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Inwood Drivers Blast Loss of Parking Spaces

By Carla Zanoni | January 24, 2012 3:19pm

INWOOD — City transportation officials have shrunk the parking area on one busy Inwood street, frustrating drivers who have to hunt harder for spots in the parking-starved residential strip.

The Department of Transportation rebranded the southeast and soutwest corners of Park Terrace West and West 218th streets a "No Standing" zone — yanking between three and five unmetered parking slots, depending on the size of the car.

Transportation officials said the NYPD requested the change based on safety concerns at the intersection, where drivers often were forced to creep forward into oncoming traffic in order to see well enough to make a turn.

At least seven residents said they were ticketed or towed after the new signs went up late last month.  Local parenting email list InwoodKids was recently flooded with parent complaints about the new parking regulations.

Inwood mother Beth More said she and her husband were ticketed and towed in the new zone on Jan. 5 after arriving home from the holidays.

“We had no idea the new signs were posted,” she told DNAinfo. “In fact, we were sure our car was stolen at first and never even thought to look up.”

The couple has appealed the $75 parking ticket and will fight for reimbursement of the $185 tow charge.

"I, like many others in the neighborhood, question if this really was a matter of safety or simply an opportunity for the city and police precinct to ticket more," she said.

Several city and police sources said summonses issued just days after the new signs were installed are likely to be dismissed.

DOT spokesman Monte Dean said the change is meant "to improve visibility for approaching vehicles and pedestrians." He said his department regularly removes parking spaces and other obstructions to improve intersection visibility.

Police said they asked that one parking space be removed from the intersection after getting numerous reports of accidents and near-accidents on Park Terrace West.

"It's not an issue of anything other than a concern for pedestrian and vehicle safety," NYPD Deputy Inspector Barry Buzzetti said of the request that was submitted in early 2011 before he became commanding officer of the 34th Precinct.

According to a DOT spokesman, the city is currently conducting traffic studies along West 218th Street at the corner of Park Terrace West and one block west at Seaman Avenue.

Many residents said the removal of the parking spaces is an even bigger hardship because of the temporary loss of an entire block of parking during construction at Columbia University's athletic field building. Traffic changes linked to the construction resulted in the loss of approximately 15 parking spots between Park Terrace East and Broadway. 

Columbia officials said they are working with the community to ensure athletic buses and additional school vehicles are parked off the street.

Although most residents said they were frustrated by the new changes, some said they agreed with the move to improve safety at the corner. Still, many balked at what they said was an over-the-top move by the department.

“One spot, sure. But three or more like they took? That’s too much,” said Juan Cruz as he and his young daughter unloaded his minivan that was parked two spots behind the new no-standing zone.

He said he only noticed the new sign early this month and feels lucky he didn't get ticketed.  

“They should have warned people,” he said.