Sunset Park Eases Alternate Side Parking, Ending 34-Year Fight
SUNSET PARK — Drivers may finally have a reprieve next month when the city's Department of Sanitation reduces alternate-side parking from four days a week to two in parts of Sunset Park and Greenwood Heights.
The change marks the culmination of a 34-year campaign to limit alternate-side parking in the two Brooklyn neighborhoods. Brooklyn's Community Board 7 was the first to take advantage of a new law that sets the rules for reducing the frequency of street-sweeping and its attendant car shuffling.
"It was a burden on a lot of people in the community, having to move their cars four days a week," said Miguel Hernandez, legislative director for Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez, who co-sponsored a bill with Councilman Brad Lander that relaxed street-sweeping regulations.
"There was also the environmental impact, people moving their cars and idling for half an hour."
Starting July 2, street sweeping and alternate-side parking will take place two days a week instead of four on residential thoroughfares east of Fourth Avenue, from 15th Street to 65th Street, according to the Department of Sanitation.
West of Fourth Avenue, alternate-side parking will be suspended Monday for six weeks while the city's Department of Transportation updates the roughly 2,400 no parking and alternate-side parking signs there.
Eventually, nearly every residential street on both sides of Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park and Greenwood Heights will have alternate-side parking only two days a week — once on each side of each street.
Commercial and industrial streets will remain largely unaffected, Department of Sanitation officials said.
"The changes are something we've been asking for since 1978," said Brooklyn Commmunity Board 7 District Manager Jeremy Laufer.
"Folks will move their vehicles fewer times per week, which potentially means they won't take their vehicles to work or places they're going, which we're very hopeful will lead to lower emissions in the community."
For the past four years, Sunset Park and Greenwood Heights have been alternate-side outliers.
In 2008, Brooklyn Community Boards 2 and 6, which cover the nearby neighborhoods of Park Slope, Carroll Gardens and Brooklyn Heights, successfully petitioned the Department of Sanitation to reduce street sweeping to two days per week, Laufer and a sanitation spokesperson said.
Bronx Community Board 8, which includes Fieldston, Kingsbridge and Marble Hill, followed suit in 2009.
The changes in all three communities were implemented as part of a pilot program, Department of Sanitation spokeswoman Kathy Dawkins said.
Before the legislation by Gonzalez and Lander in 2011, she explained, street-sweeping reductions were decided on a case-by-case basis by the city's sanitation commissioner.
There were no official criteria, but Community Boards 2, 6 and 8 each achieved a city Street Cleanliness Rating above 90 percent for three consecutive years.
In September 2010, Community Board 7 applied to also be included in the pilot program, Dawkins stated, but it was rejected by the Department of Sanitation.
Notably, sections of Sunset Park and Greenwood Heights had repeatedly failed to meet the 90 percent threshold on the Street Cleanliness Rating.
"We based everything on the scorecard," Dawkins said.
Laufer acknowledged that the neighborhood does "have a large industrial area, a 24-hour community, [and] underneath the Gowanus Expressway that is very often used for illegal dumping."
He added, "On Fifth Avenue, a commercial street, I've seen in the morning that there are very often beer bottles and things like that, overflow from public trash baskets. It's concentrated more there than in other streets in the community."
The residential streets that comprise most of Sunset Park and Greenwood Heights, however, routinely scored above 90 percent.
"There wasn't an appreciable difference between our cleanliness rating and their cleanliness rating," Laufer said, referring to neighbors that had reduced alternate-side parking.
Gonzalez and Lander, whose districts include Community Board 7, introduced a bill in June 2010 that codified standards for limiting alternate-side parking.
Any community that achieved at least a 90-percent cleanliness rating on its residential streets for two consecutive years can reduce alternate-side parking on those streets to just twice a week.
"If the streets are clean, if the community keeps them clean, and if they're residential, non-commercial streets, and if the community board votes to do it, then the alternate-side parking can be reduced," Lander said. "The law does require that the streets stay clean, and that's part of the community's commitment — it's to help keep streets clean, as sort of the trade-off for the added convenience for not having to move your car every day."
The bill was enacted in May 2011. Less than a month later, Community Board 7 voted to ease its parking restrictions — the first community to do so under the new law.
Residents offered mixed reactions to the change Monday afternoon.
"Four days a week was such a pain in the neck, but you knew you'd get a spot," said Andrea Glessing, 46, a lifelong resident of Sunset Park.
She lives on 35th Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues, where the new alternate-side parking signs have already been installed.
"Still," she said, "I won't need to be up at 8:30 a.m. to move the car."
Her husband, Patrick, 47, agreed. "People just sit and leave their cars," he said. "Before, there was a possibility you'd get a spot. Now, it's just a standstill. It seems to be tight every afternoon."
Up the block, Jose Valle sat at the wheel of an idling blue Ford Windstar minivan, waiting for a spot to open. "It's alright — moving two days a week, it's better," he said.
He suddenly jerked his head to the right. "I'm sorry, I have to go," Valle said. He'd just spotted an open parking space down the block.