Full Council approves ‘pay-to-park’ plan

Full Council approves ‘pay-to-park’ plan
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The full City Council overwhelmingly approved a controversial plan on Thursday to sell parking permits to neighbors of the Barclays Center arena, despite objections from southern Brooklyn lawmakers who say that charging for residential street parking amounts to a tax for something that has always been free.

The Council’s 40–8 vote came one day after the legislature’s State and Federal Legislation Committee approved the measure, which supporters say will prevent basketball fans and other arena-goers from hogging parking spaces in neighborhoods around a 19,000-seat arena that will have parking spaces for just 1,100 cars.

“Right now it’s almost impossible to park” near the under-construction arena, said District Leader Jo Anne Simon (D–Boerum Hill). “We want to make sure our neighborhoods are not overrun [after the arena opens].”

Under the proposal — which is being pushed by state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights) and Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D–Cobble Hill), but first required a Council “home rule” resolution — residents would have the option of buying the permits for a yet-to-be determined fee. They wouldn’t be guaranteed a spot, but roughly eight out of every 10 spaces on residential streets near the arena would be reserved for permit holders.

Other neighborhoods would be allowed to opt into the citywide program. Neighborhoods such as Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope have supported residential parking permits as a shield against commuters from southern Brooklyn and elsewhere who park in their neighborhoods and then take mass transit into Manhattan.

Supporters believe that a permit system will also reduce the long-term impact of traffic congestion around the Atlantic Yards mega-project, which is slated to include 6,430 apartments on a 22-acre site that stretches from Flatbush Avenue to Vanderbilt Avenue.

Similar programs have been adopted in Boston, Washington D.C. and Chicago, where residents around Wrigley Field pay $25 annually for “reasonable access to parking” near the baseball stadium known to fans as the Friendly Confines.

Citing the success of those programs, Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) called a permit plan “the one piece of public policy that can make a difference” on Atlantic Yards traffic.

City transportation officials oppose a citywide permit plan, but have agreed to study the areas around the Barclays Center and Yankee Stadium because of the residential nature of the neighborhoods.

This is what residential parking permits — or a street parking tax sticker, depending on whom you ask — could look like.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in southern Brooklyn, where car ownership is far more widespread, lambasted the plan as a tax on drivers, who have always enjoyed free on-street parking.

“The idea that someone would have to pay to park in front of their own home is ludicrous,” said state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge). “This is nothing more than another tax on our communities.”

The plan was criticized along similar lines by Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Marine Park), who lobbied unsuccessfully to postpone Wednesday’s committee vote. The home rule resolution now frees state lawmakers to take up the proposal early next year.

Residential parking permits were shelved in 2008 after Mayor Bloomberg’s broader congestion pricing legislation failed in Albany.

Golden promised that the latest effort would also never make it through the Republican-controlled Senate. But Squadron said there’s more support for the measure this time around, thanks to provisions that allow neighborhoods and individuals to opt out of participating.

“This is not going to be implemented in neighborhoods that don’t want it,” Squadron said.

Residents who live near the Barclays Center said they would buy into the program — if it’s not too expensive.

“Between $50 and $200 is reasonable,” said Wayne Bailey, a car owner who lives on Pacific Street between Carlton and Sixth avenues. “The arena isn’t even open and parking is already total chaos.”

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-8310.

Pacific Street resident Wayne Bailey, seen with the rising Barclays Center behind him, favors a plan that would let residents buy a street parking permit to help them find spots after the arena is built.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini