Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Department of Buildings

NYC Is Littered With Dangerous Parking Lots Like the One Where Luz Gonzalez Was Killed

2:20 PM EDT on July 11, 2018

The illegal parking lot at Clean City Laundy where a driver backed out and killed Luz Gonzalez last month. Image via Google Maps

Last month, a hit-and-run driver leaving a Bushwick laundromat backed over and killed 4-year-old Luz Gonzalez on the sidewalk. The parking lot -- a narrow strip directly abutting the sidewalk -- was illegal, and the Department of Buildings shut it down.

Clean City Laundry was ordered to paint over the parking stall markings and barricade the space to prevent vehicles from entering, according to a DOB spokesperson.

But there are parking lots like it, where drivers have to back over the sidewalk to get into or out of a space, all over the city. Many of them are perfectly legal. In fact, the parking is often required by city code.

Take 491 Knickerbocker Avenue, just a few blocks away from the Clean City site in Bushwick:

The parking lot at 491 Knickerbocker Avenue is required by the city's zoning rules, but drivers can only get there by crossing over the sidewalk -- the exact same condition that killed 4-year-old Luz Gonzalez in June. Photo: Google Maps
The parking lot at 491 Knickerbocker Avenue is required by the city's zoning rules, but it creates a condition where drivers have to execute turns and reverse over sidewalk space, either on their way in or on their way out. Photo: Google Maps
The parking lot at 491 Knickerbocker Avenue is required by the city's zoning rules, but drivers can only get there by crossing over the sidewalk -- the exact same condition that killed 4-year-old Luz Gonzalez in June. Photo: Google Maps

The strip mall houses a U.S. Army recruiting center, a MetroPCS store, and a laundromat. While parking is legal on this parcel, the number of spaces violates the certificate of occupancy, which allows for 19 spots. On Google Maps, 28 painted spots are visible, plus a few vehicles occupying space ad hoc. According to the Department of Buildings database, the agency has issued no fines to the property owners for exceeding the number of legal parking spots. DOB said it “has not received any recent complaints" about this parking lot or others we brought to its attention.

This surface parking lot outside the Chase Bank at 391 Eastern Parkway has no curb cut along the building's street frontage, but is required by the city's commercial zoning rules, according to DOB.

This is completely legal. Photo: <a href="
This is completely legal. Photo: Google Maps
This is completely legal. Photo: Google Maps

As with the Clean City parking lot, accessing these spaces essentially requires driving in reverse over a sidewalk at some point, in addition to jumping the curb.

Another parking lot only accessible by jumping the curb is at 361 Third Avenue in Gowanus. The same building has a second narrow parking zone around the corner on Third Avenue. Dangerous as they may be, these spots are also mandated by zoning, DOB says.

Image via Google Maps
Image via Google Maps
Image via Google Maps

Conditions like the one that created a fatal risk for Luz Gonzalez are also pervasive at car dealerships, which store their merchandise on sidewalks. Though the practice is against the law, the rules are rarely enforced.

Despite the dangers these parking zones create all across the city, there is no initiative from the DOB to systematically identify and remedy them. As long as that's the case, it's only a matter of time before someone else loses their life.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Congestion Pricing Opponents Are Blocking Disabled Access to Mass Transit, Politicians Charge

Just as the MTA begins speeding up new elevator construction, congestion pricing opponents are poised to stop it.

February 23, 2024

Legislation Introduced in Georgia to Fight Temporary License Plate Fraud

The bill is the most significant effort yet to stop the flow of fraudulent paper tags from Georgia car dealerships to New York City streets.

February 23, 2024

Community Board Backs DOT Road Diet for Brooklyn’s Deadly Third Av.

“This is just a beginning of what we could do to fix our community,” said one board member. “This is not done, this is not where we finish off.”

February 23, 2024

Friday’s Headlines: More Lunch Consumption Edition

Streetfilms goes to Paris. Plus more news.

February 23, 2024

Advocates Slam Albany Pols for Using Transit Fund to Encourage Driving

Gov. Hochul and state legislators in Albany are spending a congestion pricing-adjacent fund on toll rebates for drivers and showing zero interest in bus or rail, transit advocates charged.

February 23, 2024
See all posts