It’s Tuesday morning, around 11:50am, and an exciting dance is about to begin. I call it the Bushwick slalom. Right about this time, everyone who’s parked on my block hops into their cars and moves them to the opposite side of the street — double parking along the entire length of the block. Unfortunate car owners who forgot about the city-enforced deadline are exposed and sometimes, during this 90 minute period, a fancy Allianz 4000 Hybrid Electric street sweeper comes whizzing through, spraying its water, and scrubbing the pavement with its brushes, leaving behind something of a cleaner street.
Does the street always get cleaned at this time? No. But you know who always comes through? Someone to write parking tickets to those drivers still parked on the wrong side of the street.
Let’s say you’re one of the sad people who forget to move their cars: you’re almost guaranteed a $65 alternate side parking violation. Then, let’s say you’re really unlucky and forget to move your car the following week and the city tows it. That’s another $185 fine, plus a $20-per day storage fee. All-in, you owe at least $270 just to get your car back.
Where I live in Bushwick, many of my neighbors own cars because it’s one of the more efficient ways to get to a job that pays a living wage. Yes, you could probably take the bus and many people do — but, if you can ‘afford’ it, owning a car often takes a trip that might be an hour or more on public transportation, down to 20 minutes.
For people in Bushwick who earn minimum wage, they’re bringing home about $31,200, per household member per year. After taxes, let’s call that about $25,000 per household member, and let’s assume we have two working household members. That gives us about $50,000 to work with for a year’s worth of expenses, or about $4,000 per month. The $2,204 for a rental here is about $1,975 (about $2,200 in Bushwick; $1,750 in Ridgewood), which leaves about $2,025 for other expenses like food, electricity, gas, internet access and phones. I’m not going to break things down any further, but a $270 hit to that budget could mean a decision between feeding your family or paying your rent.
So let’s get rid of alternate side parking.
But how will the streets get cleaned and, more importantly, how will we pay for it?
Obviously the Department of Sanitation can still come through and clean the streets but the city should also lean into public private partnerships to help keep our neighborhoods clean with the power of people: funding groups like Clean Bushwick and the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District. We should partner with organizations like Ready, Willing & Able to come in and not only clean the streets at the curb, but also our sidewalks. We should look at creating Neighborhood Improvement Districts that would operate in a similar fashion to our busy Business Improvement Districts, but would be focused on residents. Creating these organizations would create jobs that pay comfortable wages in our own neighborhoods, incentivizing people to sell their cars because they work closer to home.
But how would we pay for it? By taxing private parking at a higher rate. There is no clear picture as to how many private paid monthly parking spaces there are, however, according to toomanycars.nyc there are approximately 1.3 million private parking spaces in the city. Based on that, I estimate private parking revenue at $741 million a year. We currently tax that revenue at 18.375% in Manhattan and 10.375% in the other boroughs, so let’s use the average of 14.375% to estimate the tax revenue, which comes out to about $106 million per year, of which the city gets about $63 million.
If we increased that average rate to 20% total, an additional 6% for the city, the revenue would go up to $148 million, it could give us almost an additional $45 million to pay for these programs. The average New Yorker who pays for private parking currently pays an average of $674 a month ($570 in fees and about $81 in taxes) for their spot and this increase would be a measly $33 on top of that.
Ultimately, ending alternate side parking would help to alleviate the burden of car ownership for the people who can least afford it, reduce the number of enforcement actions that take place in our neighborhoods, create good paying jobs, and make our district even cleaner than it is now.
Scott Murphy works for the transportation startup Revel and is also a candidate in the Democratic Party primary for city council’s 34th District, which represents parts of Bushwick, East Williamsburg and Ridgewood. The election takes place on June 22.
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Top photo credit: Matthew LeJune on Unsplash.
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