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Manhattan Panel to DOT: Use Curbside Space for More Than Just Parking

CB2 is trying to avoid this typical scene in residential areas: delivery trucks drouble-park and endanger cyclists and motorists. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Another Manhattan community board has demanded that the Department of Transportation figure out how to reallocate curb space so that roadways are not unsafely choked by double-parked delivery trucks and cabbies picking up or dropping off passengers.

The resolution, which follows a similar demand by Upper West Side CB7 on Feb. 5, cited the explosive growth in app-based cabs and residential package deliveries, which tripled between 2009 and 2017 to 1.1 million per day, with 41 percent of city households receiving at least two package deliveries per week.

"There is not enough available curb space to accommodate this growing demand, and loading and unloading often happens in travel lanes," read the resolution by CB2, which comprises Soho, Noho, Greenwich Village and Chinatown. "This double-parking leads to dangerous conditions for pedestrians and cyclists as well as to traffic congestion, which results in air and noise pollution, wasted fuel, more wear and tear on vehicles, stress, time costs to all drivers and delays for emergency vehicles."

The resolution ultimately asks the Department of Transportation to figure out how to fix the problem — perhaps by creating loading zones by eliminating free curbside car storage — long seen as a birthright by car owners.

Shirley Secunda (at right, at the microphone) explains the curb reform resolution to Manhattan Community Board 2 on Thursday night. Photo: Dave Colon
Shirley Secunda (at right, at the microphone) explains the curb reform resolution to Manhattan Community Board 2 on Thursday night. Photo: Dave Colon
Shirley Secunda (at right, at the microphone) explains the curb reform resolution to Manhattan Community Board 2 on Thursday night. Photo: Dave Colon

"We are very concerned about the increasing incursion of e-commerce package deliveries on our streets, which causes lots of congestion, particularly immense amounts of double parking, which hinders the movement of traffic and endangers pedestrians," Traffic and Transportation Committee Chair Shirley Secunda told the full board in support of the resolution (embedded below).

Unlike the contentious CB7 resolution, which passed only after eight months of meetings filled with invective from irate car owners, Thursday's CB2 vote was quick and breezy (perhaps owing to the fact that it came after hours of discussion on other topics). The resolution also asks that the DOT "focus on locations identified by the community as being problematic" (emphasis added) because of double-parking by delivery and for-hire-vehicle drivers, allowing neighborhood residents a modicum of control over how the study is conducted.

Before the meeting could descend into a discussion of every street and situation where parking might be removed for a loading zone, a board member encouraged meeting attendees not to get hung up on every square inch of curb space in the neighborhood and instead move ahead with a vote.

"This resolution is just asking for a study on a very complicated issue, which clearly it seems to merit," board member Susanna Aaron said to applause, shortly before the vote passing the resolution.

The resolution was the second attempt by local advocates for curbside reform to get the city to look at better uses for the curb than parking. A resolution introduced at CB2 last year called for a more ambitious pilot program that would have allowed residential buildings to ask for curbside access in place of free parking under certain conditions. That resolution, however, was sent back to committee over concerns that the language asking for a pilot was too broad and that it would take too much free parking in the neighborhood.

That the resolution was considered and passed is also a sign that neighborhoods are waking up to the idea that there are so many more valuable ways to allot curb space than just letting people store their own private cars there for free. The question of what to do with the curb has broken out of campaigns led by activists, to the point where mayoral hopeful Corey Johnson went on record to say that there are too many parking spots and the New York Times fretted about the potential demise of free on-street parking. Experts have long documented that free parking boosts car ownership.

Even if the resolution passed this week didn't go as far as its authors tried on the first attempt, Secunda said that she was happy with the vote and the lack of neighbor-on-neighbor combat.

"I'm pleased, and if the DOT responds to the request," Secunda said.

The resolution limits the span of the study to six months. Janet Liff, the director of the Neighborhood Empowerment Project, called that a wise move that would ensure a prompt result and action; a longer-term study with a hazy end date might get quietly filed away while no one noticed, she said.

The move to rethink the uses of curb space makes plenty of sense for CB2. According to  data from the city's Population FactFinder, only about 22 percent of the households in CB2 own one or more vehicles. Moreover, the CB's dense neighborhoods are served by almost two dozen bus and subway lines.

Following is the resolution adopted on Thursday:

CB2 Cubside Access Reso Draft (4) by Gersh Kuntzman on Scribd

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