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The residential parking permit debate: is parking a neighborhood right, or a scarce resource with a price tag?

So, are residential parking permits a good idea? The debate has heated up since 5/21/09, when the Brooklyn Paper opined, in Why parking permits are not the answer, that "neighborhood car-owners alone would still not have enough spaces for their cars even if other drivers weren’t even in the mix."

Moreover, a permit costing a typical $100 per year would be too low:
Only a true market system would create enough revenue to make a parking permit system actually worthwhile while also serving the larger public policy goal: discouraging residents of Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Carroll Gardens and Fort Greene — neighborhoods with the best subway service in Brooklyn — from owning cars in the first place.
Other flaws cited include use of placards by uniformed services to "park anywhere with virtual impunity" and abuse by drivers lying about their addresses.

Now, in reaction to the Atlantic Yards project, City Council Member Letitia James wants such permits in Prospect Heights, so that residents claim streets ahead of arena-goers.

Dueling voices

In a Brooklyn Paper column headlined Parking permits will help, James wrote:
I strongly believe that residential parking permits have the potential to reduce traffic congestion, pollution emissions, needless traffic accidents (especially those that lead to pedestrian fatalities), and noise pollution. This would especially be appreciated in Downtown as we face the long-term development of the Atlantic Yards project.
Atlantic Yards opponent Patti Hagan, a 31-year Prospect Heights resident, responded with Tax Ratner for parking — not us!:
Taxpaying residents would have to pay yet another new tax — for the privilege of parking in their own hood? Why not keep outsider’s cars out instead? Or tax them?

A residential parking permit tax seems unfair. Ratner is already causing major traffic problems for the car-driving citizenry, having this year deprived Brooklyn of: one lane and sidewalk of Flatbush Avenue, one lane and sidewalk of Atlantic Avenue, one block of Fifth Avenue (R.I.P.), one Carlton Avenue Bridge, and two blocks of Pacific Street — streets where parking and pedestrianism have been forever free.
So she thinks Ratner should be taxed.

I agree that the cost of Ratner's changes should be recognized, but I come out closer to those who recognize that parking is a resource, not a birthright.

A letter

In a letter to the Brooklyn Paper headlined ‘Asphalt blob?’, Rob Witherwax, second vice chairman of Community Board 8, commented:
The question is not one of “... having to pay to park by the controversial Atlantic Yards project site,” but one of having to pay to protect the privilege of parking near our homes, and not ceding our street space to occasional visitors. Sure, this is NIMBY-ism, but where else in this city can you find a major sports arena that is so close to low-rise, low-density residential neighborhoods, and yet so far from both sizable parking facilities and arterial highways?

A better solution would be a strategy that absolutely disincentivizes driving to the Barclays Center, by not providing any public or private parking facilities. The arena sits atop one of the busiest transit hubs in New York City, between two of the busiest avenues in Brooklyn.
One commenter on James's piece stated:
All parking should be paid, whether through permits or otherwise. It makes absolutely no sense for vehicle owners to feel that they're entitled to store their personal property on public streets at public expense. Private use of public property has to be paid for.
The parking lot

Fact is, there will be a massive surface parking lot on the southeast block of the Atlantic Yards site for construction workers, then accommodating 1100 cars for VIP and other game visitors.

And they will be walking on narrow Dean Street--what I call the Dean Street squeeze.


  1. It is far from ideal to live near an arena because it is such a traffic generator. We need to put in place measures to protect the neighborhoods near the arena from the worst of its impacts.

    Those who live near the Atlantic Yards site and who are already experiencing new congestion on their local streets from Atlantic Yards related street closures, know the highest priority is to protect air quality and noise levels. In order to reduce exhaust fumes and honking horns, we need to remove the incentive for arena patrons to drive to the arena as well as to circle streets looking for parking.

    What's good about residential parking permits is that they have the potential to protect the neighborhoods around the arena while reducing the incentive to drive to the area generally. That's good for everyone, whether you are a car owner or not, and whether you live immediately near the arena or in one of the neighborhoods arena patrons will drive through to get to their destination.

    Eliminating the up to 1100 unit surface parking lot that Forest City Ratner now says will be in place for 20 years or more wouldn't hurt either.

  2. I agree with the comments of "Neighbor1." Local residents should have access to this advantage because our quality of life is at stake, whether we drive or not. An RPP system will reduce traffic in Prospect Heights. I've seen the system at work in Central London and the impact is significant and very positive.


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