Ninth Street Bike Lane Blocker Speaks — But Reveals Only That The City Gives Away The Store To Car Owners

The Ninth Street blocker, as seen on Monday when a tow truck couldn't get access, is still there. And it'll be there until Saturday, its owner now admits. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
The Ninth Street blocker, as seen on Monday when a tow truck couldn't get access, is still there. And it'll be there until Saturday, its owner now admits. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

I certainly tip my hat to Gothamist, which first reported on Tuesday that the much-reviled Ninth Street bike lane blocker had finally issued a weak apology on social media from her undisclosed vacation lair (UPDATE: She’s in Durango, Colorado!).

But I returned my sweaty blue-dot Mets hat straight back onto my head after reading that the website had basically let driver Liz Plosser off the hook by allowing her to call the parking crisis “a misunderstanding.”

It’s not a misunderstanding at all — it’s the exact understanding that city officials, local politicians and business owners have been allowing drivers to have forever: The curb is yours.

In short, Plosser, the editor-in-chief of Women’s Health, posted on Instagram (then deleted) that she parked her red Subaru on Ninth Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues one day before the city started painting the new bike lane there. Let’s put aside the fact that there were already paper “no parking” signs up and down the block because Plosser admitted that she intended to leave her car on Ninth Street from Thursday night until her return this Saturday.

Car owner Liz Plosser told her story on Instagram, but then quickly deleted it. Photo: Click Katie Martin.
Car owner Liz Plosser told her story on Instagram, but then quickly deleted it. Photo: Click Katie Martin.

Her words, as reported by Gothamist:

A Brooklyn story. Just learned that our car is parked atop a brand new bike line, which the city created 48 hours after we left town for a week-long vacation (naturally with no warning/signage…). We are sandwiched in and the police and tow trucks are not pleased. Our sweet Subaru has become a community board for neighborhood messages, with grumpy cyclists sounding off, and empathetic passersby showing support.

It’s not a “Brooklyn” story, though; it’s a New York City story. Lost in the danger to cyclists represented by Plosser’s car is a much more enraging concept: Car owners are permitted to use our public roadways for free on-street storage of their private vehicles at the expense of public uses such as better bus lanes, more bike lanes, streetscape improvements or even wider sidewalks (which Ninth Street could definitely use, by the way).

And Plosser’s story also reveals another dirty secret about car owners in New York City: they clearly don’t need their cars that much anyway because they are willing to leave them for a full week without so much as moving them. Plosser admitted she parked on Thursday and would not return until the next Saturday — meaning she intended to leave the car unmoved during Friday’s street-cleaning hours twice. She said she was willing to eat both alternate-side-of-the-street tickets, which, at $45 a pop, are so cheap that they obviously encourage anti-social parking behavior. Indeed, $90 for nine days is a lot less expensive than a garage and far more convenient than finding a friend to move your “sweet Subaru” so your neighbors can get a clean street and cyclists can remain safe.

The curbside space is some of the most valuable public space we have, with our 4.4 million curbside parking spaces comprising, by my back-of-the-envelop math, more than 7 square miles of public space — more than six Central Parks.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have six more Central Parks? Or to know that cyclists and pedestrians were safer? Or to just have entire bus lines get you to work quickly because there would be no cars blocking the curbside and forcing delivery trucks to double-park?

That’s not the calculation made by driver advocates like Queens Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer when he capitulated to Sunnyside loudmouths who openly admitted that their parking spaces were more important than the safety of other users of Skillman and 43rd avenues.

The city has so thoroughly lost control of its curbside that double-parking is rampant, causing congestion and safety hazards. The Department of Finance made the problem worse a decade ago by letting delivery companies off the hook for millions in dollars in traffic summonses under the controversial Stipulated Fine Program. The industry is fighting proposed changes to the program, which is exactly how it goes in car-friendly New York. Even minor reductions in on-street parking — like the DOT plan to add loading zones along congested Austin Street in Queens — are opposed by local politicians doing the bidding of the car-free majority.

Fewer than half of the households in the city have a car — and in some parts of the city, it’s well below 20 percent. It’s time for our priorities to reflect that.

Gersh Kuntzman is Editor-in-Chief of Streetsblog. When he gets really angry, he writes the Cycle of Rage column. They’re archived here.

  • Linda

    And that either they do not get tickets or she was going to swallow the cost of not one but TWO tickets without batting an eye. And she is still fired by that magazine?

    Also used to be called the Ticket Abatement Program at some point for Fresh Direct et al

  • chandru

    What a ridiculous post. If Plosser is correct about ‘no warning signs’ (the story seems to say otherwise,) what the hell? Should she be prescient on expecting new bike lanes? And what’s wrong with the calculated risk of 2 tix vs a garage for a week? I’ve done similar myself, though for only 1 ticket. You really think her car parked there deprive the neighborhood of ‘clean streets?’ Get a life. Half the time the sweeper leaves trash behind as it goes.

  • JarekFA

    from her undisclosed vacation lair

    It’s Colorado. And her husband works in FiDi — she works in Midtown West. They have 21 ASP tix. So, this is about as clear of a case as possible of a family that has been induced to keep a car by the city’s policy of free parking and underpriced ASP tickets. Heck — it’s almost rational to eat 2 ASP tix at $45 each then pay for Airport parking (but Ubers to the airport are expensive so I probably would’ve parked at the airport rather then leave it unattended in Brooklyn for 9 days). They don’t car commute for work. They didn’t even drive it for this holiday break (so many other people driving to Maine). So they literally keep it only for occasional weekend trips. I have a friend who lives right across the street from this family and the father car commutes daily to Crown Heights. That’s rational. He may endure congestion but he’s driving a short distance and moving his car daily. I’d like to see that trip converted to bike but the subway alternative would take a lot longer.

  • Joe R.

    I would really love to know what goes through people’s heads thinking it makes sense to own a car just for occasional weekend trips. Don’t they realize for the annual cost they could probably take at least one extra trip? Not to mention the hassle of moving it on alternate side days.

    This reminds me of my ex brother-in-law who bought a pickup, supposedly for its utility. My sister says he used it that way exactly once. The rest of the time he paid extra to own a silly vehicle which was far less useful as a transportation appliance than a sedan. Besides not having a trunk where you could safely store things, it could only seat two (or three rather uncomfortably). He eventually got rid of it for an almost equally impractical sports car.

  • JarekFA

    Should she be prescient on expecting new bike lanes?

    If you live and park on 9th street then it’s expected that you should pay attention to these sort of things. This has been huge news and there’d be a ton of prep work done to the street already. Being aware is just part of the responsibilities and obligations of owning a car in the city and choosing to storing your private property for free on the public streets.

    As chance would have it, she is exceptionally awful at paying attention to these things (which can take time and energy — hence why I don’t own a car despite having two kids and ample street parking near me – I’m just 12 blocks south of this family) and that is reflected in the fact that she has 21 alternate side parking tickets.

    And to wit, she’s literally the only person to have been caught on 9th street like this. Everyone else managed to figure it out. It’s simply unfathomable to me to live and park on 9th street and be completely clueless that a bike lane was coming in. I wouldn’t expect her to know the exact dates of installation, but the writing was literally on the ground that it was happening soon, at least soon enough that leaving your car unattended for 9 days would put yourself at a serious risk. Park at the fucking airport!

    A garage costs $300/month. An owned spot costs $175,000. You’re getting free parking so it’s own you to pay attention. We’re literally subsidizing your car ownership so you could at least do your part. Everyday, someone who isn’t me, parks their big ass car or truck in front of my house. It’s never my car. I bike to work so I have to find ways to store my bike in my apt (regardless of how dirty it may get). I wish we’d convert like 3 or 4 spots per block for bike parking so that people wouldn’t have to get all MacGyver like when it came to keeping a bike. But otherwise, Free Parking is giving away something of value that’s not just bad public policy (we should discourage car ownership in dense neighborhoods, and in this case, literally 50 feet from 2 subway lines and 3 bus routes).

  • JarekFA

    The rest of the time he paid extra to own a silly vehicle which was far less useful as a transportation appliance than a sedan.

    Something that’s crazy to me is how often you see livery vehicles that are suburbans or yukons or other ridiculously sized vehicles. I frequently use Car2Go, which are tiny and I find myself thinking, my god, I can park this thing anywhere it’s so small. Of course, I can take my kids in it so it’s of much less utility. But still, it’s amazing to me just how the median sized vehicles seems to be larger than a CRV, which I’d think should be the 80th percentile for size, not the 40th. But to wit, Ford no longer will be selling Sedans (and it sounds like most of their vehicles will be CRV sized).

  • puffypogostick

    Wouldn’t Zipcar make more sense than owning a car, paying insurance, registration, maintenance, tickets, constantly moving for ASP, etc…

  • qrt145

    Assuming you have the money to burn, and a place to park (not a street where you have to move it twice a week!), it would make sense for convenience.

    I don’t own a car but sometimes rent one for a weekend trip. It is a hassle to get the rental car, return it, make sure it’s clean enough or has enough gas, etc. Convenience has a price which I’m not willing to pay in this case, but some people decide otherwise.

  • KeNYC2030

    I’m particularly struck by the editor of Women’s Health pairing “sweet Subaru” with “grumpy cyclists.” Has Plosser heard of Madison Lyden, who had to veer into traffic to avoid a car in a bike lane? Maybe for a split second she was a grumpy cyclist, until she was a dead one. Thanks, Liz. Maybe you can turn that maneuver into a workout.

  • Geck

    You can see the green signs taped up in the video above as well as the photo in yesterdays story. Everyone else figured it out.

  • Joe R.

    The assumption though is you have money to burn. The vast majority of people who own cars in this city couldn’t afford them if free curbside parking wasn’t available. Even with free curbside parking, for quite a few a car is unaffordable unless they register it out of state to save on insurance.

    When I did the math once, I couldn’t afford a car even during the years I was making 6 figures. This was despite having a free, always available parking spot in the driveway. Owning a car would have meant forgoing quite a bit in retirement savings. Or put another way, it may have meant living my old age eating dog or cat food.

  • Fool

    If ConED was doing utility work or, forbid, a television show was shooting that car would have been towed.

    But DOT doing actual road work? Our civil institutions suck.

  • Adamlaw

    Prosser’s excuse is quite disingenuous and belied by the fact that there have been street markings on 9th Street and signs posted indicating that the implementation of the street redesign was imminent for weeks prior to her and her family’s departure on Thursday, the day before the bike lane was installed. Furthermore, her reported history of getting 31 tickets most of them for violating ADP rules demonstrates real civic disregard to her community, putting aside her callousness towards the safety of cyclists. This attitude apparently shared by chandru in the above post leads to injured pedestrians and cyclists, dirty streets, and a breakdown of comity and community. I am, however, glad that my initial post has raised some important other issues such as the absurdity of the City subsidizing free parking.

  • Daphna

    Hoping that Liz Plosser’s car gets towed this Friday during the street cleaning, before she returns Saturday, and that in order for Liz Plosser to retrieve her car she must pay the tow fee, any of her 33+ parking violations that are outstanding, the storage fee, etc. Aside from the bike lane, Liz Plosser PLANNED to illegally, selfishly and inconsiderately block the street cleaning for two weeks in a row. Hope that car is in an impound lot this Friday! Hoping too that she is fined for having to separately install 20′ of thermoplast that could not be striped with the rest and will cost the DOT extra in labor.

  • Daphna

    This shows that the penalties for not moving one’s car for street cleaning are not high enough. LIz Plossner, the hopefully soon-to-be-fired editor-in-chief of Womens’ Health magazine, currently away in Colorado, regularly does not move her car to allow street cleaning, causing a hardship for her neighbors and all other street users – because she has made the rational assessment that paying tickets is cheaper than paying for off-street parking. NYC needs to raise the fine on those tickets so that violating parking laws will cost more than a garage, not less.

  • Larry Littlefield

    If Con Ed, National Grid, or Verizon connections from the street to the entry to your house fail, those utilities are required to replace them.

    If the NYC water and sewer connections to the mains fail, that’s the property owner’s responsibility — although they will allow you to buy insurance against having to pay it. Maintenance of the city owned and publicly used sidewalk is also the property owner’s responsibility.

    Perhaps we should be happy they are maintaining the vehicular part of the streets at all. Who are the serfs to expect it?

  • com63

    They just need to make the cost of the tickets escalate. Maybe 1-5 are $45, then #6 is $90, #7 is $180, #8 is $360 etc. People will get the message.

  • KeNYC2030

    While the NYPD can’t get a lone car out of a bike lane for days on end, it somehow has the equipment and training to vacuum up 20,000 bees.
    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/aug/28/bees-new-york-hot-dog-stand-times-square-video?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Gmail

  • Andrew

    More to the point, why should the city need to post temporary no-parking signs for a Friday when striping is going to take place when there are already permanent no-parking signs for the exact same time period?

    And why would anyone expect a selfish motorist who ignores permanent no-parking signs to treat temporary no-parking signs any more seriously?

    She chose to violate alternate side parking regulations for two weeks in a row, and also to violate the 7-day parking limit. I’m afraid I have no sympathy for her. If she finds it too difficult to park her car legally, perhaps it’s time to sell it.

  • Joe R.

    She had at least three options definitely open to her, possibly four. She could have parked in a local parking lot, parked at the airport, or parked on a street with no ASP rules (yes, they actually exist in the outer boroughs). A fourth option was to park in the driveway of a friend who owns a home. She likely had colleagues who had homes not far from her. I’m sure one of them would have been happy to let her use their driveway for a 9 days. Note that two out of four of these options are free.

    And what’s wrong with the calculated risk of 2 tix vs a garage for a week?

    That’s part of the problem right there. The fines are too low. There should be no thoughts of taking a calculated risk of getting tickets versus paying for a garage. The tickets should always be more. The fines should start at the daily rate of local garages for the first day. If you get a ticket and your car is still there the second day, the fine goes up. 9 days should result in a fine equivalent to parking in a garage for a month at the daily rate, not the monthly rate.

    Half the time the sweeper leaves a trail of trash behind as it goes.

    I’m not disagreeing here. In fact, most of the time it looks like the sweepers just move garbage from one side of the street to the other. So maybe we should rethink ASP rules and the necessity of cleaning streets as often as we do. Not for the benefit of car owners, but rather to avoid the traffic mess which ensues when people move their cars around on ASP days. My street doesn’t have ASP days. It doesn’t look any worse (or better) than streets which do.

  • Nawc77

    Who placed the large white sign on the back of the car?

  • JohnBrownForPresident

    Fired!? She’ll be promoted. You know that “UNRULY CYCLISTS KILL ALL SENIORS” ideology that everyone believes…

  • Joe R.

    Maybe those cops were ex-army: “Bee all you can bee.”

  • She went to Adjective School. They may not be the same adjectives that someone like Trump uses, but it’s the same demonizing approach. Sad.

  • John French

    Livery vehicles are all about passenger comfort, primarily in the back seats, so they’re not gonna use a compact car.

    Doesn’t need to be an SUV though – station wagons or large sedans are at least as comfortable, if not more so. Especially compared to “compact” crossovers like the CRV, which feel much smaller inside than they look. But they’re hard to buy in the USA these days.

  • John French

    It’s no use moralizing about it though. As long as the penalty for parking illegally is cheaper than the legitimate alternative (parking in a nearby garage/at the airport), some people will risk the fines. What Plosser did was wrong and antisocial, but we’ll never convince drivers not to do that sort of thing except by setting the fines so doing the right thing is the cheaper option.

  • Riley Casey

    painting the bike lane markings on her car would seem to make sense

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

CB 2 Committee Endorses Parking-Protected Hudson St. Bike Lane

|
The transportation committee of Manhattan Community Board 2 voted unanimously on Tuesday to endorse a community-generated plan to upgrade the Hudson Street bike lane to a parking-protected lane. Right now, Hudson Street has a buffered bike lane. It’s one of the oldest in the city according to Ian Dutton, a former vice chair of the […]