Upper West Side Could Get Special Limousine Lane
By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — Forget bike lanes — welcome black car lanes.
Luxury high-rise residents on Riverside Boulevard are such heavy users of livery service and chauffeur-driven cars that the Department of Transportation may create a special zone for the vehicles.
The DOT said Tuesday it could carve out eight spots along Riverside Boulevard, which fronts fancy Trump and Extell buildings, and reserve them for for-hire vehicles. The DOT's Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione unveiled the plan at a Community Board 7 meeting.
Forgione said the black car zone could solve a long-lingering complaint of residents, who've been asking for safety improvements on the street since at least 2009. Locals say the town cars, limos and SUVs that ferry executives to high-powered jobs double park, speed and run through stop signs.
A white-gloved doorman at The Heritage, a Trump building at 240 Riverside Blvd., said some residents ride in cars provided by the companies they work for, while others have personal drivers who take them to work in their own vehicles.
"Everybody who lives in these buildings has money, so they can afford to do that," he said. A five-bedroom apartment in The Heritage was on the market a few months ago for $12.5 million, according to Streeteasy.com.
Some residents in The Heritage head to the office as early as 4:30 a.m., the doorman said.
A doorman at a Trump building on West 69th Street and Riverside Boulevard described the black cars streaming past his building as "a constant moving line." It starts before he gets to work at 6:45 a.m. and continues until about 11 a.m., he said. On Wednesday morning, about 10:30 a.m., two black cars were double-parked in front of the building.
"It's a bit of a nuisance, but you need it," the doorman, who asked not to be named, said.
Yellow cabs are hard to come by on Riverside Boulevard, an isolated street that runs from West 63rd Street to West 72nd Street on the far west side. Buses and subway lines are a hike, so residents rely on drivers to get them to work, the doorman said. Some have Wall Street jobs, some work at big law firms, some are doctors who work uptown at Columbia University, he said.
The doorman said he wasn't sure that creating a permanent zone for black cars was such a good idea, because the vehicles don't seem to affect traffic on the block all day — it's mostly in the morning, he said.
"You're going to do that for (something that happens) just five hours a day?" he said. "That's a stretch. They need to think more about that."
But driver Adolf Camacho, who was double-parked in a tinted-window SUV, said a special zone for black cars would help drivers.
"That's a great idea," Camacho said. "Every week we get tickets."
Camacho said he regularly racks up $115 tickets while waiting for clients, which more than wipes out the $60 he usually earns during a morning rush hour.
As for the clients he picks up on Riverside Boulevard — where Carmelo Anthony was recently spotted apartment-hunting — Camacho said they're "just regular corporate people."
"The rich, rich, rich, they're not here anymore. They relocated after 9/11," Camacho said. "East side people have a lot more money than these people. They tip a lot better."
Community Board 7 will vote on the for-hire car zone plan, and a larger safety plan for Riverside Boulevard, at its June meeting.