Flower power! City uses planters to stop illegal parking on Jay Street

A rider pedals through the Jay Street bike lane.
Community News Group / Lauren Gill
Photo by Lauren Gill

Trees a crowd!

Illegal parking along Jay Street has become so rampant that the city is now using big tree-filled planters to block drivers from stashing their rides in illicit locations — the only natural way to stop the Downtown street from going to pot, according to one regular commuter.

“I think the planters, the physical barriers, are the only things that are going to keep cars from parking,” said Prospect Heights cyclist Paul Vogel, who rides along the stretch to work each weekday.

The Department of Transportation put in six of the planters between the bike and bus lane in the Manhattan Bridge-bound channel from Willoughby Street to MetroTech last Friday, according to a spokeswoman.

The agency specifically installed the shrubbery to weed out motorists who leave their cars in the space — despite striped marking making it clear the spot is out-of-bounds — so coach drivers have room to turn into the bus bay outside the office complex, she said.

Other forbidden parts of the street have bendy plastic poles called “bollards” to warn drivers away, but they don’t physically stop them, while the sturdy botanical barriers are the arboreal deal, said Vogel.

“The planters are way better than those things the city put in — people drive all over them,” he said.

The city finally installed a long-awaited parking-protected bike lane along the street last summer after years of complaints from cyclists about the treacherous stretch, where riders previously had to share with vehicles.

Pedal-pushers applauded the improvements, but groused that police still weren’t stopping scofflaw drivers who kept parking in dedicated bike and bus spaces — often cops themselves parking outside the courts.

Now the shrubs seem to be doing what the authorities could or would not, according to bike boosters.

“The planters seem so far to be preventing people from parking in the bike lane,” said Luke Ohlson, who is the Brooklyn organizer for pro-bike group Transportation Alternatives. “It seems like a success.”

Still, the hedges have their downsides too, Vogel noted — people are prone to use them as trash cans, and someone has to maintain the trees, or they get pretty gnarly.

And it is only a matter of time before a driver does some unsolicited pruning, he predicts.

“People will crash into them, I guarantee you someone will drive into them,” he said.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill