Parking in Brooklyn isn't easy, and now it's harder on the wallet, too.
Effective Tuesday, the city Department of Transportation increased parking meter rates borough-wide from 75 cents to $1 per hour for short-term spaces. As part of the new rule change, 25 cents will now get drivers 15 minutes of parking time — down from 20 minutes.
That shortened time period had drivers on the first day of the new parking rate regime reeling.
“It’s highway robbery,” said Central Brooklynite Edward Warren, who used one of the city's brand new muni-meters after parking his car on Seventh Avenue, between 2nd and 3rd streets. “These meters are robbing the people. A quarter now gets you 15 minutes. I can’t even go to the store and back without getting a ticket.”
As part of the increased meter rates, which have already gone into effect in the other four boroughs, the city will replace traditional single-space and coin-only parking meters with electronic muni-meters — starting with several major thoroughfares in Park Slope.
About to hop in the driver’s seat, Steven Pludwin of Park Slope stopped to explain why the 25 cents per hour increase bothered him.
“The new rates are ridiculous. It’s a situation where the city is trying to squeeze money out of the wrong people, the working class,” Pludwin said. “I remember the good old days, growing up in Brooklyn and being able to slip into a spot someone left before the meter ran out and you were good for 10 minutes. But the muni-meters ruined it. That era is over.”
As the first neighborhood to get the new slimmer, solar-powered muni-meters, all day Tuesday on Seventh Avenue burly men in neon green vests ripped out the old clunky muni- and single-space meters with steel picks and jackhammers. Other workers carefully installed and programmed the sleeker meters, which are equipped with a solar panel.
But residents who need to cough up more quarters are not happy.
“I spent $4 since 9:30 a.m.,” said Robert Price, who lives in Prospect Heights and was sitting in his SUV to avoid the rain at 1 p.m. “Yesterday I spent $6 for almost the whole day. I am constantly feeding the meter and today it just got worse,” he said as he explained he had $20 in quarters in his car yesterday and it is almost all gone.
Brooklyn’s new rate adjustment also changed the peak hours, making them longer: 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. The DOT has not released how much money the city expects to make from the changes.
But others don’t see the increase or the new muni-meters as a financial burden or as a ploy to police parking. Some community leaders actually think the muni-meters are ways to clean up the streets and give back to the city.
“I support the increase in meter rates, and the move away from parking meters to muni-meters,” said Rob Witherwax, Community Board 8 vice chair. “Muni-meters use the street space more efficiently and increase the potential revenue for the city.”
Witherwax admitted that as a driver he’s always “on the hunt for the broken meter, or the one with a lot of time left on it,” but said the city loses money that way. He also added that people who can afford to own a car, fill it up with gas and buy insurance, then they, “can certainly afford to spend a few more quarters for the privilege of parking on a commercial strip,” he said.
Although spending a few extra coins for less time can be considered a rip off, the point of all the changes, according to community board members and the city government, is not to benefit drivers, but rather the local economy. The new rates will encourage people not to park on commercial avenues for long periods of time, creating a higher turnover rate and more potential customers.
Park Slope’s “PARK Smart” pilot program uses the same logic as the meter changes: the higher the meter rate, the less time people will stay parked and in effect bring more cars and money to designated commercial areas.
PARK Smart meters cost 50 cents for 15 minutes during peak hours (12 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday) and 25 cents for the same amount of time off peak.
As another prong to the meter-makeover, the PARK Smart program now covers more ground in the Slope. The program, which only covered Seventh Avenue between Lincoln Place and 6th Street and Fifth Avenue between Douglass and 4th streets a day ago, expanded. Now Fifth Avenue from Douglass to Dean streets, Fifth Avenue between 4th and 15th streets, Seventh Avenue from 6th Street to 15th Street and the length of 9th Street between Fourth and Sixth avenues are all under the ParkSmart umbrella.
The changes in Park Slope, which are coming soon to the rest of Brooklyn, are hard to swallow for drivers. But the changes were not meant to make drivers feel good, but rather to keep them moving to help balance New York’s budget and hopefully stimulate the economy.
"Everybody wants parking that's ample and cheap. You can't have it both ways,” explained Craig Hammerman, Community Board 6 district manager. “What we've found through our PARK Smart program in Park Slope is that when you charge more for parking there's a greater turnover of vehicles, which is good for local businesses. Some people may squawk about it but based on our experience most people won't notice it at all."
But many drivers have noticed the increased charge. Even though it’s just an extra quarter an hour, drivers are already feeling the financial burden.
“We’re talking about big money, my coin tray will be empty by the end of the day,” said Price.