From the Archives (September 16, 1992; Volume 58 Issue 2) — Don’t Even Think of Parking Here
Editor’s Note: For all of the infrastructure improvements in New York City over the past few decades, parking is still a nightmare. Aside from certain technical differences, this article about the frustrations of parking in Washington Heights could almost pass as if written today.
Having a car at your disposal gives you the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want.
However, to my chagrin, I discovered that keeping a car at YU entitles you to more than just freedom. Here are a few pointers for the new drivers on campus.
For those who do not feel like paying YU the “extremely reasonable” fee of $500 per semester for full time parking, learning how to work the streets is essential. As those familiar with New York City know, there are more cars in the City than available parking spaces on the street. This leads to a game of “musical chairs” whereby drivers circle city streets in search of the ever-elusive spots.
Because of the parking space shortage, many New York drivers would just as soon never vacate their spots. Accordingly, the New York City Government, in the spirit of fair competition, enacted ALTERNATE SIDE PARKING RULES. These rules require drivers to leave their precious spots for a few hours, and then race to reclaim them. Unfortunately, nobody explained this exciting game to me, and it wasn’t until a week after my arrival at school that I returned to my car to find three parking tickets and an unremovable sticker affixed to it. The sticker was especially painful because it informed the entire city of New York that reckless parkers such as myself are responsible for the filthy City streets.
To avoid being stigmatized by one of these embarrassing stickers, just follow these simple rules:
1) On Mondays and Thursdays and/or Tuesdays and Fridays, depending upon which side of the street your car is located, you must double park on the other side of the street before 11:00 AM.
2) Double parking is illegal.
3) You will usually not be ticketed for double parking if you double park on an alternate side parking day on a one-way street after 10:17 AM.
4) It is illegal to reclaim your spot before 2:00 PM.
5) If you wait till 2:00 your spot will be taken.
6) You will usually not be ticketed, stickered, or towed if you reclaim your spot after 12:23 PM.
7) If the parking police have not filled their quota of tickets for the month, you may be ticketed for double parking and/or returning early on alternate side days.
There are not truly safe parking spots in Washington Heights. However, some spots are less dangerous than others.
I vividly recall the conversation I had with a friend, a far more seasoned NY driver than I, after the first time my car was broken into. “Well, where did you park?” he asked. When I told him that I had parked on 186th St. between Amsterdam and Audubon Avenues, he inquired if I had parked before or after the fire hydrant. After I told him that I had no idea what he was talking about, he explained to me that the hydrant was exactly in the middle of the block. When I admitted to parking the car on the Audubon side of the hydrant, he threw up his hands in disbelief. “Well, what did you expect,” he screamed, “everyone knows that if you park past the hydrant your car is fair game!”
If you’ve ever taken the Amsterdam Ave. exit off the Cross Bronx Expressway, and looked at what’s left of the cars on the side of the road, you know that the Washington Heights locals are extremely adept at automotive disassembly. By that standard, my car fared pretty well for the year. I only had my trunk broken into a couple of times, my spare tire stolen, my antifreeze stolen, my glove compartment ripped open, my battery stolen, and the drivers side of the car completely smashed in by a hit-and-run driver.
You may be thinking that I’m not the person who should be advising others where to park. Remember, THERE ARE NO SAFE PARKING SPOTS IN WASHINGTON HEIGHTS. Most of the damage to my car occurred in “safe” spots.
As you may have guessed, a large factor in determining whether your car will survive the year is how lucky (or unlucky) you are. Just remember to always think positively (gam zu letovah) no matter what happens to your car. I’ll admit that even I was thinking a little bit negatively after I walked to my car on Purim morning to discover that another car had skidded through the snow and smashed into its side. Apparently, the driver had, in his haste, forgotten to leave a note.
But like the Jews of Shushan, my sadness turned to joy that Purim morning when upon looking through the snow for car parts, I discovered a piece of the perpetrator’s car — his license plate. Following a threatened lawsuit, I recently received a very generous settlement from his insurance company.
So I wish all you new drivers, Good luck! — You’ll need it.