In the NY Daily News: Residential parking permits for NYC

This article was originally published on on May 17, 2024.


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Every inch of curb space in this crowded city is precious. So why are we giving so much of it away for free?

Stroll any residential street in Manhattan, and you’ll think you’ve crossed state lines. License plates from New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania; countless parking spots occupied by cars with license plates from out of state. Many are owned by commuters entering the city each morning who don’t want to pay for a garage, so they dump their cars on our residential streets — for free.

Neighborhoods like Inwood, Washington Heights, and Harlem face unique parking challenges. Their proximity to major bridges and highways makes them prime targets for commuters seeking free parking. They dump their cars on the street for free, jumping on the subway for destinations in the Manhattan core.

As a result, residents who own cars often compete for spots with drivers from out-of-state neighboring areas, leading to frustration and inequity. This frustration is not just an inconvenience; it disrupts daily life, increasing tension among local residents who need access to convenient parking near their homes.

The upcoming implementation of congestion pricing could exacerbate this issue. As drivers seek to avoid the congestion fee by parking outside the designated zone south of 60th St., some neighborhoods could become even more saturated with out-of-state vehicles. This could further strain communities already saturated with congestion, making it harder for residents to find parking and access their homes conveniently.

Other cities worldwide, from London to Montreal, Philadelphia to Los Angeles, have solved this problem long ago. They reserve parking in residential neighborhoods for people who actually live there. The rules and fees for these “residential parking permit” programs vary by city.

Some set prices by vehicle type and weight, others even by borough or neighborhood to reflect differences in the availability and demand for curbside spots. Still, they generally require only proof of residence and a locally registered vehicle to park in designated neighborhoods.

The idea for a residential parking permit program in New York City is not new, but it’s gaining urgency ahead of the implementation of congestion pricing with its new $15 fee.

But the benefits of residential parking could go even further.

It could impact our city budget, with badly needed revenue generated from the program funneled right back into the neighborhood to help fund streetscape improvements, upgrades to local parks, and better public transit. This would beautify the neighborhood and enhance the overall quality of life for its residents.

Residential parking could also help solve enforcement issues we see on the street, helping to combat the growing problem of locally owned vehicles fraudulently registered in other states and ghost cars with obstructed or defaced plates who park on our streets but evade tolls and traffic camera tickets for dangerous driving that everyone else has to pay.

So why hasn’t this program been implemented yet in New York City? Like so much else, this is a case in which we can’t make local policy without permission from the state government.

Albany has shown again and again that they don’t have a problem with residential parking permits. After all, they have authorized them in cities and towns all over the state — from Buffalo to Albany to New Rochelle. But New York City has, so far, not even been given the option. It’s time for this to change.

State authorization would only be the beginning of the process for us. The City Council would then have to pass legislation to establish a program, setting out the rules, pricing, and mechanism for enforcement.

The city’s Department of Transportation would have to create and implement a program that met the needs of all New Yorkers and set a fair value for access to the curb. Ideally, this would not be a one-size-fits-all system. Instead, it would be a program that varies by neighborhood to meet the unique needs of each community.

Implementing a sensible residential parking permit program would discourage commuters from parking for free in residential neighborhoods and generate much-needed revenue for neighborhood improvements, like bus improvements, street safety projects, and more.

It is time for Albany to give New York City the same authority it has extended elsewhere in the state. Our streets are too precious a resource to be left to a free, first-come-first-served system that repeatedly fails local residents.

Levine is the Manhattan borough president. De La Rosa is a Council member representing Northern Manhattan.

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