Clinton Hill residents furious over surprise loss of parking spots

Outraged: Former District Leader Renee Collymore addresses the crowd at a protest she organized against the Department of Transportation’s new residential loading zone along Greene Avenue at the corner of Cambridge Place in Clinton Hill on Aug. 1.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

Get a load of this!

City transit officials pulled a fast one on Clinton Hill motorists last month, turning parking spots on their residential block into loading zones — and the only notice they got was the tow truck speeding off with their car, angry locals claim.

“They should have notified the residents on the block, I’ve been here for 70 years, the sign just went up and it’s just unconscionable,” said Linda Vital.

The new parking regulations, which took affect on Greene Avenue near Cambridge Place on July 15, is part of a new citywide pilot program to transform on-street parking into loading zones Mondays to Fridays, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on residential thoroughfares throughout all five boroughs, Kings County Politics was first to report.

Locals weren’t thrilled with the loss of parking, but they were furious with the underhanded way the Department of Transportation deployed their new parking regulations, and nearby residents to the streets and rallied in opposition to the scheme Thursday night.

“This is a total surprise,” said Gloria Patton. “They don’t really communicate much.”

Transit officials provided local community boards 1, 2, and 8 — which represent Brooklyn neighborhoods subject to the city’s loading-zone scheme, but are currently on break for summer recess — with notice regarding the new parking regulations on July 10, just five days before workers switched out signs outlawing the old spots, according to Department of Transportation spokeswoman Alana Morales.

And police started towing cars just three days after that, ignoring city rules that allow drivers a five day grace period before enforcing new parking rules, and many Clinton Hill drivers became aware of the loading zones only after their cars had been seized by police.

“I parked the car on Monday evening and Tuesday morning at 8 a.m., my son-in-law was out there and the traffic agents came and he said, ‘No don’t ticket or move her, she’s in the block, she’ll come and move the car. Maybe she didn’t see the sign because that sign just went up,’” said Vital, who admitted her car wasn’t towed until July 30, well after the grace period.

Linda Vital found out the hard way that she was no longer allowed to park on Greene Avenue when police towed her car to the Navy Yard and punctured one of her tires in the process on July 30.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

Vital had to fork over $185 to get her car back from the impound lot at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, plus $60 for the parking ticket. That’s on top of the cost to repair the flat tire her car suffered during the tow, she claims.

“It was a big rip and I believe that happened as they put it on the tow vehicle,” Vital said.

Brooklyn Transit Commissioner Keith Bray issued a mea culpa to placate the outraged drivers, and promised to personally vouch for motorists willing to fight their tickets with the city.

“You are right that we need to get the word out more to help make this program a success,” Bray wrote in an email response to CB8’s Transportation Committee chair Robert Witherwax. “Due to the constructive feedback we have received from CB8 and others we are going to develop a palm card to more widely distribute information on this program and flyer all of the blocks that have been impacted by this change.”

The agency’s citywide plan will transform three streets in the borough into the new loading zones, including the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill thoroughfare between Cumberland Street and Classon Avenue; Bergen Street, from Sixth Avenue in Prospect Heights to New York Avenue in Crown Heights; and Greenpoint’s Manhattan Avenue from Ainslie Street to Bayard Street, according to Morales.

The revamp is aimed at freeing up space during the day and evening, to allow drivers to drop off and pick up people or deliver goods, while also reducing double parking to speed up traffic and buses, the spokeswoman said.

“The loading zones will work to provide curb space during daytime and evening hours to allow for the pick-up and drop-off of passengers as well as loading and unloading of goods – helping to more efficiently utilize curb space and reduce the number of double parked cars,” Morales said.

Drivers that have been ticketed within the first five days after signs went up can contact Bray online to obtain a letter admissible as evidence when contesting parking tickets with the city.

Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D–Clinton Hill) told residents she would try to schedule a hearing with DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and the Council’s transportation committee chair Ydanis Rodriguez (D–Manhattan).
Photo by Kevin Duggan

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.

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