Residential Parking Permits Pushed for Upper Manhattan

East Side Councilmember Keith Powers, one of the sponsors of legislation to allow for residential parking permits to ease the influx of park-and-commute drivers from eating up all the street spots in Upper Manhattan. | Photo courtesy of Councilmember Powers

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA | A new bill percolating in the City Council is looking toward a residents-only parking system for Manhattan from 60th St. to Inwood. Introduced late last month, the bill is part an effort to curb park-and-ride commuters grabbing scarce street spots, particularly in anticipation of a potential congestion pricing plan that would make entry into Midtown more costly.

“This bill is really broad and flexible,” said East Side Councilmember Keith Powers, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, who took office in District 4 earlier this year. The bill “doesn’t say it has to happen here or at this time. It really opens up the conversation to every community.”

Powers added that the system could be a starting point for solving the city’s parking problems. Should congestion pricing win approval at the state level, he said, an “invisible wall” would essentially go up, most likely at 60th St. Implementing a residential parking system would be a part of solving a larger problem of over-congestion of vehicles hunting for spots north of Midtown.

“This is really step one in doing that,” Powers said.

The bill requires the Department of Transportation to authorize a residential parking permit system north of 60th St. through Inwood. The bill says that, subject to approval by specific communities, 80 percent of parking spaces would be designated for residents with a permit — not including streets with commercial, office, or retail uses. Non-residential parking spots that remain would be reserved for short-term parking.

Should the bill go through, councilmembers say the DOT would hold public hearings with community boards to approve neighborhood programs, ensure that residential permits are only issued to those with a New York State driver’s license and are attached to specific license plate numbers, and establish a limit to the number of permits per driver.

Upper Manhattan Councilmembers Mark Levine, Helen Rosenthal, and Diana Ayala are also sponsors of the bill. Levine and Rosenthal agreed with Powers that the policy will help discourage people from driving into Upper Manhattan, parking on residential streets for free, and hopping on a subway or walking to where they work in Midtown or below.

Rosenthal, in a written statement, said that a residential permit parking system “is a great step toward a more sensible street policy.” The policy, Levine added in his statement, is “long overdue.”

A second bill was introduced by Upper Manhattan Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, chair of the Transportation Committee, that takes the residential parking idea citywide. The bill is similar to the bill focused on Manhttan above 60th St. in other respects.

“We also feel that by paying a small fee every year, those local residents then will not have to compete with anybody else that come from other states that are idling the streets,” Rodriguez said at a press conference last week. The permit system would help to protect mom-and-pop shops, too, he added. Citing a study from the City University of New York, he tweeted that more than 50 percent of city residents said they would be willing to pay an annual fee for a permit.

Parking spaces have become an increasing rarity in Manhattan. NY1 found that 2,330 parking spots south of 125 St. had been lost in recent years to bike lanes and bike-sharing stations, based on public records obtained through the Freedom of Information Law.

“Many residents on the Upper East Side, most of them can’t afford to park their cars in garages and who need cars for a variety of reasons,” said Valerie Mason, president of the E. 72nd St. Neighborhood Association. She said many Upper East Siders need a car — whether because someone in their home has disabilities, is elderly, or is a small child and cannot always take public transit. Other residents, Mason added, “reverse commute” to jobs outside Manhattan or the city itself to places where there isn’t public transportation.

Mason, who is also a member of Community Board 8’s Transportation Committee, added that the board regularly hears concerns from residents about the importance of street parking in the community. Hardly a meeting goes by without such comments, she said. Neither the community board nor the neighborhood association had yet discussed the bills — they were only introduced last week — but she said any measure to protect residential parking is welcome.

An often-ignored problem in the city is how many trucks take up parking spaces without paying their fair share, Mason said. Before any discussions about congestion pricing are brought to the table, she said, there needs to be an analysis of who is really clogging the streets. For her, it’s not residents traveling throughout the city.

“We’re not just landlocked to the island of Manhattan,” Mason said. “We, like every other resident, travel to different boroughs, to Long Island. There isn’t decent public transportation outside of the City of New York.”

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