Ridiculous David Greenfield Parking Bills: A Timeline

A few years back Streetsblog ran a post with the headline “Another Year, Another David Greenfield Parking Bill.” And it’s true! Except for 2014, Greenfield has introduced or sponsored legislation intended to somehow lessen the hassle of parking every year since 2010.

While he’s a vocal proponent of Vision Zero, it still seems Greenfield has never heard a parking-related gripe too random or inconsequential to merit legislation. Now he wants the city to let drivers park for free at metered spots on days when alternate side parking is suspended. The reason: It’s too hard to walk to muni-meters when it snows.

Council Member David Greenfield. Photo: NYC Council
Council Member David Greenfield. Photo: NYC Council

The Daily News reports:

Greenfield said his bill would end a longstanding hassle for motorists.

“You’ve got to climb a mountain of snow to get to a Muni-Meter,” he said. “If we get piles that are 3, 4, 5 feet high, you can’t even get to a meter.”

“I’ve gotten tons of complaints about this,” he said.

Greenfield dismissed the potential revenue hit (“The city’s always worrying about making a buck,” he told the Daily News), and apparently isn’t concerned with the impact zero parking turnover might have on businesses.

As silly as this bill is, it’s hard to say where it ranks among Greenfield’s other ill-conceived parking bills. Here’s a recap.

  • 2010: Greenfield sponsors bill to shorten no-parking zones near fire hydrants from 30 to 20 feet. Introduces bill to have fire hydrant zones marked with red paint. FDNY objects to both bills.
  • 2011: Proposes that the city paint broken fire hydrants green and allow motorists to park in front of them. Introduces legislation to “give special parking privileges to pregnant women who get notes from their doctors.”
  • 2011: Leads City Council crusade to end the practice of putting stickers on cars left sitting in the path of street sweepers. Said Greenfield: “I mean, what’s next? We’re going to start slashing people’s tires when they don’t park on the correct side?”
  • 2012: Introduces bill to limit when the city can tow vehicles belonging to motorists with unpaid parking fines. “Greenfield said the bill comes after numerous complaints from residents who accused the city of unfairly targeting them to make cash,” reported DNAinfo.
  • 2013: Greenfield authors bill to deactivate muni-meters when they run out of paper for receipts. Asked about his obsession with parking legislation, he said: “I get people who criticize me on Twitter and say, ‘Why are you all about the cars?’ Because I drive a car. And my constituents drive cars.”

Of course, none of these bills would actually solve the root problem of parking aggravation, which is that most parking is free.

As for Greenfield’s latest attempt at governance by pet peeve, the Daily News says that, according to a DSNY spokesperson, the department “would most likely ‘oppose the bill since the department needs access to the curbs in order to effectively clear snow.’”

  • Joe R.

    If you watch those sweepers in action, that’s all they do-move garbage around. It’s a make-work job which the sanitation worker’s union wanted. A lot of small garbage eventually gets washed into the sewers. Larger stuff might accumulate, but that’s easily dealt with by sanitation workers making their regular pickup runs.

    The standing joke about ASP is people in Manhattan who own cars never actually drive them. Twice a week they just move them from one side of the street to the other.

    My street never gets sweeped. Neither do most of the other streets here. They don’t look any dirtier than streets which do. Residents or businesses have a limited tolerance for trash. Eventually they’ll clean things up before they get out of hand (or just not put the litter there in the first place). On the other hand, people often tend to litter if they know someone else will pick it up. That’s the case in the subways, probably also on streets which get swept.

  • Joe R.

    Well then why is the article claiming 25%? That has to be based on something. Also, nearly 200,000 more licenses in only 6 years is a dramatic increase. If you back the trend to 2003 then you would have 3,171,000 licenses then. That’s around 25% of NYC’s population at the time (~8.127 million plus ~4 million illegals). That’s probably how they arrived at the statistic-using unofficial rather than official population statistics.

    Also, how many of these licensed adults own a car or drive regularly? That’s really a much more relevant statistic. My mom is technically licensed but my brother has been using her car for the last 2 years, plus she’s incapable of driving even if the car were here. Doubtless people like her constitute a significant minority of licensed adults. And then you have those who still drive, but only very occasionally, mostly out of town trips. These are two groups which would not be affected all that much by radical decreases in curbside parking. That’s really my assertion-a minority, albeit a very vocal one, is keeping us from reforming parking in this city. If we did this, sure, some people may not like it. They may even leave. But there are plenty of people nationally to whom a NYC without many private autos would be a very attractive place to live. We should try it instead of trying to make NYC more like the suburbs with big box stores and car-oriented sports venues.

  • lop

    The article made up a number, or didn’t mention that they were only talking about a certain demographic, maybe teenagers or young adults.

    In your neighborhood where 90% of households have at least one car? You’d have a hard time claiming a majority of them don’t benefit from cars. It shouldn’t be a citywide policy. In dense transit rich parts of the city, yes reducing motor vehicle accommodations just means overcoming a vocal minority. In other parts of the city, like yours, it means a minority, like you, dictating to others how to live. You claim that’s wrong when they ask for room for their cars. Why is it right when you want to take away that space? If you want to live in low car neighborhoods you should move to a dense transit rich area and fight the vocal minority. What’s that? You don’t want to move? Then why do you brush away the needs or desires of those with cars who don’t want to move? It’s great to be dictator isn’t it. It’s just terrible when someone else it.

  • Joe R.

    My neighborhood isn’t low density. Transit here would be much, much better if we gradually made driving harder so there was more demand for it. The fact is when population densities get above maybe a few thousand per square mile (my area is 16,535 per square mile- http://www.city-data.com/zips/11365.html ) cars just don’t work well. A policy which acknowledges that is in the best public interest. Also, you say move to a dense, transit rich area. Guess what? The traffic in those areas is even worse than here! Look at Manhattan or western Queens/Brooklyn. What exactly am I gaining by moving if the goal of moving is to get someplace where the streets are much less crowded? I want streets so uncrowded traffic lights are gone, and with sufficient gaps in traffic so you rarely need to wait to cross. Basically, I want what are now 3 AM traffic levels at peak times. I seriously feel we could get there doing some of the things I mentioned.

    NYC has adequate transit and density for there to be much lower use of private cars. For what it’s worth, we had 8 million people back when my parents were young, but both said it was unusual to see parked cars when they were kids. Somehow NYC residents largely got along without driving back then. Why is driving suddenly a necessity, especially in places like Manhattan which has transit options galore? The answer is because we make it too easy and convenient to drive. Reduce, ban, or charge market rates for curbside parking. Break up the grid by pedestrianizing all minor cross streets in Manhattan so driving is more circuitous. Do something similar in places where I live (i.e. put bollards on one end of side streets so only residents, not through traffic, can drive down them).

    You claim that’s wrong when they ask for room for their cars. Why is it right when you want to take away that space?

    If I wanted to store a couch on a public street I can’t. That’s why it shouldn’t be legal to store cars there. It’s public space, not private storage. Hey, come to think of it we could use more storage. How about I put a container in the parking spot in front of the house, then use it for private storage? If people can store their cars there then I should be able to use that space in a way which benefits me. I pay taxes for the streets too.

    Yes, when there are better uses of that space, then I should be able to take it away. A great use I can think of right now on blocks like mine is remove the parking lanes, put sidewalks where the parking was, and let property owners have another 10 feet or so where the old sidewalk was. Incidentally, that also means their driveways are ten feet longer. This could mean space for another vehicle. I don’t care if people here own cars. I do care if they park them on the street. It’s ugly, parallel parking creates a hazard to street users (especially cyclists who get doored), it blocks lines of sight at intersections, etc. All good reasons to end the practice, even if a majority here might favor it. At one time a majority thought slavery was a good thing, too. We advanced enough to see it wasn’t. We can do likewise with auto use in urban areas.

  • Joe R.

    One more thing-why the assumption that people have to give up convenience if they give up cars? I’m not necessarily against the idea of personal transportation in urban areas. I’m just against the idea that such transportation has to take the form of a 2 to 3 ton, grossly overpowered, exhaust-spewing monstrosity. Why not bikes, e-bikes, velomobiles, e-velomobiles? The last one on the list could carry quite a bit of cargo. It could also easily be as fast as a car, but with no exhaust, and requiring little more space to park than a bike. Let’s design vehicles for urban areas instead of trying to shoehorn in a type of vehicle more suited to Nebraska than NYC.

  • lop

    it’s in the majority interest to decrease traffic levels by decreasing parking.

    In Manhattan. Yes. In your neighborhood where 90% of households have at least one car? You’d have a hard time arguing it’s in the majority interest to make cars more difficult to use. You want to gift land to property owners? How is that equitable? And magically come up with money to rebuild every single street? I’m guessing you don’t plan to do that over the expected ~50 year life cycle, but instead want it all done over the next five years, based on previous timelines you’ve given. Ridiculous.

    You keep bringing up the car ownership rate in Manhattan as if that somehow justifies making car use more difficult in transit poor eastern queens.

    What does the car ownership rate in Manhattan have to do with who is parking on the street? Most people in Manhattan don’t own cars. Most people who come to Manhattan don’t bring a car. Guess what, people who live in Manhattan and own a car don’t count as out of towners. Claiming that a majority of curb space is used by non nyc residents would need to be backed up by some actual data. You say you’re data oriented, but mostly you just seem to talk out your ass.

  • lop

    The point of you moving would be so you are in the car free majority, and are in a better position to argue for a redistribution of public space. You keep pointing to Manhattan as a reason to ban cars ten miles away. If you want to live somewhere that shouldn’t have cars because most people don’t own one, then move somewhere where most people don’t own a car, don’t point to those areas as a reason to inconvenience the 90% of your neighbors who own cars.

    Yes, before 1950 there was a comparable population and far fewer cars. Guess what, most people lived in smaller homes, much closer to their jobs. You have a different built environment today. Ignore what’s on the ground and you’re wasting your time.

    Pomonok houses are dense. So is the apartment complex around main just north of union. Flushing is dense. Jamaica and hillside near the subway are dense. The rest of eastern queens? Less than the city average. There are parts of the city where sidewalks should be widened. If there’s money to rebuild the streets, why not spend it there? Because you don’t live there?

    You hate cars and yet live in an area where 90% of households have a car. Maybe you’re the one who should move, not the neighbors you expect to leave if they want to keep driving.

  • Joe R.

    What I said isn’t “gifting” land to property owners. Guess what? They’re already unofficially using that space to store their cars. I’m just making it official, instead giving them the land to use for whatever purpose they may see fit. That’s probably more fair in that those who don’t own cars can now make use of land they otherwise couldn’t have before.

    You say you’re data oriented, but mostly you just seem to talk out your ass.

    Well, here’s some data: http://www.streetsblog.org/2011/03/22/new-york-has-81875-metered-parking-spaces-and-millions-of-free-ones/

    3.4 to 4.4 million free curbside parking spaces in all of NYC. If we go by relative land area, then Manhattan has at least 250,000 parking spaces, not including off-street garages. Manhattan has 738,644 households ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Manhattan ), of which 22% have cars. That’s 162,500 cars, assuming one per household. Many of those cars are kept in off-street garages due to the hassle of finding parking, and also the fact that much of the parking in Manhattan is metered. I wish I had a number for that but I don’t. Bottom line-it’s a stretch at best to say the majority of curbside parking in Manhattan is used by local residents.

    I give more data to support my positions than just about anyone here if you bother to read my posts. Some of it might be guestimates when real data is sparse but that doesn’t change anything. So-called official data is often subject to the biases of those who collect it, or those who interpret it. Your argument that “90% of households where I live” makes my ideas a nonstarter is a great example. That 90% is meaningless without knowing how often and where these car owners drive. Someone who just uses their car to go out of town occasionally might not necessarily be against things which make driving to local errands more difficult. Others who drive regularly might support a plan which eventually makes transit convenient enough for them to get rid of their car. What about nearly everyone here who walks at least some of the time? Don’t think they might appreciate streets with fewer cars. You literally can’t even cross 164th during peak hours. That’s just disgusting.

  • Menachem Goldstein

    Have a pen and paper in your glove comp and put a note in the windshield saying “MuniMeter not working”. Officer will know to check.
    Or better yet, have officers check the munimeter before starting to issue tickets.
    There, i just saved you another city council bill. Now can we move on to some meaningful legislation?

  • Joe R.

    Well, give me the money to move. I can’t afford to live in these high density places where a majority of my neighbors might support my positions. How the fuck can anyone afford $3000 a month rents or $2 million townhouses/condos unless they have a rich relative bankrolling them? Point of fact until this year I never made enough money to live on my own, period. I’m not the only one. Next door to me my neighbor has both his grown children, both in their 40s, still there. Both have good jobs, but not enough to support themselves given the insane housing prices everywhere. That includes my area, where little shitty single family homes go for $600K and up.

    Density and “built environment” are strawmen. People here often are reflexively against “lower density” but lower density only becomes a problem if people use cars to get around. It doesn’t have to be that way. Much of the Netherlands resembles eastern Queens more than Amsterdam, and yet lots of people bike because policy makers decided to make driving difficult/costly and biking faster, safer, more direct. Like I said above, I have nothing against personal transportation but it doesn’t need to be 3 ton 400 HP behemoths. How anyone can defend the use of vehicles which are so destructive to the urban fabric is beyond me. Honestly, you sound like a poser. You post all the time here as if you’re some big livable streets advocate, yet you defend car owners as if their right to park or drive is sacrosanct. Take a side and stick to it instead of being like today’s wishy washy politicians whose opinions change when polls do.

    The point of you moving would be so you are in the car free majority, and are in a better position to argue for a redistribution of public space.

    Going by your timelines, when would that happen? In 50 years when I’m either dead or too old to care? For heavens sake look how long we’ve been “studying” the idea of getting cars out of Central Park even though a supermajority support it. No, moving isn’t any answer unless there’s some nice, urban, nearly carfree place I can move to right now. In NYC no such place exists, nor will such a place exist even 500 years from now given the current lack of progress.

  • lop

    Someone from Queens is an out of towner when they drive into Manhattan? I thought Queens was part of NYC? Guess not.

  • Joe R.

    How many people from Queens drive into Manhattan on any kind of regular basis? It takes two fucking hours each way most of the time to drive into Manhattan from where I live, versus 40 minutes to an hour by train. Then you have the hassle of parking. Even the motor heads who live near me aren’t nuts enough to regularly drive into Manhattan. Most NYers with any shred of common sense know better than to drive into Manhattan. A lot of those cars parked in Manhattan have NJ plates. Take a look sometime and you’ll see it for yourself.

  • lop


    60% of auto trips with destinations in the CBD had origins in NYC.

  • Joe R.

    21% those trips originate elsewhere in Manhattan, leaving 39% coming from other boroughs. The myths part of that report is really more relevant because it basically says the same thing I’ve been saying-driving private autos in NYC, particularly Manhattan, is largely optional, not necessary. I’ll bet if you did a similar study where I live, you’ll find the majority of car trips are quite amenable to being made by bike, walking, or transit if we spent more money on these alternatives. We incent people to drive by making it easy, so that’s what they do. Along a similar line of though, if we put toilets on public sidewalks, people would be incented to shit in full view of everyone. We have leaders so they can do exactly that-take a stand based on data and make things which are harmful to the general public more costly, most difficult, or outright ban them. There’s really no debate that large numbers of private autos are harmful to urban areas. The only issue is what do we do about it? In NYC, apparently nothing.

  • lop

    The myths part is more relevant? Does it support your claim that street parking is used mostly by out of towners? If not I don’t see it is relevant. You were selling this as getting rid of an amenity used by ‘out of towners’, not NYers. And that’s just not true.

    Yes plenty of trips in Queens made by car are short. Median trip distance for auto trips originating in Queens County is 1.8 miles with a trip duration of 15 minutes. You don’t even need your mythical viaducts for a cyclist to travel at that speed.

  • lop

    Rents are cheap in plenty low car areas like Brownsville and East new York.

  • Joe R.

    Neither of us really has any hard data on what percentage of curbside parking in Manhattan is used by out of towners. I think I put good evidence that it’s mostly not used by local residents. Whether the out of towners are from NJ or Queens or Brooklyn is splitting hairs. The fact is parking anywhere which has heavy use by non-residents is by definition something which could be reduced with less opposition from the locals.

    Median trip distance for auto trips originating in Queens County is 1.8 miles with a trip duration of 15 minutes.

    Well, then this just proves how utterly stupid people are. Seriously, 7.2 mph???????????? Why the f even bother to drive? Someone in decent shape can jog that fast. Almost any cyclist can beat that. This kind of just proves my point that radically reducing car use, even out here, won’t hurt much in terms of time lost or convenience lost. No wonder people are fat. Sheesh, I just walked 1.5 miles round trip to get some things at Walgreens. No big deal. I’m 52 and probably in less than great shape. If I can do it, so can about 95%.

  • Joe R.

    Those places are crime ridden shit holes and you know it. I nearly got robbed at gun point at the Nostrand Avenue subway station once. The rents still aren’t that cheap there, either. In many cases they’re over $1000 a month ( http://homes.trovit.com/for-rent-apartment-brooklyn-brownsville-ny ). That’s not affordable for me. They’ll get even higher if the neighborhood gets safer. No thanks. I’ll stay put until I decide what country I want to live in. The US is finished. It’s run by a bunch of spineless cowards like Greenfield catering to a soft, spoiled, stupid populace. Not the kind of place I care to spend my remaining years. I thought NYC was different but I guess not.

  • lop

    I’m 52 and probably in less than great shape. If I can do it, so can about 95%.

    Maybe go out during the day more. People are fatter and in worse shape than you’d think.

    I don’t know how they ask people to calculate trip times. Short car trips often involve more time spent walking to your car, looking for parking, and walking from your parking spot to your destination than driving. Add in the time to walk to a bike, unlock it, find a place to lock it near at your destination, relock it, and walk to your destination and you might be up to five minutes. Still only need to bike at 10.8 mph to beat the car. If instead you add the hassle of bringing a kid (or a few), or loading up a lot of groceries, a car might become more attractive, and a bike might require an extra couple minutes of preparation. It’s not exactly what you want, but some areas have moved to accommodate, or at least not prohibit, NEVs, think golf carts. Most people who have a car in NYC don’t have a second, but it might be a decent replacement for some second cars. And first cars for those who never have to travel long distance and want to save money. I think they are mostly illegal on NYS roads though. Infrastructure, whether regular streets or dedicated facilities, that accommodate a golf cart that can go maybe 20 mph are generally going to be better for bikes, battery or human powered, than what exists now.

    BTW When I ride at a relaxed pace I can usually maintain 10-11 mph outside of a heavily congested areas like downtown flushing. If I push myself hard on a dedicated bikeway I can maintain 18-20 for a decent bit of time. On the street I generally can’t break 12 mph during the day. If you play around with how light timings affect travel speed there are jumps. Depending on the light timings and spacings you might travel the same average speed cruising at 12 mph as you do cruising at 18 mph. Or maybe it’s the same from 15-22 mph, and it’s not until 23mph that you stop getting caught at the same lights. Something to keep in mind when you get annoyed at traffic lights slowing down cyclists.

    My main problem with your approach here is it seems designed first and foremost to make driving more difficult. I know, you think that’s a great idea. Politically, that’s a non starter. Most people aren’t you. They travel, even within the city, more than you probably do Asking them to give that up and retool their life to be more like yours is presumptuous on your part. If instead you make things difficult for drivers only when it has some other practical purpose, I think you’ll have much more support, and at the same time encourage other forms of transportation. Like it or not, car infrastructure has transportation value. There might be a way to replace it with something that has greater transportation value, but your approach seems more destructive than that. For instance, instead of getting rid of all parking, getting rid of one or two spots at a corner, and building a bulbout, or just a concrete parking stopper, maybe painted brightly and with some tall sign attached to make sure it’s visible, but not so obtrusive so as to reduce visibility at the intersection to protect a bike rack would have transportation value. Realize of course bike racks are short, most people can see over them in a way they can’t see over trucks or even many cars. You wouldn’t want to just get rid of parking and replace it with nothing anyway because then drivers take corners more aggressively.

  • Joe R.

    I don’t want to make driving more difficult. I want to make driving 2 or 3 ton grossly overpowered ego boxes more difficult. Seriously, why can’t we push to incentivize vehicles more suited to urban areas, whether they’re the golf carts you mention, or e-bikes, or regular bikes, or velomobiles? That’s really what I’m getting at here. This isn’t about giving up mobility so much as changing the means of that mobility. As a plus, these smaller, lighter vehicles take up less space, so that equals either more parking, or the same parking using less space.

    Remember a lot of the things which make driving easier make cycling or walking harder, like the traffic signals I hate. On streets I ride regularly, I already know what pace I need to ride at to not hit lights. For example, on 75th Avenue it’s about 16 to 19 mph. It’s around 18 or 19 mph on the LIE service road. Union Turnpike just has no coordination whatsoever, so it doesn’t matter. It’s just bike as fast as possible and go through whatever reds I hit. On other streets there’s often variable timing depending upon time of day. I generally find riding faster always gives you a faster average speed, regardless of light timing. The reasoning here is the sooner I get to the next light, the better. If it’s red I might still get a jump if cross traffic is light enough to pass it without stopping. That means in turn I may get to the next light while it’s still green, whereas if I waited out the full cycle at the prior light I wouldn’t. I suppose if you care about riding legally you can see if 12 mph ends up being just as fast as 18 mph but I don’t. So long as cops aren’t around, I’m passing reds when traffic allows it.

    Replace car parking near corners with bike parking? Excellent idea which might give better lines of sight so we can get rid of at least some traffic signals. The more traffic signals we get rid of, the less it matters how they’re timed. I’m OK with hitting a red every few miles or so, but a few per mile or more just gets tedious.

    By the way, I might travel a lot more in NYC than I do now but frankly ALL my transportation options suck. Mass transit is OK, but mainly just for getting to/from Manhattan. Getting around Queens locally just sucks. The buses stink, there’s too much congestion during the day to allow efficient travel by bike. There’s not enough safe bike parking even if that wasn’t the case. I obviously don’t drive but based on my brother’s complaints getting to work that option would suck as badly as mass transit. Walking just takes too long for a lot of trips (3 miles each way is about the most I’ll walk but many useful trips here are longer than that). Really, there are just no good ways to get around. That’s actually one reason I thought of my bike viaducts. The surface streets would still suck but the viaducts could offer cyclists like you and I 18 to 20 mph average speeds, at least for the part of the journey we could do on them.

  • lop

    It’s not a fear of tickets that keeps me biking through reds. It’s cross traffic, because I’m often out during peak hours. When I’m out at night I coast through reds. I only brought it up because you’ve said before you think moderately slow cyclists struggle to hit 8 mph during the day, but I don’t think that’s true. 10 mph is a better estimate, comparable to car travel time on short trips.

    Even if it doesn’t get rid of a traffic light it can make it easier for pedestrians to cross.

  • Joe R.

    I’m actually going by the speeds I used to average back in the early 1980s when I religiously waited out every red light. Typically it was 10 to 12 mph, although I might average as high as 15 mph on favorable streets with better light timing or fewer traffic signals. Keep in mind this was 30 years ago when there were a lot fewer traffic signals in my area. I gave up waiting at red lights for the full cycle by the mid 1980s after seeing that nobody else was doing it.

    More recently, I have two trips I did to Coney Island where I left on Sunday afternoon. Here I was more or less forced to wait out the full cycle at many lights due to cross traffic. My average speeds before hitting the greenway were about 12 mph. On the greenway I only managed 14 mph, but that was fighting a headwind plus walking my bike for a few hundred yards around Plumb Beach where there was sand everywhere. Just extrapolating a bit I figured 6 to 8 mph might be about right for an average cyclist riding during the day who hits lots of lights. I know I make lots of lights slower riders just wouldn’t, yet during day riding in the form of a useful trip it’s a struggle to get much above about 12 or 13 most of the time. That more or less concurs with what you wrote. Of course, I can pick and choose roads where I might average 15+ mph even during the day but those are recreational rides, not useful trips. Remember if you can do 18 to 20 mph for a while on a greenway you’re probably a bit stronger than average, as am I. You might take 2 or 3 mph off the speeds you quoted for an idea of what someone average might do.

  • WinIt

    It would be great if this bill could pass!

    We received lot of complaints from drivers who were not able to access their cars or munimeters on snow days.

  • D’BlahZero

    Well, ASP is now suspended through Saturday. I’m sure that will do wonders for snow removal. There are other options to simply driving around for two hours. There’s plenty of room for “half the neighborhood’s [on-street] parked cars” when the total quantity is something much more reasonable than what it currently is.

    That being said, I don’t doubt the ASP mishegas is the make-work ritual it’s made out to be here.


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