New Yorkers are in a tough spot with street parking harder to come by than ever.
According to the Department of Transportation’s Brian Zumhagen, the expansion of outdoor dining has eliminated as many as 10,000 parking spots on commercial corridors. At the same time, COVID-19 lockdown has spurred more New Yorkers to purchase their first cars.
The result? Countless hours spent circling the block.
“Parking has become the bane of my existence. It’s 100 percent due to the pandemic,” said Melanie Wesslock, 47, who says it’s the worst it’s ever been in her 25 years of car ownership.
The Upper West Side married mom of one grudgingly abandons her street space each weekday morning to drive her son to school on the Lower East Side rather than risk the high school freshman catching the coronavirus on public transit.
“On average, it takes four hours per day due to limited alternate parking rules and curbside dining taking spots,” the photographer griped to The Post from the front seat of her red Mini Countryman. “I think the only conversations we have now are about parking. It’s dominating my life right now.”
While complaining about the dearth of parking is something of an NYC rite of passage, the past few months of the pandemic have left New Yorkers honking their horns in frustration.
In September, the city extended once-a-week alternate-side parking rules indefinitely. Previously, on some streets, street sweeping was taking place twice weekly on alternate sides — forcing cars to be moved up to four times a week.
Restaurants with elaborate al fresco setups are also eating up precious real estate, with more than 10,000 eateries signed up for the city’s outdoor dining program.
Cafe Arte on West 73rd Street takes up a good 15 spots, according to Wesslock. (Marco Ornetti, manager for Cafe Arte, claimed the restaurant’s 100-foot-long setup only eats up five to six spots. “You know what I tell [drivers who complain]?” said Ornetti. “You should park in a garage. It’s $1,000 a month. Our rent is $40,000 a month.”)
“I know it’s a First World problem, but it’s impossible,” said Wesslock, who noted she first moved to the Upper West Side five years ago because, ironically, it had better parking. “It’s cutthroat — you can’t even get a metered spot.”
Locals say it’s not uncommon to get into fights over spaces.
Linda, a 40-something property manager on the Upper West Side, said she recently found a prime spot by her house, but a rival driver tried to intimidate her.
“He initially tried to fight me … he got out of his car,” said Linda, who declined to give her last name for professional reasons. “Then, I realized we knew each other. When he saw me without the mask he realized it was me.”
Still, his tough-guy tactics worked. “He got the spot,” she said.
Even those lucky enough to have a garage space are hesitant to take their car out because street parking is so stressful.
When she was given the opportunity last year to secure a rare parking spot in her Upper West Side building’s complex at $100 a month, Toya Brown jumped at the chance before she even had a car.
In July, the 45-year-old mortgage coordinator finally bought one: a Nissan Rogue Sport. But now, Brown said she “can’t deal” with taking the compact SUV out to run errands and has found herself shelling out for Ubers or cabs to avoid the drama.
“What’s the point of having a car?” she asked with a laugh.
It’s not just Manhattanites who are being driven crazy by the lack of street parking.
Forest Hills resident Robert Baazashvili recently lashed out at Mayor Bill De Blasio on Twitter, calling his parking rules “criminal” and demanding to know why “there are so many ‘No Standing Anytime’ signs taking up at least 1-2 car lengths [on almost every block]” around Queens Boulevard.
“It’s definitely gotten worse recently,” the 27-year-old banker told The Post.
He said his mom contested a $115 ticket for parking in a spot she’s long used that had just been designated a “no standing anytime” zone and lost her case.
“It was a new sign. My family parked here for over 20 years and the sign was up for five days,” said Baazashvili. “Taking away parking spots doesn’t help anybody — during a pandemic? It’s like, ‘What do you do now?’”
Harried New Yorkers just might need a lesson in patience.
“I’m practicing meditation,” said Wesslock.
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