Ch 7: Living in NYC

Chapter 7 – Parking and Driving in NYC

I am sitting in my Honda Element parked just outside our apartment doorstep during my lunch break. Twice a week, vehicles must move for an hour and a half due to the street sweeper or alternate side parking being in effect. Alternate side parking gives other people a chance to park on the street, otherwise, you would see vehicles never move. On my street, vehicles must be moved between 11-12:30 Tuesday and Friday. At 11:03, the street sweeper drives by. The cars that have not moved yet get reported to the police officers that follow the sweeper and write tickets. If you just saw the sweeper go by and you have not moved your car, you need to leave or else you would get a ticket.

I’m still trying to learn all of the specifics. On Tuesday, I saw the vehicle owners get in their cars at 11. The police drove by at 11:05 and delivered tickets. As long as you are sitting in your car, you are fine. At 11:15, I saw people leave their cars as if they did not have to stay until 12:30. “How do you know when you can leave your car?” Friday is when the sweeper comes around but people stick around their cars until 12:15 at least. This unwritten rule is not documented anywhere and I will have to talk to the locals about more specifics.

You cannot park within fifteen feet of a hydrant, but of course there are no markings on the road where that distance ends. You cannot park in front or behind a dumpster in the street. That is how we got our first ticket of $95.  Anytime you park your car, you must look for a sign nearest to you. If you have any doubt of where you parked, take a picture of your car and the nearest sign.

Cars get towed in two minutes flat because the police run the tow trucks. If this happens, you have to find a cab that will drive that direction. Not all cabs will drive wherever you want to go. A friend that was visiting stopped in front of a store for approximately five minutes. He walked outside and could not find his rental car. If you cannot find your car, more than likely it has been towed and not stolen.

All cars are towed to Chelsea Piers which cycles through a high turn around rate. It is a well-organized, air conditioned building that makes $200 per vehicle towed there. If this building is full, they will then tow your car to the Bronx which you had no idea until you got the cab to Chelsea Piers. Now you have to take another cab to the Bronx where you have collectively spent $50 easy on cabs alone unless you can navigate via bus because the trains do not go to these locations.

Regarding driving, there are no legal right turns if the light is red. You must be behind the line, otherwise, you may get a ticket. There are traffic cameras at a ton of lights. There is an Android app that tells you where they all are, but honestly, they seem to be on every cross street unless you do not drive the main streets. The high-traffic intersections have painted white lines all over the center of the intersections. If you see this, and you are stuck in this grid due to traffic not moving, you will get a ticket. Blocking traffic is a high offense. Even though your light is green, if you pull out to try and beat the light and you are in this grid, you will get a ticket.

I write about the towing experiences and tickets not from my own encounter, but other friends who have wasted half a day retrieving their vehicles and shelling out hard earned cash. Keep all of this in mind if you plan on keeping a car or simply driving through New York City.