New York is Really Awesome When the Rich People Leave and Take their Cars on Vacation

A summer weekend in New York's richest neighborhoods means empty streets. So why should we care what car owners think is just?
A summer weekend in New York's richest neighborhoods means empty streets. So why should we care what car owners think is just?

IMemo to policy makers: Car owners are an entitled, selfish class of moochers — and it’s time to stop catering to them by worrying about where they park their cars.

This thought occurred to me as I biked around the city — blissfully — on Wednesday afternoon and all of Thursday and discovered that whenever I passed through a well-to-do neighborhood, there were very few cars on the road or stored against the curb.

They’d all been taken out of the city by their well-to-do owners! America’s national holiday is a vacation for cars, too!

Look at all this glorious curb space in tony neighborhoods like Fort Greene…

Fort Greene in the summer.
Fort Greene in the summer.

Park Slope…

Park Slope without cars.
Park Slope without cars.

Prospect Heights…

Prospect Heights without cars.
Prospect Heights without cars.

These are all fancy neighborhoods with many residents who tend to summer elsewhere. As a result, the so-called parking lanes empty out, too. Look at the pictures should make everyone ask: Why have car owners been able to twist narrative (and convince the politicians) that there’s never enough parking, that taking away free on-street parking will hurt average New Yorkers, that residents need their cars?

We heard all of these arguments earlier this week when Community Board 7 on the Manhattan’s wealthy Upper West Side considered (and then supported) a city proposal to create a protected bike lane by repurposing 400 spaces in the public right of way that are currently set aside for the storage of residents’ private automobiles.

“This will just make life more difficult for the middle class by making it harder to find parking spaces for people who need cars to get to work,” said one woman who was opposed to the bike lane in favor of parking for the less-than-20 percent of the households (the wealthiest ones, to boot) that own a car in the neighborhood.

Another person added, “The people that you’re hurting by eliminating the parking spaces are those that can’t afford a garage.” (You can watch it all here.)

The evidence on every street in every well-off neighborhood this weekend says otherwise. The rich don’t need all this parking because they don’t need these cars. They just want the convenience of being able to go to their country homes without having to use public transit — and, when the most powerful forces in our society don’t use transit, they don’t fight for it, which means it gets worse and worse for the rest of us.

Well, if they want to keep their separate system, fine — but it’s time for them to pay for its true societal cost in congestion, pollution, travel delays for the rest of us, and, lest we forget, the current double-digit uptick in fatalities for cyclists and pedestrians.

Gersh Kuntzman is editor of Streetsblog. When he gets really angry, he writes the “Cycle of Rage” column. Prior posts are archived here.

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