Local message boards, such as those on Nextdoor, are rife with complaints about parking in Greenpoint, complaints about losing parking spots to film trucks and trailers, expansion of parking meters (recently installed on Franklin Street), Citi Bike stations, construction, and restaurant sheds. Curbside dining sheds and construction zones are estimated to take up a whopping 30% of previously available parking in Greenpoint. Perhaps most of all, local car owners grumble about the high frequency and perceived futility of alternate side parking (ASP).
ASP restricts cars from parking on one side of a street for a couple hours, usually two days a week, to allow for street cleaning. Each side of the street has different schedules for street cleaning, ostensibly so that vehicle owners can move their cars to the other side of the street. Street cleaning is essential to neighborhood cleanliness, catch basin upkeep, and snow removal in winter.
“A mechanical broom can pick up 1,500 pounds of litter on a single shift, making them by far the best tool in our street cleaning arsenal. When they were sidelined during the pandemic, our streets were noticeably dirtier,” the City’s Department of Sanitation said in a comment to Greenpointers. While street cleaning is the reason that signs give for restricting parking, ASP also encourages renewed parking availability for residents and visitors.
Residents have argued that ASP is unreasonably inconvenient and causes air pollution through widespread car idling, Billy Idol’s pet peeve. Residents also frequently question the effectiveness of street cleaning and claim that the street cleaning trucks often don’t arrive.
ASP was suspended throughout the height of the pandemic, to the relief of some car owners. Now that the pandemic has subsided, ASP has been reinstated back to four days per week (two days per side). If the community requests a change to ASP, “Community Boards will conduct a public hearing, then vote on any recommendation to Sanitation regarding alternate side parking regulations,” according to NYC 311.
And this is exactly what happened. Residents and politicians in Brooklyn Community Board 1 lobbied the board to petition the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) to decrease the frequency of ASP to one day per side of a street.
The petition was successful and, on October 6, 2022, CB1’s Transportation Committee voted to send a letter to the Department of Sanitation requesting a decrease of ASP. To win approval for relaxing ASP, CB1’s request to DSNY needed to prove that streets in the community board’s districts have been consistently 90%+ clean. Using data from NYC Mayor’s Office of Operations Scorecard Inspection program, CB1 provided 90%+ cleanliness data for DSNY Sub-Districts 11, 13 and 15 over three consecutive periods.
In successive meetings after the one on October 6, Transportation Committee members remarked that they hadn’t heard back from DSNY regarding the possibility of decreasing the frequency of ASP. Even if DSNY greenlights the change, CB1 Transportation Committee meeting participants noted a few potential issues with implementation, including the cost of posting new ASP signs and the difficulties within bureaucracy.
On the potential to relax ASP in Greenpoint, a DSNY representative told Greenpointers:
“With overall cleanliness scores below 90 in the last two fiscal years, Brooklyn Community District 1 does not qualify for a reduction in alternate-side parking. In our Dec. 16, 2022, letter to the Community Board, we noted that we would continue to monitor conditions before advancing any reduction.”
DSNY cleanliness findings seem to conflict with the data presented in CB1’s letter and results from current Scorecards. June 2023 and Q4 2023 Scorecards from the Mayor’s Office of Operations show that cleanliness for the districts that CB1 lobbied for fluctuated closely above and below a score of 90%. In the Q4 Scorecard, one district steadily scored above 90% over several periods. Regardless, ASP reduction in Greenpoint has been sidelined by DSNY.
Lincoln Restler recently introduced a law to increase penalties on those who violate ASP restrictions, including in the Greenpoint area. The legislation is in committee and has not been adopted or enacted yet. Currently, each fine for violating ASP rules is $65. According to the City Council legislation website, the new bill would:
[e]stablish penalties for alternate side parking violations at $65 for an initial violation and $100 for subsequent violations in a 12-month period. Additionally, the bill would require the towing of a vehicle found parked in violation of alternate side parking rules if such vehicle has previously been in violation three or more times within the same 12-month period.
Unlike the current $65 for each violation, the new law would start with a $65 fine and then increase to $100 fines for the next two violations followed by car towing if all three violations total occur within the same year.
In a recent press release, Restler explains that he is one of two sponsors of the new ASP bill because he wants to ensure that streets in Greenpoint and the rest of his district are clean:
“Our streets are not getting cleaned, and it’s because it’s cheaper for New Yorkers to pay for occasional alternate side parking tickets than it is to park their cars in a garage. […] We need to raise the costs of alternate side parking violation fees and encourage car owners to do their part in keeping our streets clean.”
Many local residents think that instead of ASP, the city should issue street parking permits as is done, for example, in Chicago. Parking garages provide an immediate alternative for those who are irritated by street parking, though can be costly. Implementing smart parking solutions could simplify finding parking further. Even though ASP isn’t perfect, the continued availability of free parking which serves the 33% of Greenpointers who own cars can still be seen as a parking windfall.
Update July 28, 2023: An earlier version of the story misstated that CM Restler said that 30% of available parking is taken up by dining and construction, but it was actually another speaker at a BK CB1 meeting who cited the statistic.