driven out

In a City Turned Upside Down, Alternate-Side Parking Rules Haven’t Budged

An alternate side parking sign on West 71st Street in Manhattan, March 16, 2020.
An alternate side parking sign on West 71st Street in Manhattan, March 16, 2020. Photo: Jose Martinez /THE CITY

Update: Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday afternoon that alternate side of the street parking will be suspended for one week beginning Wednesday, March 18.

Federal holidays, religious feasts and inclement weather all cause New York’s alternate-side parking regulations to be suspended dozens of times annually.

But the global coronavirus pandemic that’s all but shut the city hasn’t had the same effect — at least not yet.

Drivers are still facing $65 fines if they fail to move their vehicles ahead of time on scheduled street-sweeping days. Several City Council members have called for the rules to be suspended as New Yorkers hole up in their homes to curb the outbreak.

“Having to worry about alternate-side parking at the time of a global coronavirus outbreak is ridiculous,” said City Councilmember Justin Brannan (D-Bay Ridge). “It’s one less thing people should have to worry about right now.”

Monday night, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson put it more bluntly in a tweet: Why hasn’t alternate side of the street parking been suspended?

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that alternate-side parking rules may be suspended because of the outbreak that’s already shut down large gatherings, schools and bars and restaurants for all but take-out orders.

A City Hall spokesperson said plans to scrap alternate-side rules are “not there yet,” but added: “We are looking into it.”

The spokesperson, Laura Feyer, said tickets for alternate-side violations can be dismissed in case of medical emergencies or for anyone who is under mandatory or voluntary self-isolation — as long as they present medical documentation or testimony.

In the meantime, New Yorkers who keep cars in the city scrambled out of their homes Monday as they normally do to double-park during street-sweeping times or to hunt for new parking spaces.

“Getting tagged for a $65 ticket is not frivolous. It’s real money,” said Sam Kay, who was parked on West 70th Street in Manhattan. “At the same time, I think you want to keep things clean and as normal as possible.”

Unchanged Routine

The Department of Transportation has 36 legal and religious holidays in 2020 when alternate-side regulations are scheduled to be suspended. The next is not until April 9, which is Holy Thursday for Christians and the first day of Passover for Jews.

Brannan said he’s hopeful the city will come up with a “modified” street-cleaning schedule.

“Everyone is like, ‘The street sweeper is useless,’ ” he said. “But let’s be real: When alternate-side is canceled, the streets are dirtier.”

“No one feels that this is priority number one,” Councilmember Keith Powers (D-Manhattan) tweeted on Sunday. “But it feels like one of the easiest things to do.”

Without any change to the rules, New Yorkers with cars kept at least one part of their routine the same on Monday.

“You’re making people go out in public again,” said Meredith Webb, 35, who waited in her double-parked car on West 70th Street in Manhattan, as a street sweeper cleaned the block. “Of all the things to keep in place, this seems kind of silly.”

“I’m a beer rep, so I have to bounce around, neighborhood to neighborhood,” said Chris Camacho, 30, of Ozone Park, Queens. “And since everyone’s been home, it’s been harder than ever to get parking while on the job.”

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