Who Replaced the Council’s Transportation Committee with Pro-Car Zombies?

Under Council Speaker Corey Johnson, the committee has returned to the bad-old-days of parochial parking complaints and disregard for the car-free majority.

City council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez and committee member Chaim Deutsch. Photo: John McCarten/NYC Council
City council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez and committee member Chaim Deutsch. Photo: John McCarten/NYC Council

They should probably starting calling it the Car Storage Committee.

Under Speaker Corey Johnson, the City Council Transportation Committee has devolved from a panel devoted to addressing complex transportation challenges into one narrowly devoted to relaxing the rules governing curbside access for the city’s car-owning minority.

That phenomenon was on full display at Monday’s oversight hearing on parking regulations, which focused almost entirely on having them regulate less.

One by one, council members attempted to micromanage how the city enforces parking rules: One proposal would excuse drivers from paying for parking if the time they pay extends past the time meters are no longer in effect. Another bill would wave parking violations if the violator could prove the parking sign was illegible. Others would suspend Alternate Side Parking regulations on Three Kings Day and Lunar New Year’s Eve.

“Sometimes, [parking] regulations can become too burdensome and outdated,” committee Chairman Ydanis Rodriguez said in his opening statement. “Many of them are old and must be modified, which is why we are here having this hearing today.”

Coming from Rodriguez, who called for dynamic, market-based parking meter rates when the city unveiled its pay-by-app system two years ago, one might expect the committee would delve into questions about the over-saturation of the curb. The committee might even touch on Rodriguez’s push to implement residential parking permits.

Not so.

Missing from the hearing was any discussion of the impacts that New York City’s low parking fees have on safety, congestion, or the economy. The Department of Transportation’s recent decision to increase meter rates across the city — a strategy to increase turnover and reduce congestion — also got no mention.

Instead, council members spent the hearing fighting to defend their “right” to on-street car storage, which occupies enough space to fill 16 Central Parks, according to Transportation Alternatives.

Most of their energy went to blasting the Sanitation Department for not wanting to add more days with Alternative Side Parking suspensions, which they saw as an outcome of the lack of Asian-Americans and Latinos in city leadership. On multiple occasions, they drifted from the agenda to harp on the DOT reps for parochial parking concerns on specific blocks in their districts.

Some valuable bills were on the agenda, including one from Council Member Costa Constantinides requiring DOT to come up with a strategy for overnight commercial deliveries. But Constantinides’s more important parking-related bill, which would eliminate a city program that reduces parking fines for delivery companies, was not addressed.

The two pedestrian-focused bills discussed, meanwhile, had nothing to do with parking.

It was the second such hearing of the year, after a similar car storage-focused meeting in June, and a sharp turn from how Rodriguez ran the committee under Johnson’s predecessor, Melissa Mark-Viverito.

In the previous term, Rodriguez and his colleagues used the committee to expose the city’s hit-and-run crisis, to push for Citi Bike expansion, to protect cyclists and pedestrians, and to explore new policy frontiers like car-sharing or autonomous vehicles.

In 2018, the transportation committee has more in common with its time under Rodriguez’s predecessor,  Jimmy Vacca, who used his bully pulpit from 2010 to 2013 to rail against pedestrian plazasbike lanes, and marginal meter hikes.

DOT, to its credit, resisted the pro-parking onslaught on Monday. The administration refused to endorse any of the bills put forward, although it said it was open to working with the council on overnight deliveries.

“The purpose of parking meters is to turn parking over — to make that parking available to more and more customers and not to have someone monopolize a parking space for the entire day,” DOT Deputy Commissioner for Traffic Operations Josh Benson explained to reporters after his testimony.

  • Joe R.

    They just don’t get it. The only reason they can use the curbside space to park at all is thanks to the good graces of NYC. That privilege can disappear overnight at any time for any reason if the city has a better use for that space.

    How about a City Council bill which would let non-car owners put storage containers by the curb? I’d put one in front of my house right away if such a bill passed. I’ll bet lots of enterprising individuals would do the same, then rent the storage space to non-car owning apartment dwellers. The city could stand to gain quite a bit of tax revenue by allowing this. Right now, other than at parking meters, they lose money on curbside space. This isn’t to mention the trash property owners have to deal with when slobs clean out their cars and dump the trash on people’s sidewalks.

  • Maggie

    Shame on these people.

    The entire world has until 2040 to change its ways to avert utterly catastrophic global warming.

    That isn’t hyperbole, it’s the science.

    It doesn’t go away because some municipal employee union happens to find it inconvenient. The IPCC report published earlier this month is akin to the August 2001 report “Bin Laden Determined to Act in the US.” If you don’t take it seriously and change what you’re doing, NOW, to reflect it’s very alarming implications, we will pay for that regret for a very long time.

    Every single lever we can pull to discourage single-occupant car use in NYC, each and every day starting now, needs to be pulled. Joking about not needing bus lanes is despicable. We simply don’t have time for it.

  • Daphna

    David — First sentence, I think you meant disregard for the non-car owning majority

  • ortcutt

    Why has no one proposed suspending Alternate Side Parking on National Cheese Day, June 4th, and Grandparents’ Day, Sept. 9th?

    I’m too busy eating cheese with my grandparents on both days to move my car.

  • Daphna

    I would have expected better from Ydanis Rodriguez and Corey Johnson who have in the past supported safer street re-designs and have spoken in favor of congestion pricing. When politicians who support safer streets are willing to compromise their principles, this shows that the car owning minority are vocal, organized, recognized as active voters, have media savvy and thus have greatly outsized influence on their politicians. The non-car owning majority need to start speaking up with the same frequency that the car-owning minority complain. The complaints of the few are being listened to and policy is going in the wrong direction. The right direction would be to add meters to many more streets, extend the hours meter are in effect, eliminate placards, eliminate the unspoken courtesy of letting government workers park for free, etc. The vast majority citywide who do not own cars need to speak up!!!!

  • Tooscrapps

    Unlike expensive new model cars, storage containers just don’t fit into the historical character of NYC’s landmark blocks.

  • David Meyer

    Oy, fixed!

  • Josef Szende

    No I don’t think it is fixed.

  • 100%. I’m especially disappointed in Ydanis Rodriguez. No one person’s political future – and that’s all this is about – is more important than humanity’s.

  • Daphna

    Cheers to Josh Benson

  • Keep on sucking that tailpipe you asswipes.

  • HamTech87

    NYC-DOT needs to make Benson’s point, that turnover helps businesses, more emphatically. Perhaps advocates need to construct a “reinventing parking” campaign similar to Transit Turnaround and MOVE-NY to change the conversation.

  • iSkyscraper

    Dyckman Street – first protected bike lane removed in North America. (Still no sign of the bike lane post-repaving…)

  • “The entire world has until 2040 to change its ways to avert utterly catastrophic global warming. That isn’t hyperbole, it’s the science.”

    2040? Catastrophic? What happens then? This isn’t hyperbole?

    Statements like that are why such a huge number of conservatives, liberals, libertarians and others roll their eyes at conversations about climate change. This does far more to harm the effort to make our world better than to help it.

  • Maggie

    Here are a few excerpts from the report. You can also feel free to google IPCC climate report to get yourself fully up to speed. Yep, it is hair-raising, with uncomfortably huge swaths of NYC’s five boroughs directly at risk. There is no political persuasion that is exempt from science, I hate to tell you.

    “Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society, the IPCC said in a new assessment.

    The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.”

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