I walk, ride my bike and take the train all around the city. A lifetime of city living teaches you that getting from place to place demands versatility. Sometimes, though not often, I drive my car. It’s an old 2004 Saturn that gets my family from point A to point B when public transportation is too arduous a trip and because you can’t fit a family of four on a bike.
While parking in Manhattan was already something of a joke, it’s becoming virtually impossible.
The nonstop construction of luxury condos in my neighborhood of Spanish Harlem eats up sidewalk space and parking spots. Coupled with bike lanes and nonsensical urban design plans that swallow up what few spots remain, parking has simply become too stressful for drivers.
Most NYC motorists are working-class people. Many can’t afford the exorbitant fees of private parking garages. In Manhattan, parking meters have become impossibly expensive, forcing people to run out every hour or two to pay. Then, new parking rules seem to eliminate even more spots. That creates problems as people zoom down the block in reverse and sometimes even fight one another for open spot.
Some might say fewer cars is better for the environment or that we should all squeeze into already overflowing train stations. Advocates say we bicyclists are a menace. The city’s Vision Zero campaign has helped with that.
We’re not. We have families. We pay taxes. And we’re getting sick and tired of driving around the block for an hour looking for a parking spot. While biking might be environmentally friendly for those who can do it, not everyone can. Driving a car isn’t a privilege. For many, it’s a necessity.
If the frustration I sense among drivers is any indication, parking is the most underestimated political issue today. If elected officials had any sense, they’d pump the brakes on Vision Zero and other design plans that kill parking. They would limit developers from doing the same: construction of a luxury building on my block has been occupying half a dozen parking spots for almost two years.
More important, they should listen to their constituents. Many are exasperated about where we’re all going to park next.
Josmar Trujillo is a trainer, writer and activist with the Coalition to End Broken Windows.