By Alex Israel
Most members of the Community Board 7 Transportation Committee still seem convinced that allowing people to park at the curb for free is a bad use of public space. But they’re not all sure that calling for a wholesale change to parking policies is the best way to build support—so on Tuesday they decided to soften their tone.
As a follow up to October’s controversial forum on curbside use, the committee revisited a resolution they passed earlier this year, which called for the city to “discontinue the policy of providing free parking for private cars,” in consideration of “more productive and equitable uses of curbside space.” Citing the outpouring of testimony shared at the forum—and knowing the resolution would be up for a vote by the full board in December—Chair Howard Yaruss opened up the floor for discussion among the committee and the community.
Some committee members believed maintaining the progressive stance of the existing resolution was important. “This makes a strong statement,” said Ken Coughlin. “What we learned at this forum is that there are far fewer spaces than people who are hunting for them … and that there are arguably much better uses for the curbside space.”
But others—including two attending board members who are not on the Transportation Committee—worried that bringing the resolution to the full board as-is might fail, in addition to sending a negative message to those who turned out to have their voices heard at the forum.
Steven Brown, co-chair of the Youth, Education and Libraries committee, brought up the portion of residents who felt that there wasn’t enough data. If the committee were to take a position against providing free parking without conducting more research, “it would show the community that we aren’t listening,” warned Brown. “It’s very, very extreme, and I don’t think it’s realistic, and I think you’ll get killed for it,” added non-committee board member Barbara Adler.
“I was disappointed that the forum was composed mostly of one point of view,” said a local resident, who had attended the forum and was unsatisfied by proposals of using curbside space for garbage corrals and public programming. “There was not a lot of information at that meeting, and the idea of dynamic pricing was not backed up by any kind of data whatsoever,” he said.
“Do they represent the majority, or are they a very vocal minority?” committee member Rich Robbins asked about defenders of the current curbside policies that favor free parking. “If we had a complete blank slate, absolutely no way would we design this kooky system.”
Ultimately, the committee voted to take a more neutral stance by amending the language of the resolution. “We are not solving this tonight,” said Yaruss. “We are asking for it to be considered.”
The amendment requests that the city “assess and analyze the policy of providing free parking for private cars,” (as opposed to discontinuing the practice outright), “and consider whether there are more productive and equitable uses of curbside space,” (as opposed to suggesting that all alternative curbside uses are inherently more productive than free parking).
“It’s smart to consider how this will play in front of a wider audience,” noted CB7 Chair Mark Diller, in favor of a stronger effort from the board beyond the community forum. “The closer we get to asking for a study will go a long way.”