a long time. Plus, word on the street is, the “I” and “II” locations are owned by a family who had a split – so you get to imagine that where you choose to order from is pitting one brother against another in a classic-Italian-family-drama-esque way. Like the Sopranos, but in Queens with pizza.