The Wave this summer has been brimming with stories on the parking controversies of Rockaway. I missed the meeting last Sunday about raising the parking fee at Riis Park. It now costs five dollars a day to park there, and the proposal is to raise the fee to ten dollars, effective the summer of 2009. The Wave had an article on the proposed hike, complete with photos of parked cars, and of cars arriving in order to park, in this historic facility. (You will remember that the parking lot at Riis Park Beach was, when it was built, the largest parking lot in the world. Still, it is not very photogenic.) Many of the people who use the parking lot at Riis are families who make a day of it, setting up tents and hammocks and grills under the scrubby little pines, and fishing in the bay or swimming or picnicking. The only locals who park at Riis, as far as I can tell from the Letters to the Editor (of which there are plenty), are golfers.
The National Park Service wants to raise the parking fee to keep the cost of parking at Riis in line with parking fees at other lots in the Gateway system—in other words, because they can. Most of the revenue would go back into the park—paying parking attendants and making improvements—but some twenty per cent of it would go toward improvements at other parks. Besides the golfers, who demand a safer parking lot (cars get broken into), letter writers included a local politician and a civic-minded elder. Naturally, no one came out in support of the price hike. I suppose what will happen is that they’ll reduce the hike by approximately the amount they proposed to give away to other parks and raise the price to eight dollars.
The other big flap in the parking arena began in a Letter to the Editor. A man who lives on Beach 118th Street had recently learned that a friend received a ticket for parking in front of the house of neighbors who had painted their curb yellow. It’s true: anyone can paint his curb yellow. Because of the severe restrictions on parking in the West End (where, incidentally, it is clear that the editor of the Wave lives and parks), homeowners have all kinds of strategies to save the spaces in front of their houses for themselves and their guests. They put up bogus signs (“No Parking, 24 Hour Drive,” “Authorized Personnel Only,” “Parking for Irish Only”) or set out orange traffic cones that they picked up somewhere. The letter, published on July 27th, included the address of the house of the yellow curb and stated that there is no driveway or garage at that house, and that, furthermore, the people next door had also painted their curb yellow and erected one of those portable basketball hoops to keep people from parking there.
The next week, the man with the yellow curb wrote a letter in his own defense: wounded by the Wave’s publication of the first letter, which made his home and family the subject of scandal, he enclosed proof that his curb cut is legal and demanded an apology. The Wave responded with a separate article on the controversy: the letter they printed had ignited a feud on 118th Street. Mostly the article quoted the letter, but it also pointed out that it is illegal to paint your curb yellow. The family in question did not know this. Also, the family acknowledged that their curb cut is not as high as the standard curb cut, but explain that there is a valve poking up in middle (possibly a cap for the water main). The article was accompanied by a photograph of the yellow curb, in black-and-white.
The house next door to the house with the substandard yellow-painted curb cut—the one with the basketball hoop—also occasioned a letter to the editor, this one from an extremely jaded resident. “How long have you been living on this block?” she asks. “You said you called the police and 311 and no change? Hello, obviously these people know someone!”
This week (August 17th) the Wave reported that a resident got a ticket for parking in her own driveway. It’s really more of a photo essay, with a shot of the car, overhanging the sidewalk a bit, and the Traffic Enforcement Police vehicle in the background (and an “Open House” sign with balloons, which kind of confuses the issue), and a long caption: “It is illegal to park on the beach blocks west of Beach 126 Street at any time and it is illegal to park on most west end streets during summer weekends. So where do people park? In their driveway (if they have one), of course. Because of the restrictive parking regulations, there has always been an understanding that overstuffed driveways were all right on summer weekends. A car parked up the curb cut, even blocking the sidewalk a bit, was usually ignored by local police. Last Sunday, however, a local parked in her own driveway was ticketed by a traffic enforcement agent for just that.”
Tucked away in a section called Beachcomber (one of my favorite sections) is a tiny item stating that you if you park at Fort Tilden, at the western end of (and very convenient to) Riis Park, you will get a ticket from the National Parks Service (but payable to the city) unless you have a sticker. To get a sticker, you have to show car registration and driver’s license, but the sticker itself is free. I’m not sure this isn’t misinformation, but if it’s true, it’s awfully good news. Shouldn’t it be on page one?