Thursday, March 27, 2008

Resident Parking Permit Plan Gets an Airing in Windsor Terrace

RPP Forum

[Photo courtesy of Anna Lewis]

Almost 80 people attended a community forum on Residential Parking Permits (RPP) last night in Windsor Terrace at Holy Name Church. The forum was co-sponsored by Councilmember Bill de Blasio, Community Board 7, the Windsor Terrace Alliance, Friends of Church Avenue and Kensington-Windsor Terrace Neighbors.

Mr. de Blasio opened and mediated the oftentimes heated debate. Michael Cairl, a Trustee of the Park Slope Civic Council, Chair of the Livable Streets Committee,and the Civic Council’s Representative on the Parking Permit Task Force, explained the Department of Transportation (DOT)’s RPP proposal. The Department refused to send its own representative.

Throughout the two-hour, town-hall style meeting, a wide range of questions and comments from the public were addressed by Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Cairl and they will be compiled in a report for Mayor Bloomberg’s office and DOT. Because Mayor Bloomberg has included a residential parking permit plan within his congestion pricing proposal, Mr. de Blasio said, “you can’t talk about residential parking permits without talking about congestion pricing.” He added that he sponsored the forum to trigger public debate on the parking permit issue. He said that RPPs “should have been discussed a long time ago,” but not as what he called “a carrot” intended by Mayor Bloomberg to win favor for congestion pricing. Mayor Bloomberg had previously residential parking permits.

According to DOT’s proposed program, Mr. Cairl explained, if a neighborhood chooses to adopt the program, then residents with a permit can park in RPP zones all day. Cars without RPP stickers during specified 90-minute periods would be subject to ticketing and towing. Permits would be available to residents upon proof of car registration.

Neighborhoods can request the creation of an RPP zone using a form available on DOT’s website that can be submitted to the local Community Board, which would have have a public hearing. If it approves the request, it would have to be approved by the City Council, the NYCDOT and, finally, the Borough President. Such a process, said Mr. Cairl, creates “citywide” opportunity for RPP without imposing “a top-down system.”

Forum participants expressed concerns about the following RPP issues: possible confusion arising from different 90-minute periods in different RPP zones; issuing permits upon proof of car-registration rather than per household; the need for visitors’ permits; the possibility of having to pay a fee for a permit (though Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Cairl said that the current DOT program does not include a fee); potential unfairness experienced by residents living on or near a Community Board boundary (since RPP zones would correlate with Community Boards); the impact on school teachers; the potential black market in permits (Mr. De Blasio conceded the risk, saying “we’re a very entrepreneurial people here in Brooklyn”); the cost of enforcing the RPP plan.

Forum participants suggested the following plans as alternatives or supplements to RPP: granting permit-holders two-hour visiting rights to any neighborhood, thereby preserving easy, short-term travel between RPP zones (modeling a policy that one speaker and former D.C resident said worked well in Washington D.C.); a tiered-pricing system based on the distance between a driver’s residence and the destination; the creation of paid parking lots near major transit lines.

Mr. de Blasio said he “likes the idea” of parking permits, but thinks the issue should have been under discussion long ago and that he hopes it will be debated regardless of the outcome of congestion pricing. The forum presented “clear thinking” about how RPP might impact residents, he said, and triggered a change in his own thinking about residential permit parking. “I’m seeing now that it would have to be a city-wide policy,” he said. Mr. de Blasio considers the forum “a conversation important for the future.” “A larger debate has begun now,” he said, a debate that he hopes will “permeate the mayoral campaign” in 2009.
--Anna Lewis

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