Parking in New York: Always a Challenge, Getting Worse


Parking in New York: Always a Challenge, Getting Worse

My first summer in New York was in 1969, the year the Jets won the Super Bowl and the Mets won the World Series. I stayed in Flushing with my friend who was driving a cab for a living. I needed a car, so he said “buy an old beater, with a couple of dented fenders, no radio, and bald tires.” It would be nothing anyone would want to steal, and nicer cars would avoid me on the expressways. I bought a 1953 DeSoto, rusty but reliable, and learned the skills of driving and parking in New York City. I was marginally successful.


Since my son and grandchildren have lived in Brooklyn for 20 years, my wife and I travel to New York several times each year and encounter parking problems. Believe me, with no parking garages, no surface lots, and only metered on-street parking, there is no sting like that of a $70 NYC parking ticket multiple times a year. Now we don’t even consider staying at a hotel with no on-site parking.


Fast forward to December 2023 when my wife and I are in Brooklyn for our granddaughter’s high school basketball game, and our grandson’s performance in Les Mis. Now, while driving a recently purchased Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-in Hybrid, not a beater, parking has become worse. But we get lucky and find a parking spot six blocks from my granddaughter’s school. Her team wins the game, so we head to her favorite restaurant for lunch. I drop my wife and granddaughter at the entrance and begin the search for a parking spot. But this is New York, and cars are double parked on every block, waiting for a space to open. Double parked cars on both sides make traffic flow nearly impossible, and the occasional police cruiser seems oblivious to the obvious violations. 


After more than 30 minutes of circling block after block, a vacant spot finally appears. It’s tight but I squeeze in right next to a parking multi-space meter, and only five blocks from the restaurant. Only one problem – the meter is broken.


Calling the number on the meter, I am advised to download an app, which I do. The app doesn’t work and won’t accept my credit card. I call 311 and am advised to move my car or I will be ticketed. I call my wife and tell her to pay for the appetizers, and I pick her and our granddaughter up in front of the restaurant. Frustrated, we leave Brooklyn and head for the Staten Island Mall.


Later we travel to see our grandson in his high school performance. My wife drops me off with our granddaughter and goes to park the car. By intermission she returns, and I asked her where she parked. “Next to a fire hydrant was the only spot available” she mumbles. I tell her to be prepared to take the Amtrak back to Maryland, because we will be ticketed and towed. I leave to find the car and drive around through the second act looking for a parking spot. My wife tells me that our grandson performed brilliantly, but I missed most of it.


A recent magazine article warns that New York is becoming too expensive to visit. New York is our flagship city; not everyone arrives by plane, train, or bus. Like us, many visitors bring luggage and gifts. Despite the best efforts of ParkNYC, the city’s parking management department, things have gotten much worse. Why? According to one knowledgeable former city official:


“The issue is complicated, keeping in mind that parking has long been a challenge in many neighborhoods in NYC. First, there are just more vehicles in the City, Brooklyn included but, especially during the pandemic, many folks shunned mass transit and, although ridership has come back somewhat, there are still folks, who do not want to ride the subways and buses. There are also many more, “for hire”, cars in circulation in the “outer” boroughs, as the Uber and Lyft apps have made it much easier to call for a car. There are over 100,000 of these, non-medallioned, vehicles now in the City than there were a few years ago.


“Deliveries create another problem. In addition to commercial deliveries there are now many more Amazon, Fed Ex, UPS, Fresh Direct, and other trucks in circulation and many of them double park, with little enforcement, even where there are truck loading zones and other open curbside parking available.


“The City›s initiative to create a more bike and pedestrian friendly street environment has resulted in the removal of many thousands of parking spaces, many in already parking challenged areas. Bike lanes, bike parking racks, widened sidewalks, expanded pedestrian walkways in what were formerly traffic lanes, busways, «parklets» and even, temporarily or totally closed streets, also contribute to the lack of available parking. With the advent of COVID and the plight of neighborhood restaurants, the City has permitted many more sidewalk and roadway cafes. Bay Ridge and Sunset Park are particularly heavily populated with these facilities. Often the City has installed or allowed these “amenities/restrictions” with little or no consultation, or even ignored push-back from communities.


“And then there is the issue of street roadway and utility work – necessary capital construction and repair of street infrastructure but, not always well coordinated and thought out. There are also some lesser issues like movie shoots and productions that temporarily call for street closures. Another factor is parking enforcement and street parking regulations which would require much more analysis than can be detailed here.”


Municipal parking agencies must balance the need for enforcement, revenue, economic development, and customer friendliness. With New York overloaded with vehicles of all types, and with the need to provide a basic level of service to residents and visitors alike, how can an agency like ParkNYC address these multiple, and conflicting, demands? It’s complicated.


David Feehan, President, Civitas Consultants, can be reached at

Article contributed by:
David Feehan, Civitas Consultants
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