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Gale Brewer

Upper West Side’s CB 7 Wants To Pay For Sunday Parking

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According to a report in DNAinfo, Community Board 7 on the Upper West Side is taking the rare step of asking the city to end the giveaway of free curbside parking. The community board approved a resolution calling for paid Sunday parking in its meeting last night by a vote of 21 to 12, with five abstentions, DNAinfo’s Leslie Albrecht reports.

Sunday parking has been free all over the city since a 2005 vote by the City Council (inspired by a Freddy Ferrer mayoral campaign gambit) decreed that no one should have to “pay to pray,” overriding a Bloomberg veto. (Note to out-of-town readers: NYC churchgoers who ride the subway or bus to worship still pay to pray.)

After living with the results of the law for a few years, CB7 is looking to reinstate meter rates and increase turnover in scarce spaces.

“The result of the ‘pay to pray’ law has been almost zero turnover on many commercial blocks on the Upper West Side on Sundays,” explained CB 7 member Ken Coughlin, who voted for the resolution. “Merchants have been complaining that their driving customers can’t find parking spaces.”

Given that a 2008 study by Transportation Alternatives showed that in one 15-block area of Columbus Avenue, cruising for cheap metered parking adds up to 366,000 miles a year, free Sunday parking must add an incredibly destructive volume of traffic to the neighborhood’s streets.

To reinstate metered parking on Sundays, however, the Upper West Side needs permission from the City Council. Gale Brewer, who represents the area, said she has no plans to introduce such legislation. “It’s not going to move,” she explained. “The City Council passed legislation only a few years ago on the topic and my colleagues in Brooklyn and Queens feel very strongly on the subject.” Brewer believes that it wouldn’t be possible for legislation to carve out an exemption from the “pay-to-pray” law for one neighborhood, though she says her staff is looking into it.

Coughlin, however, suggested that there’s precedent for allowing different rules in different neighborhoods. “For example,” he suggested, “sidewalk cafes are allowed in some neighborhoods but not others.” If Brewer’s right that the council isn’t going to reverse itself on citywide Sunday parking, this legal point becomes the central question for Upper West Side residents looking for relief from excessive Sunday traffic.

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