Given the trauma involved in NYC car ownership, there should be support groups in every church basement. The indignities never stop: ceaseless rounds of snow-digging, unwanted attention from bare acquaintances (“remember me? Want to catch up at Ikea?”), and worst of all – the city’s total war on affordable parking. Traffic cops wield a staggering 92 separate kinds of tickets, ranging from $35 to $200 (plus an extra $200 if you’re towed). Efforts to avoid the fines are almost enough to make a motorist move to the Jersey suburbs, if suburbs had culture and fun. But they don’t. So since you’re staying, fight back with Brokelyn’s complete guide to parking like a cheapskate.
High fines mean drivers would rather run a mile than move from a spot before we’re ready to. And studies indicate that as much of 45 percent of traffic in our borough is caused by drivers circling for those free legal spaces.
WHERE TO PAY NOTHING EVER (cost: $0)
Totally free parking in New York City? You’ve heard the rumors before, but dismissed them as legend; the demented ravings of oppressed drivers yearning for a savior. Well, get ready to believe. There is such a thing as the “zero restrictions” spot, free from meters, black-out days and alternate side parking rules! They are rarer than unicorn leather, but they do exist. Here’s a selection*:
Bushwick: West side of Sumner Place between Flushing Avenue and Broadway; South side of Beaver Street between Ellery and Fayette Streets.
Fort Greene: The east side of Flatbush Avenue between Fifth Avenue and Pacific Street
Gowanus: South side of Union between Nevins and Bond
Prospect Heights: North side of Union Street between Prospect Park West and Plaza Street West (yes – really!)
Park Slope: North side of Prospect Avenue between Calder Place and Sixth Avenue
(*There are more too. Read the rest of this guide to learn how to find all zero restriction spots by yourself)
GET THE ONLY APP YOU’LL EVER NEED (cost: $2.99)
Parkshark, ParkingHunter, NYC Parking… iTunes abounds with good-but-not-great parking apps that miss the mark in some way. The only one you need to park thriftily in Brooklyn is Primo Spot. Combining Google Maps and a comprehensive database of street-signs, Primo Spot will tell you where you can park, for how long and for how much cash, in virtually every street in the city. It also provides lists of local garage prices, updated daily. And although these garages are never friends to the thrify (expect to pay over $10 per half-hour at most times for any area worth visiting), in a pinch Primo will almost guarantee the lowest price available.
Primo Spot is also how you find those priceless ‘zero restrictions’ spots mentioned earlier. Go to PrimoSpot’s search and type in “7 days” as the length of time you need to park. Uncheck all the yellow, red and black markers, and a map should appear with green markers in every 100 percent free parking location.
CROWDSOURCE YOUR SPACE (cost: $0.10 – or whatever your phone plan charges for text/data)
Roadify is a free New York-based social networking service designed to help you find free on-street parking. Members use cell phones (via text or the Roadify app) to get a real-time list of people opening up their spots, and give other members a heads up when they are leaving. Judging by the site’s tracker, it matches between 2,000-3,000 parking “givers” to “getters” per month. And how many times have you asked yourself: “what’s the quickest way to Staten Island: the upper or lower level of the Verrazano Bridge?” I know: never. But if you ever do, Roadify uses municipal data to tell you in an instant.
Does it work?: I tested the site at 6.30pm on a weekday, and the functionality depends on where you are. I live in Greenpoint and Roadify informed me the nearest user “giving” a spot to the system was at South 5th Street and Hooper in Williamsburg. But that was about 1.5 miles from my apartment — too far away to be useful. Since it started as a Park Slope service, it works better there. I tested the system again to get a spot near 5th Ave. and 6th Street, and instantly was texted a spot at 6th Ave. and 15th Street, about a 10-minute walk away. Not bad for the parking rush hour.
IF WORST COMES TO WORST, LAWYER UP (Cost: free, or a share of the fines avoided)
When you do get hit by one of the 5,460 tickets, worth about $241,000 in fines, the city doles out every day, visit Newyorkparkingticket.com, run by lawyer Larry Berezin (check out his Youtube tip videos: the man couldn’t be more Brooklyn if he tried if he was slathered in red sauce and baked in an oven). His blog gives away a free, downloadable guide for fighting the three most common residential tickets, and also offers a step-by-step guide to navigating the city’s online appeal procedures. If you’re saddled with serious parking debt, his firm can also represent you formally before a judge, and claims only to charge a share of the fines beaten.
MORE TIPS FOR THE SAVVY BROKELYN DRIVER
Trapster: This free app alerts you to all the nefarious ways John Q. Law parts you from your gas money: speed traps, red light cameras, etc. The Trapster cadre of anti-ticket rebels have created an online database of 3.9 million police traps nationwide and claims more than 10 million users.
Alternate side Twitter feed: follow the city’s @NYCASP for daily updates on what tomorrow holds in the byzantine world of alternate-side parking. It’s a simple little service, but can save you valuable time if the rules are suspended and you didn’t know. For example, you won’t have to move your car on Purim, on the Solemnity of the Ascension, or on the Muslim holiday of Idul-Fitr. Don’t remember when these are? With @NYCASP, you won’t have to.