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School Illegally Uses Parking Spots for Students' Chauffeurs, Locals Say

By Emily Frost | July 10, 2014 8:49am
 Residents are angry with the school for taking parking spots and converting them into "no standing during school hours" spots. When school is not in session, residents are free to use the spots.  
Private School Stole Parking Spots from Residents, They Say
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Residents claim that Bentley-driving chauffeurs for private school students have illegally taken over parking spaces on their block — and they're pushing to reclaim the spots before the beginning of next school year.

Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School had the the Department of Transportation quietly convert three spaces on West 93rd Street from alternate-side parking to "no standing during school hours" last August without any input from locals, residents said.

The spaces are used extensively for student drop-offs, pickups and even full parking, locals said, including by hired drivers that the school has acknowledged regularly chauffeur students to and from campus. The spots are also used for delivery vehicles without getting ticketed, while those with no school affiliation receive citations, they claimed.

"We really, really don’t think the school is just entitled to do whatever they want," said West 93rd Street resident Matt Dixon, who said he had a petition signed by 75 people calling on the DOT to return the spots to the public by next school year.

In response, Community Board 7's Transportation Committee approved a resolution Tuesday demanding the DOT restore the spots for residential parking. The regulation does allow residents to use the spots when school is not in session.

"If you’re a young child, it’s one thing," said Transportation Committee co-chairmain Andrew Albert at a meeting Tuesday night. "But if you’re not, you don’t need to be chauffeured to school." 

The 1,290 student K-12 school has fielded numerous complaints over congestion in front of its West 93rd Street entrance and met with residents about traffic concerns, but never discussed the new parking regulations with the community, Dixon explained.

Instead, the signs went up overnight without any warning, fellow resident Sean Donovan said.

He added that he's seen a Bentley, as well as other luxury vehicles and vans belonging to school visitors, parked in the "no standing" spots all day long — but that the drivers never seem to get parking summonses.

"No standing" spots allow for pickups and drop-offs, but not for vehicles that idle or unload items, according to DOT rules.

A department spokesman said the agency removed just two alternate-side spaces following a request from the school to evaluate parking conditions on the block. The agency then converted an existing "no standing" zone on West 92nd Street into alternate-side parking, to replace the spaces lost on West 93rd Street, spokesman Nicholas Mosquera added

Columbia Grammar did not respond to request for comment. 

In the past, Headmaster Richard J. Soghoian has conceded that between 150 to 200 cars converge on the school in the mornings and afternoons daily and that there's a serious traffic problem. 

Currently, there are about 17 spots on both sides of the block marked "No Standing During School Hours from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m." 

Board members were angry that after extended negotiations over the school's expansion, which the board ultimately voted to deny in February 2013, the school would make such a move without consulting it. 

They were also surprised by the authorization from DOT.

"This is the first time a big change was made by DOT and they didn’t come to alert us," Albert said.

The committee passed a resolution 7 to 1 requesting the DOT restore the parking space to alternate-side use before the start of the school year.