Central Park(ing Lot)

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Recent reports have drawn attention to city officials abusing their parking privileges around municipal buildings in crowded commercial districts. Images of portly desk-sitting bureaucrats and suburban police officers come to mind. 

But surely not all city employees suffer from this behind-the-windshield mentality. You’d think that more environmentally aware, active employees, such as those who work in Central Park, "the lungs of New York City," would be the exception to this. 

Sadly, you’d be wrong. 

As the following images show, city employees are turning Central Park into a parking lot. While the parking violations are not as thoroughly egregious as in other parts of town, it is nonetheless discouraging to see the city’s precious parkland used as a parking lot. And it is unfortunate that Parks Department employees aren’t encouraged to find a less destructive way to get to their jobs. Making matters worse, in getting to their free parking spaces these employees must drive on what are supposed to be car-free roads and pathways, compromising the park experience for hundreds if not thousands of human-powered users. Certainly Olmsted and Vaux, the designers of Central Park, never intended for their creation to be used as a parking lot.  

Approaching the Park from the south the photo above shows the non-public but still much-used roadway entering at Fifth Avenue. It is more than a quarter mile long and it is entirely packed with the private automobiles of city employees. It is interesting that this area hasn’t been renovated like so many other portions of the park.

Sure there is a parking lot nearby, in the park, behind the Arsenal and zoo, but it is way too small to fit every single car with a city parking permit on its dashboard.

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On the other side of the park at Columbus Circle, where cyclists have been fighting for an extension of the Eighth Avenue bike lane to provide them with safer access into Central Park, the no-stopping-zone curb is packed solid with permit-bedecked cars, often two deep.

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Particularly offensive are those who block the sidewalk curb-cut at the Columbus Circle entrance to the Park.

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Traveling north, we find an array of conveniently placed parking lots to accommodate numerous Parks employees. You may think the cars filling the parking lot at the Boat House just north of 72nd Street along the East Drive belong to tourists pumping money into our economy. Think again. You’ll find parking permits aplenty in the windshields.

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Travel a little further north and there is a lovely parking lot by the Rambles shed across the road from the Met. This must be just as Olmsted and Vaux planned it. Why, thank you Parks Department for preserving their rustic vision!

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At 86th Street it is a veritable parking bonanza along the bridle path at the south end of the Reservoir. Best of all you can get here from East Drive or West Drive and also from the 86th Street Transverse. Sure, there is also a parking lot on the Transverse by the police station, but it fills up so quickly. Hey, I don’t see any "No Parking" signs here, do you?

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If by now you still haven’t found a parking spot in Central Park then try the 96th Street Recreation Center. Don’t worry about blocking the basketball hoops. I mean, what do you think this is Central Park or Central Park(ing)? 

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Along the west side, there are still more parking accommodations, such as at the sanitation plant near Delacorte Theater. And if the parking lot is full, the old bridle path is right there to handle the overflow. I guess those horses didn’t bargain hard enough at contract time. They ought to get some new union reps.

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About the only lot that isn’t overflowing is the one at Tavern on the Green. Hmm… I wonder why. Oh, hey, it’s valet parking only. If you wanted to park here, you would actually have to pay money.  What sort of sucker would do that?

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Might this be the real reason our park isn’t car free?

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