Around here, when a business or an organization takes over a few parking spots on a residential street, the neighbors get upset.
Very, very upset.
Renovations or asbestos removal going on at a nearby building? People will complain about a debris container occupying an on-street parking space or three. This happens routinely in sections of Riverdale filled with multi-unit apartment buildings, in Van Cortlandt Village, in Kingsbridge — all over the northwest Bronx.
A new school coming to the neighborhood? Residents will rally at a community board meeting against teachers’ cars taking up coveted on-street parking spots. This happened this summer when people from the Marble Hill neighborhood showed up at Community Board 8 to complain about teachers from the new Atmosphere Academy charter school parking their cars on local streets, among other issues.
Predictably, if a car-rental company were to begin using residential streets as an extension of its parking lot it would prompt a bitter outcry, and that’s just what has happened lately in Kingsbridge, where a local branch of Enterprise Rent-A-Car has outgrown its own garage on Broadway.
In general, the parking squeeze is toughest on Kingsbridge: many people in the neighborhood rely on cars to commute to work, and on-street parking is scarce even by northwest Bronx standards. Census estimates put the share of households that have at least one vehicle at nearly 60 percent in the area that comprises Kingsbridge and Spuyten Duyvil.
This compares to a mere 37 percent in nearby Van Cortlandt Village, just under 40 percent in the Bronx as a whole, and just under 45 percent citywide, according to the census-estimate data.
People who have lived in Kingsbridge for a long time claim that 20 years ago streets in the neighborhood had plenty of vacant parking space. Not anymore.
Residents of a decades-old rental apartment building at 3411 Irwin Ave. on the border of Kingsbridge and Riverdale complain that ever since a new condo went up just down the street a couple of years ago, they can now longer find parking spots on their street, which had plenty of space not so long ago. The new condo, which sits on a wedge of land between Irwin and Riverdale avenues and lists its address as 3210 Riverdale Ave., was built in 2012, according to realtors’ websites, and finding a place to park on the street became nearly impossible starting about a year ago, according to residents.
On Orloff Avenue in Kingsbridge, a building superintendent recently lamented that he can no longer assure prospective tenants they would find a place to park on the street if they move in.
What happened? “This,” the superintended said sullenly, pointing across the street at an upscale apartment building, known as The Bentley, that went up at 3880 Orloff Ave. about a decade ago.
More construction sites keep appearing around Kingsbridge. Construction is now underway on Broadway near the Stop n Shop. More apartment buildings mean more competition for parking space, but perhaps that is an inevitable part of urban development.
What is less inevitable is replacing what few parking lots there are with more apartment buildings. But this is just what the New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA, plans to do. The agency has announced it would rent out “underutilized” space – such as parking lots – to developers to build affordable housing, and it would start with spaces like the parking lot at the Marble Hill Houses on W. 225th Street.
It is not difficult to guess where the cars now parked at those lots would go. They would join the fleets of others cruising the streets of Marble Hill, further up north in Kingsbridge, and yet further up in Riverdale, as drivers search for a place to park – preferably within less than an hour’s walk from their homes.
Driving around in an exasperated search for a parking spot burns up gasoline. It pollutes the environment, sours tempers and raises the likelihood of accidents.
NYCHA says its plan is intended to increase the agency’s revenues. This may be a great idea for the housing authority, but it should not come at the cost of local residents’ frayed nerves, hours of wasted time, increased car-exhaust fumes in the air, rising gasoline expenses or the risk of traffic injuries.
The mayor’s ambitious rezoning plan — recently passed by the city council — only makes matters worse, eliminating off-street parking requirements for many new housing developments.
Whatever urban development plans the city has, some sites should not be sacrificed in the process. Those include parks, children’s playgrounds – and, yes, parking spaces. They are scarce enough as it is.