Alternate Side Parking in NYC


Alternate Side Parking in NYC

I received the following from a reader in NYC. I’m not really on top of the "Alternate side" parking situation but I think it has to do with street cleaning and the like, and probably causes more havoc with locals than any other single parking reg in the Big Apple.

I’m sure the writer wouldn’t like my solution to the parking problems in NYC. However — its a great read…..

Today was a Day of Remembrance for President Gerald R. Ford,
and I confess that I was disappointed to learn that while federal offices would
be closed—no mail—and the stock market would also pause, alternate-side parking
rules would remain in effect. And this
for a President named Ford, from Michigan yet—Land of Henry. O.K., so my car is Japanese. Does not the owner of a Honda grieve?

 So I’m up and out in the morning, trying to time it so
that when I move the car, which is legal
till 9:30, I will be right behind the street sweeper when it comes–anywhere
from ten to twenty minutes past nine–and zip into a spot that will be legal at
10. But first a swing past the newsstand for the Times and then a stop for takeout coffee in a little café
(not a Starbucks) that I would patronize more often if parking spots on this
block weren’t so rare (there’s a car-rental agency on the Monday-Thursday
side). A little anxiety here, because the woman in front of me, evidently a
regular customer, is prattling on about her New Year’s Resolutions (“Learn to
say no,” she tells the barista. “It’s my only one”) and my impatience is
rising. Can’t she shut up and let the man wait on people with uncomplicated
orders who prefer not to divulge a weakness beyond the implicit addiction to caffeine?

 Then there is relief to find no ticket on my car, which is
parked perhaps a smidgen too close to a
fire hydrant (said hydrant being no doubt the reason the space was available in
the first place). I start her up, turn left on the avenue, and left again three
blocks up (having established with a glance that nothing was available on the
best parking block I know: eight spots on Are You Kidding? I’m Not Telling
Street, where the wait is only a half hour and the cops and the street cleaner
don’t even make you move: Fantasyland for Manhattan car-owners).

 On the next block, I can see that the street sweeper has
already come, because there is no line of cars double-parked on the
Monday-Thursday side. A garbage truck is blocking one likely spot, and every
other space is already taken, so I go around the block. Nothing on the next
block except a double-parked moving van
holding up traffic: a van two cars ahead of me flattens its side-view mirrors
to ooze by, ever so slowly, and my impatience surges again, but I am in
control. At the corner, I make a tight turn into the curb lane, but the car
ahead of me angles into my lane at the light, to get an edge at the turn onto
the street where I am hoping that the spot that had been blocked by the garbage
truck will be free. It is a little black car with Washington D.C. plates, and
if he thinks he is going to get to that spot ahead of me . . . well, he is.

 Sure enough, the garbage truck has moved ahead and freed up
the space, barely big enough for an accomplished parallel parker in an
economy-sized car, and somehow I get
behind the Washington, D.C., car, who does indeed want my spot, and stop behind
him, stubbornly blocking the spot,
making it impossible for him to back up. What a maneuver! I am ruthless. He has
no choice short of getting out of the car and arguing with me that he saw it
first, but my conscience is clean, because I saw it on my earlier pass. He
gives up and moves on—a good policy for a guy from Washington, D.C. I pull up,
shift into reverse, ease back slowly, cutting it really close in the front,
expecting at any second to make soft contact with the car behind me and have to
bump back and forth, and being amazed at how much room I have — I’m even more
skillful than I thought!—until I realize that the car behind me, an SUV with
New Jersey plates, has backed up to make room for me. A friendly girl in shorts
and a white sweatshirt hops out, and I thank her. She says that the street
sweeper has already gone by (I knew that) but not the police officers (she
doesn’t understand that they don’t stick to a schedule but materialize instantly if you leave your car before the
appointed time). Apparently, alternate-side parking rites are a novelty to her.

 So here I am, on this Day of Remembrance, with twenty
minutes to sit and sip my coffee and read the Times (which, by the way, did not
print the Alternate-Side Parking Calendar this year), remembering Gerald Ford
(my mother used to call him Froggy) and contemplating the car in front of me: a
dark-green Chrysler 1400 Town & Country, a solid American gas guzzler out
of Detroit, with peaches or something stuck to its rear window, in memory of
the garbage truck’s recent passing.


John Van Horn

John Van Horn

5 Responses

  1. Great story! Back in the early ’70’s I used to live in Manhattan, right up 64th Street from Maxwell’s Plum. Every morning I’d drive across the Queensboro Bridge to my job off the BQE in Queens. Never had ANY parking problems then, despite my proximity to Maxwell’s. Now I live on the northside of Chicago…and still look forward to visiting New York. You should be glad you’ve got the city figured out. You sound very comfortable. Congratulations.

  2. i’m a meter maid dodger from brooklyn … the critical aspect of the alternate side rules overlooked by many new yorkers in my opinion is that the rules force car owners to keep their cars in good running order as opposed to letting them rot at the curb.
    meanwhile if you’re ever on clinton st. on a tuesday morning look for me in my blue honda + thermos + news paper (usually the times but sometimes when i feel naughty i get the daily news.)
    ps. there is a marvelous novel about this very cultural phenomenon, which you probably know about, it’s called ‘tepper isn’t going out.’ i recommend highly.

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