W. K. Lis
- Dec 24, 2007
- Reaction score
'No Place To Park'
Entitled Drivers Have Been Whining for 100 Years!
See link for the full article.
Like death and taxes, New Yorkers complain about parking. And the media has long been their enablers.
These days, the local press likes to trot out random car drivers complaining that they can’t find parking because ___________ (insert any city program that has attempted to minutely tip the scales from drivers to everyone else such as open restaurants, open streets, wider sidewalks for pedestrians or a nascent effort to put garbage bags in the curbside lane and trim New York’s notorious 5 o’clock shadow).
“Sometimes I wait for hours to find a spot,” Luis Carrero of Kingsbridge Heights recently told the Daily News, claiming, “Years ago, it was easy.”
No, Luis, it wasn’t. Sure, there are tens of thousands more cars in the city now than before the pandemic, with car ownership increasing 12 percent, according to the NY Post, and, yes a few thousand spots were repurposed during the pandemic for the public instead of for private car storage, but Luis and his ilk are just flat-out wrong: It was never easy to park in New York City. Complaints from car owners are as long standing a tradition in New York as booing the mayor on opening day at Yankee Stadium.
How do we know? We asked the ultimate expert.
“Parking has been difficult for decades,” author Calvin Trillin told Streetsblog the other day. And he ought to know; in 2001, Trillin published the seminal, “Tepper Isn’t Going Out,” an entire novel about parking that was born from the author’s own years searching for a spot in Greenwich Village.
The problem he said is decades old and began “as soon as there were so many cars that if you put them in the end they would measure more than the parking spots.”
Trillin said that drivers should put today’s parking problems in context. Finding a spot will always be difficult “unless people just don’t have that many cars.”
Nonetheless, the car-owning minority of New York feels that free parking is it inalienable right. A safety improvement that might save the life of a kid or a neighbor are still met with outrage from drivers — and the media plays along, hyping how hard it is to park. But some reporters get it.
“New York has been synonymous with endless traffic jams, total gridlock, impossible parking and hours-long spot-hunting for decades. And it is nothing short of bizarre revisionism to even imply otherwise,” Aaron Gordon recently wrote in VICE.
Revisionism is the perfect word for today’s laments. We did a deep dive into the parking issue and here are some highlights:
As early as 1917, car owners started asserting their entitlement to simply swipe the public curbside space. As detailed by the Brooklyn Eagle, the practice of storing a car in the public right of way was so bizarre that the police commissioner ordered a crackdown.
“Instructions were given that special attention should be paid to conditions in the vicinity of Borough Hall in Brooklyn,” the article said (wait, is this article from 2023?!).
The irony is that at the time, local merchants complained that car drivers who parked against the curb were deterring customers (the opposite complaint is made today).
At the time, street parking was a luxury allowed only to doctors who needed to rush to take care of a patient. So how come house calls disappeared, but theft of public space didn’t?
As the popularity of the automobile continued to rise, parking became more of a crisis … for entitled drivers demanding space.
As this 1921 article shows, all kinds of solutions were pitched, including an intricate car parking system underneath parks, with 30,000 spaces created under Central Park and another 4,000 under Bryant Park.
“Parked cars today cause congestion, loss of life and injuries,” Deputy Police Commissioner Harriss was quoted as saying before describing his elaborate system that seems right out of an Elon Musk fever dream: “When a passenger would leave his car to enter a store or a theater for a considerable space of time, the car should be immediately sent to Central or Bryant park, subject to recall by an electronic flashlight system probably requiring six telephone operators in each parking tunnel.”
Harriss claimed, “Practically all of the large department stores have been studying the suggestion and are enthusiastic about it.”
Brooklyn Borough President Riegelmann was on board with efforts to ameliorate the parking “problem,” saying that “the parked car was rapidly becoming one of the biggest of the city’s transportation problems,” the Eagle reported.
This was back in the days when parking one’s car overnight on a street was simply prohibited.
“In those days, people thought that the streets should not be used to store automobiles,” the legendary parking expert Donald Shoup of UCLA, told Streetsblog the other day. The shift, he said, “was that drivers kept insisting, ‘Here’s all this wonderful space that you prohibit us from using.’”
In the 1920s, truckers were the canaries in the coal mine of New York City parking, what with their work constantly impeded by cars. In 1923, the Merchant Truckmen’s Bureau of New York declared that the only way to really improve traffic issues was to ban car parking in busy areas of the city.
The police department provided limited off street parking, but people didn’t use them “because the car owners have to walk three or four blocks back from the place they parked the car, to their business.” Aww, baby.
As more and more soldiers returned home from World War II and vacant lots were converted to buildings, the city faced a flood of new traffic and fewer off-street parking spaces.
At the time, the auto lobby acknowledged that parked cars were the problem — but the car industry’s solution was hardly to deter driving and parking, but to encourage it!
George Conrad Diehl, of the Automobile Old Timers, demanded that the city cut “at least” four new crosstown boulevards for cars, with parking spaces installed underneath. He claimed “these broad arteries would more than pay for themselves … through the economic service they rendered.” He was wrong — roadways have been widened, but congestion still cripples the city and hampers economic development.