INWOOD — Valet services are choking local streets by illegally double-parking cars and blocking available spots to serve drivers frequenting the neighborhood's nightlife venues, police and neighbors said.
A handful of valet companies are working directly with bars and restaurants in the area, gobbling up street space but often mobilizing when officers arrive to ticket them, police and locals said.
“It’s just horrible,” said Luis Breton, 39, who lives on Vermilyea Avenue, where the issue is particularly problematic. “They sometimes use their [sandwich] boards to block the streets and double-park cars. I don’t even think they’re supposed to do that.”
Traffic rules stipulate that it’s unlawful for any person to reserve or attempt to reserve a parking space, according to the Department of Transportation.
The valets could park in local garages for a fee, but opt to instead use the street and take their chances flouting traffic laws, one garage owner said.
Some of the more prominent companies include Rush Valet Parking, located in Inwood, which works with several restaurants in the neighborhood, including 809 Restaurant on Dyckman Street and Viva Tapas Bar on Sherman Avenue, employees said.
Another company, JP Valet Parking, works with Guadalupe Mexican Restaurant and La Nueva Espana on 207th Street, the owner said.
The popular nightlife destination La Marina on Dyckman Street says it manages its parking in-house.
Rush Valet could not be reached for comment, while JP Valet Parkings and La Marina did not respond to requests for comment regarding congestion.
Residents say many valets aren’t equipped to handle the large crowds, and they want local politicians to start enforcing the traffic and parking laws.
“I wish traffic cops could see what we often see at night,” said Charles Moore, 29, who also lives on Vermilyea Avenue. “They would have fun with all the violations.”
Police say the enforcement is there, but that it's often hard to bust illegal parkers who have gotten crafty at evading tickets.
“I can have an officer go down the street writing summonses to double-parked cars,” said Deputy Inspector Chris Morello, the commanding officer of the 34th Precinct. “People scatter, but the minute [an officer leaves] the street — double parked cars again.”
He added that 207th Street is one of the locations hit with the most tickets.
"They're getting summonses," Morello said. "I assure you."
Dennis Xenos, president of Sherman Parking Systems, a garage located on Sherman Avenue and 207th Street, said bar and restaurant owners rely on valets to bring in business, especially venues that cater to large crowds.
The valets charge anywhere from $5 to $10 and sometimes more per vehicle — a small price to pay for the convenience, he noted.
“If a business owner has a need for this kind of service, then it’s in their best interest to make it available for their customers,” he said.
While he offers a discount to valets who park in his garage, many companies choose instead to take their chances on the street, he said.
"[They] just run the risk,” he said.