The Joys of Alternate Side Parking
Alternate Side Parking (ASP), an obligation we New Yorkers who keep cars in the city (and don’t want to pay to park in a garage). ASP is a law that dictates which side of the street cars can park to ensure efficient flow of traffic and allow street sweepers to clean the street sufficiently.
In my neighborhood ASP or Street Cleaning is 4 days a week, twice per side of the street, for 90 minutes each of the four days. Signs indicate which days and times you are NOT allowed to park in order for the street sweeper to clean the streets. (Every little bit of cleaning helps in this city.) A $45 fine for anyone who '“forgets” to move their car. Each street is different so you must read the signs and adhere to them but if it’s a street in your neighborhood you know these rules well.
ASP is a big deal. It even has it’s own Twitter account…. and it’s the law.
If you ask most people, it is the bane of their existence, it interrupts the day, it’s a pain to sit through, and finding a new spot or squeezing back into the old one is like the last level of Tetris. The rules are the same throughout the city but each neighborhood has its own way of handling the particulars.
In my first neighborhood, you had to actually sit in the car for 90 minutes because the streets weren’t wide enough to double park. In my current neighborhood we are lucky, the streets are wide and it is acceptable not only by residents but by parking enforcement to double park, blocking another car in, and leaving your car empty for the allotted time. More than once there has been a random person blocked in and angry only to have their cries ignored by parking enforcement. This is the way it’s done in this neighborhood and if you’re angry about it then we know you don’t live here. “You see all these cars, it’s not just yours, buddy” said one parking attendant. The man ended up maneuvering his car onto the side walk and getting out that way. He thought he was being defiant but driving on the sidewalk is acceptable during this time if necessary and safe. No harm, no foul, no ticket.
All of this seems daunting so why do I love it?
I love it because it is the time I get to know my neighbors. After the sweeper goes by it’s time to find your spot. Similar to musical chairs everyone rushing to an empty space no one wanting to be the one who gets the spot under the tree where you’re left in the line of fire for the birds or next to cement planter box that makes it difficult to get out of the car without scraping the door.
I love it because these same neighbors that pass you on the street without a word by will help you maneuver into that last space if you are late returning to the “game,” tell you if a better spot is available up the block or will reposition their car so you can fit comfortably. It is a team effort. These days and these days only it is no longer me, me, me as New Yorkers are known to be. We are a team.
Then you wait for the remainder of the time to expire. Waiting for the time to expire is my favorite time. I use it to read, listen to music or podcasts, people watch with my dog or talk to my dog, or chat with a neighbor.
Now, when I say neighbors I mean any one of 2800 people living in a two block radius.
As I sit with my car windows down, my dog’s head hanging out greeting passersby, I feel a part of this hood. Neighbors walk by say hi and some even stop to pet KC. I’ve met people who’ve lived in this neighborhood for 40 years. I’ve been here for only two. Usually I feel tolerated by these people but during this time people stop and say hi, nod or even wave. They help each other squeeze into tight spots and notify you if the sweeper hasn’t come yet because there is no need to jockey for the perfect spot if the sweeper is only going to come and make you move. I’ve had neighbors give me parking tips, save a spot for me, and even bring treats for my pup. I’ve learned about their kids, their jobs and more than I ever wanted to know about the neighborhood we live in.
We begin to look out for each others property during the week. I once saw a man whom I had a conversation with a few weeks earlier, move an unstable box of garbage from beside my car as to not have it scratch my paint. He didn’t know I saw him and later regaled what happened the following week in what I can assume is his naturally over exaggerated way of story telling.