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Car Culture

TUESDAY NIGHT: Key Battle in Endless War Against Entitled Drivers and their Free Parking

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If you attend just one Community Board 7 Transportation Committee meeting this year, Tuesday night is the one.

That's because the committee will once again discuss its resolution calling on the city to study whether the existence of free parking is causing congestion and carnage on our roads.

For now, that's what the resolution seeks — a study of whether free on-street car storage is the best and most equitable use of our public space, especially in light of congestion tolls that will be installed below 61st Street in 2021. That resolution was watered down from a much bolder one that called on the city to "discontinue the policy of providing free parking for private cars." Yet nonetheless, it failed to pass the full board this month, prompting Tuesday night's do over.

Supporters of the parking entitlement will likely show up en masse. Tag Gross, creator of the website Common Sense Streets, has been distributing fliers urging drivers to attend, claiming without evidence that the committee will pass the new resolution “without any input from car owners.”

Point of fact: the public will be able to speak at the committee meeting, and some members of the committee are actually car owners.

"What they are saying is totally false," said Howard Yaruss, the committee's chairman and author of the original resolution. "The meeting is open to the public and I intend to hear from them. By the way, I am a car owner and driver and some have made the case the I have a 'conflict of interest,' which I think is totally bizarre since my interest would be more free parking!"

We asked Gross to respond — and he did ... in full. We also decided to print every word he sent over just so everyone can be on the same page. He started by going over the context for Tuesday night's do-over.

After the very forceful rebuke by the full board, we wrote directly to Howard Yaruss and [CB7 Chairman] Mark Diller and requested a working group be established with members of CB7, our group and any other UWS community groups (I believe there is one called "Green Streets"). I also suggested they bring in experts. I offered my studio to meet. You have to remember, that we are not anti-bike and we are not anti-new ideas. We are however, pro our own community and believe that solutions that work elsewhere do not necessarily work here.

Our goal was to work with the committee to come up with a resolution that we could all get behind and in doing so bring our community together while actually solving problems related to traffic, pollution and safety. Our request was turned down. We also requested that the re-writing of the resolution not take place until after the holidays, which is a very busy time. You may remember the animosity of the CPW bike lane vote which took place on the July 4 getaway.

We interrupt only for context because Gross was referring to something else — a vote taken by the full board on Tuesday, July 2, to approve the protected bike lane on Central Park West. His reference to "getaway" apparently refers to a practice by some residents of New York to leave the city during summer weekends, especially those with an extra day or two tacked on. Indeed, in an earlier conversation with Streetsblog, Gross said it was part of the "ethos" of the neighborhood to be able to own a car, store it on the street all week, and then use it for weekend trips out of the city. (He literally used the word "ethos.")

Well, rushing this revision [on the parking resolution] through the committee is going to do nothing but stoke the feeling that this entire process lacks any transparency or democracy. There may be public comment allowed at the committee meeting on Tuesday, but nobody believes that the committee will listen to anything but themselves. The unanimity of both resolutions is pretty obvious indicia of the bias of a self-selected group. As far as car owners, I only know for sure of one, Howard Yaruss who parks in a garage.

So this is the big one. If you want to fight the toxins, congestion, carnage and anti-urban street designs caused by our culture's addiction to the automobile, you will want to fight this particular battle.

The committee meets on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the CB7 office, 250 W. 87th St.

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