Tight Parking In Park Slope

In Park Slope, Brooklyn, we take our parking seriously; there’s so little of it to be found. While most residents here enjoy the Victorian charm of brownstone life, the 19th century quaintness at 21st century exorbitance, they would prefer the like of a Lexus over a horse-and-buggy.

Unfortunately, even the best laid plans of mice, men, and the socially elite are often thwarted and restricted by the realities of the commonplace world. Alas, when a Park Sloper takes his/ her aforementioned Lexus for a spin around the block, that ornate motorist upon returning may spend the next two hours spinning around many blocks searching for a place to park.

You see, Park Slope has something in common with many other Brooklyn neighborhoods—it’s newly resurrected (or gentrified) and very old; at least 100-150 years old. While this may give the place its historical charm, the absence of driveways isn’t as charming: there wasn’t much thought given to automobile traffic circa 1890.

A couple years ago, in an effort to alleviate these parking woes, a novel solution was introduced: “Roadify.” Blending new age technology with that old-fashioned (often elusive) kindness of strangers, Roadify is a social networking service (a “transportation Twitter,” as its founder Nick Nyhan calls it) that will have drivers notify other drivers of available or imminently available parking spaces throughout Park Slope.

The system works like an automatic phone tree. A driver prowling the Slope for a spot pulls out his cell phone and texts “Get” to 95495, which activates the system. Any parking spaces that have become available in the last 15 minutes will be sent in a text response — and if any others are entered in the system in the following 15 minutes, they will be sent as well.

Only 460 people are currently signed up (as of 12/29/09) for the system, useful only during the prime time parking hours of 4 pm to 8 pm, according to Nyhan. However, with the availability of a mere 150 parking spaces over the course of day, at Roadify’s peak usage time, the problem remains largely unsolved. “According to a 2007 study, nearly half of the cars on Seventh Avenue are simply looking for a parking space.” Brooklyn Paper

To add to an already difficult situation, doormen at posh buildings along Prospect Park (which borders Park Slope) are suspected of saving parking spaces for paying tenants. They do this by intentionally parking a spot and a half, inching cars forward to make room for other residents’ vehicles. This half-space parking assault has met with some heated if futile resistance from neighborhood vigilantes:

A slew of motorists near Prospect Park West discovered two-page notes on their windshields last week, bashing them for disrupting the unspoken code of the street by leaving un-parkable half-spaces in front of and behind their cars.

“Your excessive use of parking space may or may not have been your fault,” the flier declares. “But leaving more space than necessary can deprive another driver of a parking spot.”

The detailed — but totally unofficial — “citations” have prompted strong reactions from neighbors who loathe, love, and are laughing at the Dirty Harry of the parking world. Brooklyn Paper

In the end, if you’re going to live in a neighborhood such as Park Slope, your days of motorized individuality will be restricted by the limitations of the community; there never will be enough parking spaces for everyone here. Unless you’re willing to pay for a taxi or car service every time you’re struck with a fancy to travel somewhere, you’d be better off traveling there with public transportation.

My beautiful Ford Mustang is currently parked outside my house beneath a weeping cherry blossom tree. Car and tree make such a pretty picture that my wife and I are content to stay at home, for as long as possible, and enjoy the tranquil if static view.