Every few weeks an egg timer goes off on some editor’s desk and some local news outlet runs another story about how it’s hard to park your car in New York City. Here’s the latest one from the Times:
For weeks last fall, a flood of new cars had been filling up parking spaces in Noreen O’Donnell’s Boerum Hill neighborhood in Brooklyn, and finding a spot had become a 15-, 30- or even 45-minute ordeal.
Then one October night, Ms. O’Donnell lost it: First, she discovered that another driver had dented her car, leaving no note and $3,000 in damage. After running an errand, she returned to find the parking space she had used near her home taken. For an hour, she circled the neighborhood searching for a spot, until around midnight she gave up and parked illegally outside a school.
“It’s like the Hunger Games for parking,” she said. “It’s not harder now — it’s relentless.”
As someone who owns a car in New York City (not only have I finished paying the bank back, but I recently CHANGED THE SERPENTINE ALL BY MYSELF, which made me feel dangerously virile even though it was about as difficult as changing a bicycle inner tube) and stores it for free in the public right of way (that’s Smugness-ese for “parks it in the street”), I have nothing but contempt for the sorts of drivers who damage other people’s cars.
At the same time, the phrase “$3,000 in damage” is utterly meaningless. If the damage was merely superficial–which I assume was the case since she was still able to run an errand and then circle the neighborhood until midnight–then the “cost” of the damage is merely whatever she’s willing to pay for it, which could be anything from $3,000 to $0. Yes, you’re an asshole if you fuck up someone’s car and drive away, but you’re delusional if you think your car can live outside day after day and night after night in the most populous city in the United States without at least sustaining some superficial damage. (Over the years I’ve returned to my various cars to find everything from missing emblems to smashed windows to the entire front bumper and grill having been torn off somehow. Well, my wife returned to find that last one, but the point still stands. Insurance paid for the big stuff, I either paid to fix the little stuff or I didn’t bother, and the world continued to turn.)
You’re similarly delusional if you think it’s going to be easy to park. No matter where in the world you live, you know three things about New York City: there are skyscrapers, everyone looks and talks like Woody Allen, including the women, and it’s hard to park a fucking car here–and that was true long before the current car boom:
In Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, the number of vehicles registered between August and October jumped 37 percent compared with the same period the previous year, according to data from the state Department of Motor Vehicles. (On Staten Island, where public transit is scarce and many residents already own cars, registrations also increased, but by only 6 percent.)
The spike was starkest in Manhattan, where registrations rose by 76 percent, and in Brooklyn, where they increased by 45 percent.
And yet still people allude to some bygone, genteel era during which the parkage of horseless carriages was governed entirely by “unspoken rules of decency” (as long as you ignore the fact that auto theft has steadily declined in recent decades, of course):
That competition has become even more fierce as the pandemic ushered in a reimagining of the city’s landscape, with restaurant tables occupying pavements and streets closed off entirely to cars on weekends to allow outdoor life to flourish.
As a result, drivers say parking in residential neighborhoods has become untenable, akin to a high-stakes game of musical chairs in which age-old, unspoken rules of decency have been discarded and a sense of lawlessness has set in.
Once upon a time, when people were still breathlessly debating gentrification, newspaper articles on the subject were filled with quote after quote from neighborhood residents who clearly felt that no matter when they themselves moved there, anyone who came after was automatically a gentrifier. It’s oddly reassuring to see the tradition live on in parking articles filled with the kvetching of people who all seem to think they should have been the last person in New York City allowed to buy a car, and that further sales should have been indefinitely suspended the moment the drove off the lot because these new drivers don’t know what they’re doing:
Veteran drivers complain that novices do not know how to properly parallel park, leaving so much space that an entire parking spot is lost.
Alas, even suspending sales wouldn’t help, since some people just get cars for free:
Diana Richardson, 38, a learning specialist in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, inherited her grandmother’s car in August, which she thought would allow her to escape the confines of pandemic city life and more easily visit her family in New Jersey.
But after Labor Day, when she found her cul-de-sac filled with cars of homeowners back from their summer homes, that idyllic notion was shattered.
Some might equate getting free stuff with entitlement, but with cars it’s often the spending of money that breeds entitlement, and in this case, free from the burden of car payments, she came to an obvious conclusion that seems to have eluded everyone else in the article:
“That was the day I lost my mind,” she said. After the virtual meeting, she began looking for monthly parking, eventually finding a garage where she pays $275 a month.
“It’s a 12-minute walk from my apartment and I just text them 30 minutes before I need my car,” Ms. Richardson said. “I wish I had done it sooner.”
Hey, people love to complain about capitalism, but at least it got another car off the street:
There was a time when I used to read such articles and marvel at how much drivers complain, but now I read these articles and marvel at how much people in Brooklyn complain:
Anyway, pending any large-scale parking reform, perhaps any New York City resident purchasing a motor vehicle should be required to listen to a one-hour recording of Noreen O’Donnell recounting her harrowing circling-the-neighborhood-in-a-dented-car tale and sign an acknowledgement that there’s nowhere to park, and if they still want to go through with it after that then it’s their problem. One wonders if that would have influenced the decision of the guy in the main image, whose Outback appears to be at least a 2020, judging by the roof rails:
As a fellow Outback-owning middle aged schlub I can’t help but look at that photo and think, “There but for the grace of Lob go I,” but honestly it’s less about Lob’s grace and more that I had the good sense to leave Brooklyn.
Sometimes you make your own luck.
Meanwhile–and the timing of this and the Times article is honestly kind of suspicious–Transportation Alternatives have just released their report concluding that (brace yourself for a shock) New York City doesn’t have enough bike parking:
Bicycle owners are at a significant disadvantage to car owners in New York City. Comparing parking availability per bicycle and per registered car in New York City, there are 1.5 free on-street parking spaces for every car registered in New York City, but there is only one bicycle parking space for every 116 bicycles in New York City.
There is not enough bicycle parking in New York City. There are more than 100 free car parking spaces for every bicycle parking space. That contributes to why 95 percent of cyclists say more bicycle parking is a priority. While electric car-charging ports have been piloted and implemented, similar facilities for the newly legal and growing e-bicycle segment are missing, and should be advanced.
The lack of bicycle parking discourages New Yorkers from riding bicycles. When people choose not to bicycle, or choose to bicycle less often, lack of parking is the number two factor in their decision. Fear of bicycle theft may also deter cyclists from using a bicycle to travel to public transit or shop at local businesses.
While we obviously need more bike parking, I wonder if it’s counterproductive to frame it in the context of car parking, and I can’t help suspecting that as long as drivers insist there isn’t enough car parking and bike advocates insist there’s too much of it then the city will therefore determine that this mutual dissatisfaction is a sign that means the amount of car and bike parking is exactly right.