Most car-owning New Yorkers live by the dictates of alternate-side parking, anxiously circling for a spot or double-parking until the sweeper makes its rounds. Off the streets and under buildings, however, exists a glut of parking spaces, built not to accommodate demand but to comply with zoning that the city has barely updated since the auto boom more than half a century ago.
The result is not just little-used garages in neighborhoods bordered by car-packed curbs, but a policy that seems to be at odds with Mayor Michael Bloomberg's vision of a sustainable city that rationally allocates precious resources and removes barriers to business.
The Department of City Planning knows its 1950s-era parking requirements are outdated and is preparing to issue recommendations for Manhattan and “inner-ring” neighborhoods, such as those in western Brooklyn and Queens. But transportation advocates worry that reforms will fail to dent what they deem an oversupply of parking at large developments.
“We've asserted that limiting parking supply can be a valuable tool to encourage mass transit,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “[The city's] point of view is people will own cars and drive, no matter what.”
The problem is not that there are too many private parking spaces. The problem is that there aren't enough street parking spaces, and without the private spaces the street parking situation would be impossible. But now the owners of these buildings are charging ridiculous rates for parking, which is driving people to park on the street. Many people who live in Queens near mass transit own cars because our mass transit system is frequently out of service or doesn't go directly where one wants to travel. Until mass transit changes, the parking situation will not change.