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Monday, June 28, 2010

Absolution and Indulgences

There are things that are fundamentally unpleasant, and apart from death, serious physical injury, or absolute calamity, about one of the most unpleasant experiences you can have in New York City is to have your vehicle towed.

As bad as going through any city bureaucracy can be, there is typically some sense of accomplishment, even if it is only renewing a license, obtaining a permit, or having a package shipped via USPS. But the entire premise of the towed vehicle adventure is only to have returned to you what is yours to begin with.

The "tow pound" is located at Pier 76 at West 38th Street & 12th Avenue, along the Hudson River, so the towee has to make a journey to a very inconvenient location. No one is pleased. Not the police, who have been given the particularly ugly job of towing and have to perform this duty for all to watch on the streets of New York City. Nor are the clerks at the tow pound, who often must battle with inflamed vehicle owners, many of whom have some defense which, as they will learn, will never do them any good at all. Not here at the tow pound.

The premise is very simple - pay your fines in full, or you do not get your car. The clerk does not have the ability to negotiate or reduce fines. I have been to the tow pound once to retrieve a vehicle and witnessed every manner of negotiation, all to no avail. Regardless of their culpability, everyone feels wronged.

What is astonishing is the cavalier attitude that visitors have about street parking in New York City, erroneously assuming leniency. But this is a low tolerance situation. The risk is just too high - never leave an auto in New York in an illegal parking spot.

In a twist unfamiliar to me, I recently watched a very puzzling police action. A number of vehicles were towed but only relocated to a neighboring block. The vehicles were parked on a street, legal for that time but superseded by paper "No Parking Sunday" signs tied below street signs for the annual Gay Pride parade. Filming, festivals, events and parades often require the clearing of streets. The NYPD adds paper signs on sign posts indicating the temporary change in parking regulation.
This vehicle relocation policy is relatively unfamiliar to many vehicle owners, particularly visitors, and the Police Department website gives virtually no details.

I have read of one incident where an individual parked legally (at the time he parked) and no special event signs had yet been posted. When he returned to a missing vehicle, he called the police, and no information was available. He was told that if a vehicle was relocated, look in a 5 block radius, and if he could not find it, call them back.

The city has gotten more congested over the years, and unless you really need to have a vehicle in the city, using public transportation and taxis will go a long way to providing a much more relaxed time here, not fraught with the continuing stresses and worry associated with parking. Especially in a city where no absolution is given and no indulgences are sold :)


Anonymous said...

If you can afford to have a car in the city, you can afford to keep it in a garage. If you can't afford to keep it in a garage, you can't afford to have a car.

Also, all you idiots with NY license plates, GET AN EZ-PASS!!!!!!!

this too will pass said...

how many houses have garages? nice picture

Brian Dubé said...

Anonymous - It is true - most residents have a reasonably good idea of what is going on. To keep a car in the city and street park is insanity - I did it eons ago for about 6 years. The problem is with visitors. They often do not read the signs closely or follow the lead of others who are illegally parked. And in general, they are unaware of how severe the penalties and costs are. They also believe that enforcement is casual and infrequent - the opposite is true.

this too will pass - Large apartment buildings will often have onsite parking, often discounted to residents. Townhouses in Manhattan rarely do. In the outer boroughs, unattached homes always have parking. Attached houses and apartment buildings occasionally have onsite garages.

ChickenUnderwear said...

I always thought it was weird that I could leave my private property (my car) on public land (near the curb) for no charge.

What a great deal for car owners.

Brian Dubé said...

ChickenUnderwear - Does seem like a big loophole, doesn't it. Especially in NYC, where virtually nothing like this is free.

Naomid said...

More metered parking is coming. I believe I read in Park Slope Brooklyn, which is already the most miserable place to park.

ChickenUnderwear said...

I hope we get more meters in Park Slope. It will mean more places to park as opposed to long term storage of cars. That is what you get when you have "free" parking, people leave their car in the same spot for a week.