Calling BS on DIY 'NO PARKING' Signs
Amid the chaos that's followed the DOT's on-street parking purge of Kent Avenue, the remaining curb real-estate on the Northside has become more precious than Obama inauguration tickets. During our frequent 40-minute morning odysseys, orbiting the neighborhood looking for a legitimate space, we've had ample time to contemplate the mysteries and complexities of New York City parking regulations:
- Does an ancient curb-cut for a former garage entrance turned retail storefront still count? Especially when the business in question keeps "NO PARKING" signs posted on their facade?And today's question - perhaps the most frustrating question if you live and park in Williamsburg:
- What about a decades-old trace of yellow paint, on a curb that otherwise seems perfectly legit? Will I return to a $45 invoice stuck under my wiper blade?
- Does that malicious "NO PARKING - CONSTRUCTION ZONE - TOW AWAY" sign - done up in red and black Crayola Scentation markers by a contractor's seven year old daughter - actually hold water with Parking Enforcement?Given that the Northside is littered with dozens of semi-active construction sites, and nearly all of them have some sort of homemade NO PARKING signs dangling from their gaping-holed, broken-plywood perimeter fences...the answer to that question is kind of a big deal.
We surfed around the Internets for far too long last weekend, looking for an answer - and wound up mostly confused, but generally convinced that the answer is NO...those signs are pure BS; a product of developers' and contractors' wishful thinking - combined with a general fear and ignorance on the part of residents who can't afford to take a chance on having their rides ticketed and/or towed to the city's shiny-new Navy Yard impound facility.
Back in November, Queens Crap - a great blog focused on development issues in (go figure) Queens - asked the same question, and came back with the answer YES - you DO have to abide by the temporary signs. Their source however was the venerable Fox 5 News, so we watched the embedded clip with a healthy serving of skepticism.
In the the Fox 5 Investigates report, the correspondent says they contacted the DOT, and concludes
"it turns out that construction crews are allowed to create their own signs, as long as they look official, if they have permits for the project".To which we call BS on Fox 5 on two fronts:
1. "As long as they look official"...what? Who decides what looks official?! The gaping legal holes in that statement are bigger than the gaps in most construction fences around here.
2. "If they have permits for the project." Any construction project big and ballsy enough to post fake NO PARKING signs had better have permits! We'll betcha anything the DOT meant "if the developer has pulled permits that approve temporary parking restrictions". Otherwise, any schmo with a permit to renovate a bathroom could play 'make your own parking' in front of their building, for the duration of their permit. It just doesn't add up.
We did a deep dive into the online netherworld of NYC traffic rules, DOB building permits, New York State Vehicle and Traffic laws, finding lots of barely-relevant information, along with lots of unrelated but interesting stuff (Did you know that all of NYC was designated a Tow Away Zone under the State’s Vehicle and Traffic Law in 1959? What's that? Oh, you don't care.).
Our online paper trail having gone cold, we did what we should have done in the first place: we asked a friendly neighborhood Parking Enforcement officer whether he would ticket a car in violation of one of the handmade signs (and trust us, these guys WILL ticket anything they legitimately can). He stopped writing a summons and brought us over to a real NO PARKING sign, pointing out the "DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION" printed at the bottom, saying "I can only ticket against signs that are issued by the DOT".
Monday morning we called the NYPD Press Office, and they agreed with the officer on the street: "They (contractors) have to get a permit specifically allowing a temporary change in parking rules. They can't just make up their own sign," adding that they "think if a car is towed because of construction needs, its just relocated" i.e. not tagged and impounded. But they suggested we double-check with the city's DOT "just to be sure". Good news for residents, but not exactly the notorized 'get out of jail free' card we were hoping for. So we called the DOT.
We spoke to Assistant Press Secretary Craig Chin, who invited us to send him photos of the signs in question - and to entertain us while we waited - directed us to NYC DOT's searchable database of active street construction permits. Forty eight hours later, we had a definitive answer:
"referring to the photo below, showing a very official-looking metal, DOT-issued 'No Parking - Temporary Construction Regulation' sign screwed to the fence of the development at Kent Avenue and North 3rd:
We searched the DOT's database for the entire Community Board One area, and as of January 15th, found only eighteen valid type 221 permits in the neighborhood. We've created a little map showing blocks where there's at least one valid permit...we suggest you hit the database before parking in front of a questionable sign (select your borough and community district, then select General Permit Type 02, and Specific Permit Type 0221...its the very last choice in the pulldown menu; you can drill down by street and block, or see all the permits for your district).
So there you have it, Northsiders. A veritable parking oasis around dozens of active (and stalled) construction sites, for your parking pleasure...at least until the contractors run out and get valid permits and signage.
Finally, Imnotsayin's caveat emptor:
PARK AT YOUR OWN RISK. This is only our nonprofessional, semi-informed assessment based on unofficial communications with three city employees. NYC parking regulations span multiple departments across at least two city agencies plus the state's V & T laws. Being improperly ticketed (and towed!) by overzealous Parking Enforcement officers happens all the time. So go ahead and search the database, and if there's no current class 221 permits for the DIY No Parking zone on your block - go for it! But don't block active driveways and crosswalks, stay 15 feet from the hydrants, and if you get tagged anyway, please DON'T CALL US!
NYCDOT Active Street Construction Permit database search [NYCDOT]
Gallery of Shady Parking Signs [Flickr]