Tucked away on the west side of the small town of Broad Channel in the middle of Jamiaca Bay is a narrow, dead end, street that goes by the name of West 12th Road. Those of us who live there know that the nice part about living in a small town is that when you are not quite sure what is going on, someone else always does!
[Peter J. Mahon West 12th Road, Broad Channel]
Call-A-Head has been a longtime staple and supporter of the Broad Channel community, where its headquarters are located, but the busy business has caused some traffic concerns as of late. Yet Call-A-Head says they’re aware, and are full-steam ahead on improving the situation along Crossbay Boulevard.
While traveling along the north- and southbound lanes on Crossbay Boulevard in Broad Channel, you may have observed the Call-A-Head trucks entering and exiting their compound, and some trucks parked on the street. After a few locals reported past traffic incidents with these trucks and safety concerns, especially during the rush commuting hours, The Rockaway Times was on the beat to investigate the situation, and identify what was being done to rectify the issue.
We reached out to Kenny Howard, vice president of Call-A-Head, to address the concerns of local residents. For example, one driver said that his car was totaled after an accident with one of the trucks. Howard responded, “The problem has been solved. Since last summer, we have worked hand-in-hand with the 100 Precinct to resolve this. As a team, we resolved about 95 percent of the problem. First and foremost, safety is and will always be our main concern.”
The Broad Channel born and based company, Call-A-Head is one of New York State's biggest sanitation suppliers of porta-potties for construction sites, rock concerts, outdoor weddings and other major events. The company was founded by the father of current president, Charles Howard. Howard, Sr., a Broad Channel resident, had worked as a truck driver for a portable-toilet company and started Call-A-Head in 1976 on what had been a gas station. In 1981, when the business had just 150 potties, he turned it over to his teenage son, Charles. According to VP Kenny Howard, today the company has over 175 employees, some of whom are Rockaway and Broad Channel locals.
Kenny Howard laid out the groundwork established by the company to resolutely solve all vehicular traffic and parking issues. He said, “We have acquired additional property: a 8,000 square foot warehouse in Valley Stream, Long Island. We park our vehicles there. In addition, we also recently rented two spaces in Arverne, 25,000 square foot and 5,000 square foot properties, where we also park our trucks.”
According to Howard, “The bike lane was a bit of an issue because when you are a commercial enterprise, there’s an option from the City, that you could either block the bike lane or you could double park. It’s a very touchy situation. However we stopped parking in the bike lane completely.”
They’ve even delegated an employee to keep a watch on traffic. “We put an employee in charge, almost like a crossing guard, who stands in the street and gets the trucks in the yard as fast as possible,” Howard said. “From when we open to close, he monitors the fire hydrants, the bike lanes and yellow lines. He makes sure that none of our drivers park the trucks in an illegal spot.”
He continued, “Between 6:30-7a.m., our drivers get in the trucks, start them up and leave soon after for the entire day. When they return between 6:30-7p.m., we have a system in place, where we have two drivers that basically get the trucks into the yard. Another employee stands centered on the mall with a safety-vest on. He monitors the whole situation, making sure that we prioritize which trucks get into the yard, and ensures that other incoming trucks are parked legally and safely.”
Howard said that the biggest priority of the company is to stay within the five boroughs. “After Hurricane Sandy, FEMA and NYC Emergency Management used our facility. They literally came with their own equipment to take our facilities to people in areas Sandy devastated. That’s how much of a necessity and emergency it was.”
He said that Call-A-Head is trying to stay as a resource for both organizations. “They want us to stay in NYC. So we’re trying to find more property so we can achieve this.” However, he expressed the challenges for a company of its magnitude to accomplish this. “Anywhere else in the City would be the same situation. Our trucks would have to double park,” Howard said. “In Howard Beach you find trucks double parked everywhere.”
“We don’t park in front of people’s homes. With the Broad Channel Athletic Club (BCAC), we have a solid relationship. We use their parking lot for employee parking. We’ve been a member of the BCAC since day one and we fund a lot of their projects,” Howard said.
Howard also said that to create more street parking, Call-A-Ahead moved half of their office staff to Wharton’s, a castle-like building, also on Crossbay Blvd. “We use it as a satellite office. The mindset was that this move would spread out a lot of car traffic, and get rid of a lot more cars on local streets.”
Howard concluded by sharing his love for the community. “We are four generations from Broad Channel. We give back to the town tremendously. However, we are a big business now, and there are a lot of things that come into play. We can’t react on all situations, all we can do is improve them.”