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Free Sunday Parking May Not Stay Sacred on the Upper West Side

Community Board 7's transportation committee wants the city to bring back paid metered parking on Sundays.
Community Board 7's transportation committee wants the city to bring back paid metered parking on Sundays.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

By Leslie Albrecht

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

UPPER WEST SIDE — God rested on Sunday, but some say parking meters shouldn't.

Community Board 7's transportation committee wants to bring paid Sunday parking back to the Upper West Side. The committee voted 6-0 Tuesday night to approve a paid parking proposal.

Right now metered parking is free on Sundays. Marc Glazer, the community board member behind the proposal, said that hurts Upper West Side businesses. With no financial incentive to leave, cars linger for hours and take up parking that would otherwise go to store customers, Glazer said.

"You come into the Upper West Side and you can't park next to the restaurant you want to eat at," Glazer said.

Metered parking is generally free on Sundays, but some say that hurts businesses because cars stay put all day and customers can't find parking.
Metered parking is generally free on Sundays, but some say that hurts businesses because cars stay put all day and customers can't find parking.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

Glazer conducted his own research on the issue, taking photos of cars at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. At 2 p.m., 75 percent of the cars hadn't moved, by 6 p.m., half were still there, Glazer said. He said cars spend an average of four to six hours in metered spots on Sundays, but only 90 minutes during the rest of the week.

Glazer's plan could resurrect the debate about the sacred nature of Sunday parking. When the City Council voted in 2005 to make Sunday parking free, some argued it was unfair to charge for Sunday parking because it forced churchgoers to "pay to pray."

Glazer said worshipers aren't the ones using the free spots.

"These cars are there for six or eight hours," Glazer said. "Unless these people are going to an all-day Baptist tent revival, they're not in church."

Michael Hajek, an office assistant at West End Collegiate Church on West End Avenue and 77th Street, said worshipers probably wouldn't mind paid Sunday parking. Of the 200 people who typically attend Sunday services, Hajek said only one drives. That person usually finds a spot that's not metered, Hajek said.

"It wouldn't affect us at all," Hajek said.

Merchants along Columbus Avenue have complained that free Sunday parking has "killed" their businesses, because they rely on customers who drive in from outside the neighborhood, said Barbara Adler, executive director of the Columbus Avenue Business Improvement.

Adler called the paid parking proposal an "excellent" idea.

The idea didn't go over as well with drivers interviewed on the Upper West Side Tuesday afternoon.

"It's terrible," said 27-year-old Frank Lema, an electrician from Valley Stream who was parking his van near 93rd and Amsterdam.

"They can't give us a break?" Lema said. "God rested on Sundays, why can't we? Especially for religious reasons. It's the sabbath."

The full community board will vote on the paid parking proposal at its Sept. 7 meeting at 6:30 p.m. at Fordham University, located at 113 W. 60th Street. After that, the plan would require city approval to move forward.