Alternate-Side Parking Is Back in Full Force: ‘It’s a Pain in the Neck’

After a reprieve of more than two years, full alternate side parking is back in New York City, requiring some drivers who park on the street to play musical chairs twice a week instead of just once.

The rules had been relaxed during the beginning of the pandemic.

At least some car owners have been vocal about their dismay, with over 1,000 people signing a petition as of Tuesday morning to maintain the once-a-week schedule.

The change back to twice a week was announced in April by Mayor Eric Adams during his early efforts to push the city toward a return to the prepandemic normal. He also said the city was investing $9 million in year-round cleaning, including the use of small mechanical sweepers on protected bike lanes.

At the time, Sanitation Department officials said that relaxed enforcement of street-cleaning rules had gone on for too long and that halving the number of days that cars needed to be moved led to some streets barely being swept at all.

The former mayor, Bill de Blasio, cut back on the cleanings in March 2020 when New Yorkers complained about having to move their cars regularly during the pandemic’s early lockdowns.

But too many New Yorkers were failing to move their cars at all, willing to risk the possibility of a $65 once-a-week ticket and “blocking the ability of our mechanical brooms to clean streets,” Vincent Gragnani, a spokesman for the Sanitation Department, wrote in an email Tuesday.

The return to prepandemic rules means that street cleaning will be fully enforced during the entire block of time listed on signs throughout the city — either once or twice a week, depending on the neighborhood.

The frequency of street cleanings may differ from neighborhood to neighborhood, or even from street to street, making the change on Tuesday feel more acute in some areas than others.

Some drivers were left unaware of the change. “A lot of people didn’t get the memo,” said Michael Bergelson, who was walking past a row of parked cars with fresh parking tickets on their windshields on a stretch of Riverside Drive in Morningside Heights.

But Mr. Bergelson, a computer technician for NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, follows the city’s daily alternate side regulations religiously. So he was out by 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday to move his 2008 Yaris from its Riverside Drive spot.

“If you live in New York and own a car, your life revolves around alternate-side parking,” he said.

The return of the car-shuffling routine is harder on some New Yorkers than on others, said Katie Rader, a Gramercy Park resident who started the petition against the return to twice-a-week rules.

She noted on the petition’s website that the fines would mostly affect middle-class New Yorkers who can’t afford garages and that the return of the rules was particularly hard for those with disabilities or parents of small children.

“The reinstated rules are a complete money grab,” Ms. Rader, 30, said in an interview.The answer to the city’s sanitation problem isn’t fining drivers, she added.

“If the city wants money, fine the landlords who refuse to take care of trash in their sidewalks,” she said.

Joe Goddu, an art dealer who also lives in Morningside Heights and who wanted to make sure he had a parking spot after street cleaning wrapped up, worked on his laptop on the hood of his Subaru on Tuesday, while waiting for the parking zone to become legal again at 11 a.m.

“It’s a pain in the neck to have to do this twice as often, but on the other hand, all the people without cars have been putting up with dirtier streets all this time,” he said. “So having cleaner streets is more important than the inconvenience of us having to move our cars more often.”

The need for clean streets is a point the Sanitation Department drove home in a TikTok video it released on Tuesday — with sanitation workers pleading with New Yorkers, in a parody of a charity ad, to move their cars as Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” played in the background.

“Every day, litter gets on the streets of our city, and it’s crying out to be cleaned up,” Jessica Tisch, the city’s sanitation commissioner, says in the video while sitting in a street sweeper. “A single mechanical broom sucks 1,500 pounds of street litter off of New York City streets, but they don’t work if you don’t move your car for alternate-side parking.”

Of course, after the fuss about the twice-a-week street cleaning regulations returning, the street sweeper never even showed up to clean the stretch of Riverside Drive on Tuesday morning where Mr. Bergelson had diligently moved his car — even if the ticket agent did.

“The dirty little secret,” Mr. Bergelson said with a laugh, “is that it’s more about revenue than street cleaning.”

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