- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 4, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) | In this densely populated city, residents compete for jobs, apartments, subway seats, taxicabs, even treadmills in the gym.

So when the city announced it was suspending parking regulations in one of its most crowded districts, it inspired something close to pandemonium.

“Park Slopers rejoice!” blared a headline in the Brooklyn Paper about the lifting of restrictions on alternate-side parking in the borough’s trendy Park Slope neighborhood.

New York’s alternate-side parking rules require drivers to move their cars several times a week, as posted on a sign, so streets can be cleaned. The rules are suspended for 34 legal and religious holidays.

For car owners in New York, the ritual of moving one’s vehicle for street sweepers is as much a way of marking the days as the workweek, and scofflaws are ticketed.

Until recently in most areas, curbs had to be clear for three hours, but the city is moving to reduce the length of time during which parking is prohibited to just 90 minutes - which means replacing thousands of street signs.

While the city switches Park Slope - so named for the gentle rise in land toward Brooklyn’s Prospect Park - to the 90-minute schedule, it is removing the old signs and suspending the rules until the new signs are in place.

During that period, which began May 19 and will run for several months, drivers can park anywhere alternate-side parking used to be in effect, for as long as they want.

Karen Cani, a 51-year-old carpet store employee who drives to work in Park Slope, could hardly believe the news when she heard it. She confirmed it from the city’s information hot line, then parked, with great excitement, in a previously forbidden zone.

Problem was, she miscalculated and was one block out of the territory where rules were suspended. “I come out, and I’ve got a ticket,” she said.

Parking spaces evoke strong feelings in New York City, a city of 8 million where there are 1.7 million registered cars clogging the narrow streets and more than 387,000 in Brooklyn alone.

A 2007 study by the public transit advocacy group Transportation Alternatives found curbside spaces nearly 100 percent occupied in Park Slope.

The jury is still out on whether the monthslong lifting of rules will raise or decrease parking availability in a city where many residents have cars but may not use them daily.

Some residents worry that drivers from other neighborhoods will flood Park Slope to find a space for their car where it can stay parked for more than just a few days.

But Craig Hammerman, district manager for the local community board, said he hasn’t noticed much of a change and even expects more parking as people flee town for the summer.

Others worry the streets will get dirty and attract vermin.

Ralph Satucci, an 85-year-old retired construction worker, took note of the leaves and seed pods littering the gutter as he waited for his wife to leave the doctor’s office.

“It was much cleaner” last time he made the trip, he said.

Writer Calvin Trillin, whose novel “Tepper Isn’t Going Out” takes a humorous look at New Yorkers’ obsession with finding legal parking spaces on the street, predicted that Park Slope residents won’t want to move their cars, ever.

“Once they park them they can’t move them,” he joked. “I think some people will use them as places to live.”

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