No Parking Zone

As regular readers will know, I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, a pleasant, attractive neighborhood of tree-lined streets and century-old townhouses that adjoins lovely Prospect Park. The area has had its ups and downs; when Nina and I moved here in 1982 the neighborhood was just emerging from many years of decline. During the Sixties and Seventies this was a pretty tough district — an Irish and Italian neighborhood with a lot of gangs and petty crime; during that era the handsome old buildings were neglected and often even abandoned. Since then, however, Park Slope has ridden the city’s rising tide of prosperity, and nowadays it’s a very affluent area, with upscale shops and restaurants, and the streets nowadays are full of attractive young couples pushing children in strollers. This is all very nice; certainly our own humble abode has appreciated gratifyingly since we took it over many years ago. But there is a dark side to all this American Dream stuff: you can’t find anyplace to park.

Back in the Bad Old Days it was never a problem; you just pulled right up anytime. Nobody has garages around here, and many of the locals have cars, so everyone just parks on the street. But the area’s population has ballooned, and all the spiffy stores and eateries draw folks from all over these days, so you can spend quite a while looking for a spot. We’ve all been grumbling about it for years, but finally we’ve made the big time: an article on the Op-Ed page of today’s Times informs us that in Park Slope an amazing 45% of the people on the streets are looking for a place to park. Forty-five percent. There have been times when I’ve gotten back to town late in the evening and have had to spend an hour and a half looking for an open space.

The solution? The author of the article points out that by raising the price of metered curbside parking, communities can tune the vacancy rate to any percentage they like. Well, maybe, but that won’t work for the residential blocks, where it isn’t metered at all (and if the city tried to put in parking meters on those blocks, the folks around here would quickly make the Sunni insurgency in Baghdad look like a Cub Scout troop).

So none of us knows what to do. The best solution of all would be simply to keep a realistic inflatable car in the back of my real car, though deploying it without being spotted would be difficult. (Even a portable fire hydrant might do the job, come to think of it.)

I know, some of you are thinking that city dwellers like us should just get rid of our cars and use mass transit. I won’t dignify that with a response.

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  1. Eugene says

    I wonder can we design parking meters that sense registration information of cars. If a car belongs to the neighborhood, it will not be charged but if the car is not from neighborhoods, it has to pay hefty parking fee or to be towed. And I wonder how Park Slopes’ zoning allows parking towers to be built? It looks if it is allowed and supported by community, parking building will be a good business there.

    So in fact we have either technological or economical solutions. But I guess it takes time to alleviate the problem in either way.

    Posted March 30, 2007 at 2:28 am | Permalink
  2. Dan says

    Living near Washington, DC, I deal with this problem as well. In the neighborhood where I work, the metered parking is always full during the day. The residential parking is \

    Posted March 30, 2007 at 3:14 am | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Hi Eugene,

    Yes, resident parking permits on the non-metered blocks are an idea that has been floated for a long time. The residents would be glad of it, of course, but so far the city has not gone along with it. I think the merchants oppose the idea for the metered streets. A simple sticker would do the trick — no need for high-tech ingenuity here!


    Thanks for stopping by, but something obviously went wrong — want to try again?

    Posted March 30, 2007 at 10:28 am | Permalink
  4. Eugene says


    What a good way to solve world problem in low tech :-) But I guess city has low incentive since they need to hire bunch more ticket writers to patrol the street and who will pay the taxes for expense?
    City probably can get more taxes from those merchants than residents. In the capital of capitalism, I bet our administration lately are very keen on those calculation. No wonder I am thinking to move to Riverdale lately.

    So it looks like the space is on demand and no one has incentive to create supply. I guess merchants just don’t like the idea to add costs in supporting building parking towers and if the neighborhood will bust again (Who knows….) the abandon parking tower will be a waste?

    Maybe an invention to fill a inflatable car in 2 seconds is more practical in solving Malcolm’s problem. Can I filed a patent on this? Instant inflatable dummy vehicles for keeping parking space.

    Posted March 30, 2007 at 12:30 pm | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    Eugene, I’m not sure that it’s any easier to park in Riverdale (which is also part of New York City, by the way, so you wouldn’t be getting out from under the current administration even if you did move there).

    Posted March 30, 2007 at 12:44 pm | Permalink
  6. Carlos says

    Hi, this is a problem the world over. Where I stay they are now charging for hospital car parks. This has resulted in all the staff who work at the hospital having to find somewhere else to park. They then end up parking in residential areas causing havoc there.

    Posted March 3, 2009 at 12:46 pm | Permalink