Paint the town red! Councilman wants new hydrant markings

Paint the town red! Councilman wants new hydrant markings
Photo by Bess Adler

Here are two laws that would definitely measure up.

A South Brooklyn councilman wants the city to paint red lines on curbs so that drivers know exactly how far they must park from a fire hydrant — and he wants to cut down the “no parking” zone from the longstanding 15 feet to just 10 feet.

Earlier this month, Councilman David Greenfield (D–Midwood) proposed the legislation that would require city workers to paint markings to the left and right of all 109,800 hydrants in the five boroughs. That bill works in tandem with another bill by a Queens lawmaker that would allow drivers to park five feet closer to a hydrant.

“The original 15-foot rule was issued so that fire trucks could parallel park next to hydrants,” Greenfield said. “But those trucks don’t have time to parallel park, they just pull up next to the hydrant. So they don’t need a huge amount of space.”

An extra five feet on either side of a hydrant would not only spare some drivers a ticket, but also create roughly four additional parking spaces per block.

“Parking is valuable in this city and I think that a combination of both these laws would improve the quality of life for New Yorkers,” said Greenfield.

Presently, drivers can be hit with a $115 summons for parking less than 15 feet from the pump, and without a tape measure in the glove compartment, it’s tough for many residents to know just how far that is. That’s where the red paint bill comes in.

“It could also create more parking spaces because some people are just too nervous to be the closest car to a fire hydrant even if they are more than 15 feet away,” Greenfield said.

The idea seems ideal for motorists, but the councilman has not yet determined how much the more than 200,000 curb marks will cost — and how the city will find the manpower to do all that painting.

“It’s definitely an issue to explore, but these pumps are regularly inspected, so, theoretically, a crew checking the pumps could go out and paint.” Greenfield said. “However, we would have to explore and discuss who would be responsible for doing it. It’s not a major undertaking, it’s just some red paint on the curb.”

But the city agency that maintains the pumps — the Department of Enviornmental Protection — has nothing to do with parking regulations and ticketing, which are controlled by the Department of Finance, the Department of Transportation and the Police.

Neither the Department of Environmental Protection nor the Fire Department returned a request for comment.

Even councilmembers who support Greenfield’s idea admit it might be tough to accomplish its goals.

“The city would be required to paint the curbs, and that would require a lot of manpower,” said Steve Zeltser, a spokesman for Councilman Mike Nelson (D–Sheepshead Bay), who is still in favor of the proposed curb marks.

This year in Brooklyn, nearly 120,000 tickets were dished out for parking too close to a hydrant, according to city statistics.

One of those tickets went to Kathy Jaworski, whose experience made her a backer of Greenfield’s effort.

“I thought I was a safe distance from a hydrant, but I was ticketed,” said Jaworski, who lives in Marine Park. “I think that the red markings would be helpful.”