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Media Watch

Times Metro Desk Explains Parking Reform For the Windshield Set

In today's edition, the New York Times took a look at parking policy in Downtown Brooklyn. You wouldn't expect the Times to explore a wonky topic like parking reform with the same depth as Streetsblog's coverage of the proposal, but still, the article barely hinted at the huge costs imposed by parking minimums. Scarcely a word was devoted to the evidence that parking minimums make housing less affordable, or that they induce traffic and congestion.

The key to understanding the piece is in the first sentence. Reporter Thomas Kaplan -- who usually covers politics in Albany, not zoning in Brooklyn -- started it off with this snappy lede: "In traffic-clogged New York City, where parking spaces are coveted like the rarest of treasures, an excess of parking spaces might seem like an urban planner’s dream."

Joined by Streetsblog founding editor Aaron Naparstek, I asked Kaplan on Twitter: Who, exactly, are these mysterious urban planners? Naparstek suggested that perhaps he was "referring to 'an urban planner's dream' from 1956, suburban Long Island."

It turns out Kaplan wasn't talking about urban planners at all. "To the avg person who can't find a place to park in NYC," he replied, "surplus parking might seem like a good thing."

@naparstek Right—I meant, to the avg person who can't find place to park in NYC, surplus parking might seem like a good thing for a planner

— Thomas Kaplan (@thomaskaplan) November 26, 2012

So there you have it: The story is not intended for the majority of New York City households who don't own a car, nor for a hypothetically "neutral" audience who might want to understand the significance of parking policy regardless of their personal stake in the outcome. It's for "the average person who can't find a place to park in NYC."

The gap between the New York Times Metro Desk and Marcia Kramer may not be as big as you'd think.

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