DOT: Relax Brooklyn, Parking Permits Not Just for Downtown

Borough Prez Candidate De Blasio Qualifies His Opposition to Congestion Pricing

A crowd of nearly 200 filed into the auditorium at St. Francis College in downtown Brooklyn last night, ready to pop a few questions to DOT about residential parking programs. But first, three of Brooklyn’s City Council members gave some of their first public comments since the Congestion Mitigation Commission delivered its final recommendations last week.

David Yassky kept his speech short, pretty much sticking to the sentiment that RPP is good because it will "give neighborhood residents first crack at the parking spots on residential streets."

Tish James, who had previously expressed support for congestion pricing if RPP was attached, staked out the position that Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Prospect Heights — her district — should all be covered by RPP, regardless of what happens to pricing. (This foreshadowed a major theme of the evening — fear that one’s neighborhood would be left outside looking in when the RPP boundaries are drawn.) James then ran through her "wish list related to congestion pricing," which ranged far and wide, including: capital improvements to transit ("the G train sucks"), taxi stands, more bike lanes, ending placard abuse, and re-instating the commuter tax. It wasn’t exactly clear at the end where she now stands on pricing itself.

Bill de Blasio opened by saying, "I need to see complete, tangible, absolute progress on RPP before I can think of supporting congestion pricing." He then proposed that RPP zones should be allowed to sprout all over the city in neighborhoods near subway lines, to deter park-and-ride behavior. At one point he delivered some provocative rhetoric about weaning ourselves from the automobile, preparing for a different future, and changing our habits. But his verdict on pricing? "We don’t expect the current plan on the table to pass."

When DOT Deputy Commissioner Bruce Schaller and his team took the stage, they were somewhat on the defensive. A Windsor Terrace man (who later identified himself as the chair of Community Board 7) had accused the previous speaker, Joanne Simon of the Boerum Hill Association, of "drawing a line around her neighborhood." The offense: Simon had showed the audience a map of the 2004 downtown Brooklyn RPP study, which applied to Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, and parts of Fort Greene.

So Schaller took pains say that RPP would be available to many neighborhoods on an opt-in basis. Though not every neighborhood would be eligible, Schaller reacted favorably to de Blasio’s idea of mapping RPP zones near subway lines. He recapped DOT’s recent neighborhood parking workshops and outlined the four basic RPP options DOT is currently weighing. In a straw poll at the end of the event, almost everyone in the audience, except for the Windsor Terrace contingent, said they wanted some form of RPP. The most popular variant was DOT’s Option A.

A few interesting nuggets came out of the Q & A session between the audience and Schaller’s team, though many questions were more interesting for the attitudes revealed than any information brought to light. Here are some highlights:

Q: When will there be a pilot program?

A: If congestion pricing goes according to plan, a test RPP program would go into effect prior to spring 2009.

Q: What political authorization is necessary to proceed with RPP?

A: The city can implement a temporary pilot on its own, but it needs state approval for a permanent RPP program.

Q: Will DOT hold forums in Sunset Park, Windsor Terrace, and other neighborhoods?

A: DOT wants to be in touch with neighborhoods and anticipates talking to different Community Boards about RPP.

Q: How will boundaries be determined?

A: DOT will look to community boards to help decide. The size of a zone should be reasonably compact, conforming to notions of what a neighborhood is (i.e. not just a few square blocks, but not half the borough either).

Q: Why give local employees permits at all?

A: One view is that they contribute to the local economy and should be accommodated, another is that they should take transit or park off-street like other non-residents. Some sort of balance based on the context of the neighborhood is probably desirable.

Q: Won’t the only stores that can withstand RPP be big boxes and those with big parking lots?

A: No, most people who shop at local merchants are already parking at meters, so RPP wouldn’t affect them. (That was the answer given; no one said anything about all the people who walk, bike, or take transit to shop and eat out.)

Q: What about people whose cars are registered outside the neighborhood in order to get cheaper car insurance — will they be eligible for permits?

A: There was no firm answer to this at first, then a consensus seemed to emerge that RPP permits should be based on where cars are registered, which would bring insurance cheats in line.

Q: What steps will be taken to ensure that permits are not loaned, stolen, or sold?

A: They will have the license plate or vehicle registration number on them.

  • Tagus

    Commuter Tax = First Refuge of a Non-serious politician.

    Despite its name, the commuter tax never had anything whatsoever to do with transportation.

    Proposing to tax someone who can’t vote you out of office is epidemic among the dumb, lesser NYC pols – very akin to the “punish New Jersey” theme that they have cooked up in the congestion pricing debate.

  • mork

    What about residents who rent a car once every month or two? Will they be able to park on the street overnight? Or will they be punished for not usually having a car?

  • Lauri

    Here’s a concept, munimeters on all streets, residential and commercial. For enforcement, resident permits, and receipts get scanned. Variable pricing takes care of short term parkers. Perhaps lower base prices on residential streets, higher on comm’l strips, but maybe not if that moves shoppers to the residential streets. Guest parking purchased from the munimeter.

    More sophisticated technology could make possible swipe cards that could allow differently priced tickets for as an example, contractors, caretakers, local employees should they be part of the plan, with the plate # printing out on the receipt. If employers have a very limited number of swipe cards to issue, they would be motivated to cancel a permit when employment ended.

    If the swipe catagory was part of the vehicle’s registration, scanning the parking receipt and the registration could validate the receipt, or over time with technology, the registration would incorporate the parking permit. I can’t say I’ve got the expertise or inside scoop to say that this is a solution or even a good idea, but it might, as a concept, have some advantages.

  • escaqe from sunset park

    A commuter tax is NOT taxing someone who can’t vote you out of office. You, can “vote” to work in another municipality and be taxed or not. NYC suffers from having too many workers earning their living in the five boroughs and then taking their paychecks home to the burbs. There they get haircuts, buy gifts, support churches, support community sports – all with money that they earned in NYC. If they don’t want to be taxed here, let them move to their residential community (oh, I forgot…the highest paying job there is manager of Burger King…sorry).

  • Lauri

    mork (#2)a swipe card to use in a munimeter could take care of residents who rent cars.

  • I largely agree Lauri – muni-meters everywhere. They should have an hourly rate during the day and then a flat overnight rate. I like the swipe cards.

    In fact swipe cards could replace all placards. If you have a placard, your swipe card produces a receipt, but you don’t pay (the city doesn’t charge itself). Just like MTA employees have a permanent unlimited Metrocard. If your swipe card doesn’t work, you have to pay or you get a ticket. It would end a lot of the guestwork by parking enforcement on who’s placard is legit.

    And it would leave a handy papertrail of where government employees are using their placards on “official business”.

  • M.D.

    DiBlasio is such a wuss. He’ll make a perfect boro president.

  • JF

    DiBlasio might be pretty bad as a borough president, but I don’t think he’ll be as bad as Howard Golden. I can’t imagine him being as bad as Markowitz.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    DeBlasio is a good Borough President candidate — tons better than his predecessors. But check out how stunningly feeble his “Greater Greener Brooklyn” platform is. Can you believe this is all he’s got?

    On the City Council Bill has been a leader on environmental issues. As Brooklyn Borough President, Bill will work to maximize recycling opportunities in schools, offices, and homes.

    * Recycling Electronic Waste: Bill has sponsored multiple electronic waste (e-waste) recycling events throughout Brooklyn, giving members of the community an opportunity to dispose of toxic electronic equipment in an environmentally sound way. Bill has introduced legislation in the City Council, Intro 104, that would require manufacturers of electronic equipment, such as TV’s and computers, to set up a free system to collect and recycle these goods. This would help ensure that toxic materials like lead and mercury – commonly found in computer monitors andTV’s– don’tend up in our air and water.

    * Say No to Styrofoam: Bill has introduced legislation, Intro 609, that would ban the use of Styrofoam in New York City. Styrofoam is the widely used term for Polystyrene foam, a substance which doesn’t biodegrade and essentially has no expiration date. Bill’s legislation would prohibit city agencies and city restaurants from using Styrofoam. As Borough President Bill will continue to encourage the use of green products and cut down on unnecessary waste.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Bill DeBlasio is no better than Brodsky on this coming as he does from Nowhere to Park Slope he has even less of an excuse to bail on CP than Weprin, Fidler and Weiner who come from the further reaches of the borough. He falls in with the Manhattan Assemblypeople and Councilpeople who have to have all of their issue completely worked out before they lend any support to Congestion Pricing even though their constituents are huge beneficiaries. They are just looking for an excuse not to do it. Its a good idea if…..whatever. Or, the current plan won’t pass but some undefined future plan that might in some way price congestion well maybe…..if….

    The stage was set for killing congestion pricing when the Council crushed Bloomberg on Sunday parking regs. I guess the council looks elsewhere for it progressive credentials, certainly not transportation policy.

  • mork

    Lauri —

    Cool, yeah, I’d happily pay a few bucks to park in my own neighborhood with a rental car if the need arises.

  • Corey Bearak

    “escape from..” certainly gets it on the commuter tax. $1.8 billion is tough to turn down and with a substantial chunk of it targeted to projects from the burbs, the pols there should be salivating at the possibilities. And as an “old,” tax, it arguable passes over the “no new taxes” pledge we hear from Albany.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Great, Corey. I’m looking forward to Rory Lancman or someone else from the Queens Machine proposing a Commuter Tax up in Albany.

  • Marty,
    All I can say is what one of my former political employers, still a friend, often would state, “Stay tuned.”

  • Larry Littlefield

    (NYC suffers from having too many workers earning their living in the five boroughs and then taking their paychecks home to the burbs.)

    As any suburb knows, you have it backward, at least for those working in the private sector. The businesses they work for and patronize pay extensive property, business income and sales taxes to NYC. But the suburbs pay to educate their kids and provide other public services.

    The city is in reality hurt by having jobs in suburbs that exclude their low-paid workforce. The suburbs get the business ratables, but the city pays for public services and, when the worker becomes sick or unemployed, public benefits. Better for the jobs supported by city resident’s own income to be in the city.

  • Jonathan

    mork & lauri, at the parking workshop I attended, the munimeter ideas were resoundingly dismissed. Folks thought that allowing strangers to park on residential streets for a fee would just encourage park-and-ride.

    IMHO, allowing residents’ rental cars parking privileges is putting the camel’s nose under the tent. First the rental cars, then the loaner car from your mechanic while your car’s in the shop, then the loaner car from your brother, then the loaner car from your brother who lives in Pennsylvania, then the car that you own but register at your brother’s Pennsylvania address to avoid paying costly NYC insurance premiums.

    I’m not a big fan of RPPs generally, because I think that once people are paying for use of public space for motorcar storage, it becomes harder to take it away from motorcars, which is my goal. But if you’re going to have one, you might as well use it to address the insurance fraud issue by requiring resident parkers to register their motorcars in the neighborhood.


    The only advantage of RPP’s is that all of our neighbors with the Pennsylvania and North Carolina plates would either have to register in NY or give up the cars. Eliminating those phoney out of state plates will certainly free up a lot of spaces.

  • escape from sunset park

    I would applaud a DiBlasio Beep-ship (or is that Beep-ency). He is one of those rare political-beings that combines a working brain with an willingness to take action. I can count all of that ilk on the fingers of one hand – Ken Fisher (my hero), Sal Albanese & David Yassky. I am so tired of “caretaker” politicians.

  • Bob Lothrope

    “No, most people who shop at local merchants are already parking at meters, so RPP wouldn’t affect them.”

    Says who? When I go to outer borough businesses, I find it easier to skip the metered streets and head straight for alternate-side areas, especially if it’s not that long after street cleaning is done for the day.


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