Residential parking permit bills to address ‘suffocating congestion crisis’ introduced in City Council

Two residential parking permit system bills were introduced in the City Council on Wednesday.
Two residential parking permit system bills were introduced in the City Council on Wednesday. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Francois Nel

Two separate bills that would require the city to create a residential parking permit system were introduced in the City Council Wednesday.

One proposal — co-sponsored by council members Mark Levine, Helen Rosenthal, Keith Powers and Diana Ayala — would require the city Department of Transportation to implement a parking permit system for residents who live north of 60th Street in Manhattan. A second bill, sponsored by Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, would institute a citywide residential parking permit system.

Northern Manhattan residents, according to the lawmakers, face a constant struggle for parking because of suburban commuters who drive into the city, park their cars and then take the subway downtown.

“Manhattan is already facing a suffocating congestion crisis that is hurting our economy, threatening the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, and poses a danger to our environment,” said Levine, who represents several neighborhoods in the area. “We can’t afford to continue as one of the only big cities in America that doesn’t have a residential parking permit system — this policy is long overdue.”

Under the proposed bill, the DOT would be tasked with determining certain neighborhoods where a residential parking permit would be needed in order for a driver to leave their car in the area during specific times and days of the week.

While major cities around the country such as Boston and San Francisco have instituted residential parking systems, New York City has previously failed to gain the support in Albany it would need to enact such a measure.

The City Council passed a residential permit bill in 2011, amid growing concerns over parking ahead of the Barclays Center opening, but the State Legislature never approved it.

A DOT spokesman said that it is the city’s belief that the Legislature would need to approve and enact a residential parking program but added that the de Blasio administration would review the bills.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, meanwhile, questioned whether a permit system would be supported by state lawmakers.

“I think it’s a really complex idea, meaning I think there’s some real merit, and I think there’s some big challenges at the same time,” he said. “So, is it worth studying? Absolutely. I don’t know if it would actually be supported in Albany.”

A spokesman for Speaker of the Assembly Carl Heastie said Wednesday that any plan that passed in the City Council would require state legislative approval, and the details of each proposal still need to be reviewed by state lawmakers. Majority Leader Sen. John Flanagan could not be immediately reached for comment.

Rodriguez, who represents parts of northern Manhattan and is chairman of the council’s transportation committee, detailed his citywide proposal during a news conference Wednesday outside the City Council building at 250 Broadway.

“The residential parking bill will reduce congestion and will save time and money for our 8.5 million New Yorkers,” Rodriguez said. “We need to remember every day that only 1.4 million New Yorkers own a vehicle, so the vast majority of our residents rely on public transportation.”

The councilman said his bill would rely on council members to come up with specific permit requirements based on their districts with input from corresponding community boards, likening the process to how sidewalk cafés are approved.

“Community boards said the sidewalk cafe was OK, they came back to the council, and the council approved it,” Rodriguez added.

Both bills seek to set aside as many as 80 percent of parking spaces in the designated areas for residents of the neighborhood. The remaining 20 percent of parking would be available for nonresidents.

The proposals also include fees to obtain a permit and exclude metered parking spots or commercial and retail zones.

Despite apparent competing proposals, Levine, who attended Rodriguez’s news conference, insisted that the bills complement each other.

“This would allow a balanced community by community approach with the discretion of the DOT,” he said of the bills.

Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, argued that the lack of a parking permit system in the city has resulted in congestion and frustration that could be easily mitigated.

“Why are New Jersey drivers, Pennsylvania drivers getting the same access to the curb as residents?” he asked. “Residential parking permits work in Chicago, they work in Boston and they can also work in New York City. We cannot rely on Albany to resolve our problems.”