City Council legislation aims to 'reduce congestion,' require parking permits in Manhattan

New_York_Daily_News_logo.pngBy Erin Durkin

Parking on local streets would be set aside for neighborhood residents who buy permits under legislation being introduced in the City Council Wednesday.

Two different bills were unveiled — one that would require the city to create a residential permit parking system citywide, and one that would put the system in place only in upper Manhattan.

Under a residential parking system, residents of a particular neighborhood get a permit — with fees ranging from $35 to $130 a year in other cities — and only cars with permits are allowed to park in many spots.

The bills would require the Department of Transportation to set aside up to 80% of spaces for locals. Parking spots on commercial streets and metered spots would remain available to anyone.

"Residential parking will reduce congestion, will save time and money," Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, the chair of the transportation committee who is sponsoring the citywide bill, said at a press conference near City Hall Wednesday. "By paying a small fee every year, those local residents will not have to compete with anybody else that comes from other states."

The other bill, introduced by Councilman Mark Levine, would apply to Manhattan above 60th Street.

Neighborhood residents are fed up with suburbanites who drive over the George Washington Bridge and find free parking before taking the train downtown, making it harder for locals to find spots and causing traffic as they circle looking for a space, he said.

"These streets belong to us, to New Yorkers," Levine (D-Manhattan) said. "Commuters from other parts of the region do not have a God-given right to park for free on our residential streets."

Other cities like Boston, Washington, DC, and San Francisco already have residential parking rules.

The lawmakers say they support each other's bills, but the northern Manhattan pols are pursuing legislation specific to their area because it may be easier to pass.

The idea has been broached before in the city, but never gone far. The Council believes they have the authority to create a program without state approval.

If the legislation passes, it would be up to the Department of Transportation to figure out details like what hours the residential parking restrictions would be in place, and how much permits would cost.

A fee of $150 to $200 a year would be a possibility, Rodriguez said. Residents of a particular community board district would be eligible for parking permits in that district, and business owners might be able to get them as well even if they live elsewhere.

Some critics say parking should remain available to all, while others say making it easier to find parking would encourage residents to own cars, whereas the city is trying to get people to ditch their cars and use mass transit instead.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson said he's reviewing the bill, but expressed some reservations.

"There are some pluses and minuses. I understand that there are many folks that live in communities across the city who find it very frustrating that they can't find parking in their neighborhoods," he said. "We also are trying to disincentivize cars in New York City. We're trying to get people to use cars less."

But Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives said he doesn't think new rules would encourage driving, noting that even with restrictions there won't be enough parking spots to go around.

"Of all the factors that go into the decision of whether to own and operate a car in New York City, I think it's going to be far down the list," he said.

Mayor de Blasio also said he was "not comfortable yet" with the idea.

"This is the most complex environment for traffic anywhere — certainly in this country — and there are a lot of downsides," he said. "We'll give it serious consideration. I just want to caution people, this is a classic — sounds good, and there are some good things, but there's also a lot of unintended consequences."

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