The Cult of Cars, Racing and Everything That Moves You.
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Here's a Hack for Alternate Side Parking in NYC

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I can’t say I recommend this, exactly, but it is a thing people do.

Once a week, or, depending on where you live, twice a week in New York City, you’re required to move your car for an hour-and-a-half to accommodate street sweepers or else you get a ticket.

Don’t want to deal with all this nonsense? You’re getting a spot in a garage. How much might that cost? Some $600 or more monthly if you live in Manhattan, or around $250-$300 if you live in Brooklyn or Queens or the Bronx. (If you live in Staten Island, your parking’s probably free or low cost and low risk, but more on this later.) Anyway. Consider $200 a minimum, since it’s possible to find parking below that in NYC but very rare.


Guess what’s cheaper than paying $200 a month? Getting an alternate-side parking ticket every week of the year.

The fine for not moving your car for alternate side is just $45 and, I suppose, the scorn of your neighbors, since the patch of pavement that your car occupies will not have been cleaned.


Even getting a ticket every week of the year is still cheaper than paying $200 a month. It comes out to $2,340 total, or an average of $195 per month, for those that live in neighborhoods where alternate-side parking is once a week.

And $200 a month is super cheap for NYC. The average cost of a monthly parking spot in the city was $430, as the New York City Parking Authority calculated. And that was in 2016. The price of parking goes up constantly. The $45 fee stays constant.

This all means there are people who, I shit you not, choose to pay the alternate-side parking fines instead of putting their car in a garage. I’ve known this is true for some time, and yet never bothered to investigate whether it was actually a good idea, since it seems a little too clever by half. Accruing 52 parking tickets in a year seems bad, right?

And yet, a spokeswoman for the New York City Department of Finance, the department that collects on parking fines, told me that from their perspective the penalties only accrue for late payments and non-payments, not for the sheer number of tickets. She suggested I ask the NYPD, which I did, inquiring whether there could be additional penalties based on the sheer number of tickets you’ve accrued—paid or not.


Is there an upper limit, at which point you might get cut off or towed on site or booted or something?

The NYPD’s only response was sending me this NYC traffic rule:

Section 4-08


(9) Immobilization and towing of illegally parked vehicles.

(i) Time and manner of immobilization. Any illegally parked vehicle found parked at any time upon any public highway in the City may, by or under the direction of any person authorized by the Commissioner, be immobilized in such manner as to prevent its operation, and thereafter may be removed to a tow pound as provided in these rules; provided, however, that no such vehicle shall be immobilized by any means other than by the use of a device or other mechanism which will cause no damage to such vehicle unless such vehicle is moved while such device or mechanism is in place.


That didn’t really answer my question, but the message was clear: Don’t illegally park at any time, or we could tow your ass. In practice, though, only a few hundred cars are towed or booted every day across the entire city, and half of those are in Manhattan, according to a New York Post story from 2016. (That story also reports, almost unbelievably, that the NYPD doesn’t bother to ever tow or boot cars in Staten Island, and in fact towed or booted zero cars from the borough from 2013 to 2016.)

Which means that you’ll probably get away with it, and probably won’t be towed, especially if you don’t live in Manhattan, since towing in this city tends to target cars that are blocking traffic, or cars that aren’t street legal, or cars parked in the way of movie sets, or cars blocking fire hydrants.


Which explains why people in the past have told me, sometimes sheepishly, that they’re content with an arrangement that amounts to paying New York City a weekly fee for the privilege of parking on a public road. Is this ethical, though? I dunno. That’s between you and your god, and maybe your furious neighbors.