Sunday, April 25, 2010

Contact the Mayor

          Great news! Mayor Bloomberg's office responded to my email request. Only it was the request I put in on 3/21 asking him to go after littering the way he went after noise and graffiti. I'm not surprised it took him so long. After all, the duties of a mayor of a major city must take up practically every waking moment. At least that's what I thought until I saw the NY Times article about his obsessive weekends in Bermuda.
          I mean much of this article seems unfair. Is it really my business he spends 15 hours playing golf on the weekend or how much he pays for his coffee rubbed steak? As long as he’s buying a New York Strip Steak, I feel he is with us in spirit. But a man who blocks aviation web sites from making public his many flights to Bermuda is already hiding something. What else is he hiding? We can’t really begrudge a Mayor who pays himself $1 a year from taking his private police detail along with him. We are assured that local cable television offers a lot of our same New York news stations, but I thought the Mayor was news and how can he make it if he is watching it 1500 miles away? I guess he could always phone it in. We are also assured that even when he is on the 14th hole “He is never out of reach… he can return with very short notice.” But in the event of a 9-11 type attack, wouldn’t he be grounded like everyone else? I guess his cell phone actually works in the event of national emergencies. But, could those people always plotting ways to instill terror in New Yorkers (not the parking police this time) take advantage of a city wandering around half the time with its head in the Bermuda clouds (or sunshine, as we are told he only goes in good weather)?
          We are Americans and we take our leisure time seriously, but I do have a problem with one point in Mayor B’s frequent jaunts. Apparently, his aides know not to schedule public events after Friday mornings allowing him to take off for Bermuda by the afternoon. According to the NY Times, on 13 of the last 17 Fridays, the Mayor has not had a public event scheduled after 10:00 am. The rest of us only get half-day Fridays in the Summer and that is if we are lucky! Now that is criminal negligence!
          So with all of his activities I think we can expect Mayor Bloomberg should be getting to my (and your) requests to suspend Alt Side Parking for Earth Day around about May 13th (hopefully not on a Fri). Which is why I am putting a likeness of Mayor B and a link to his Contact the Mayor page next door (model is available for short and long-term gigs @ - no nudity unless required). Some may see in this likeness an image of a Mayor who is fading into the background, but I prefer to see it as an attempt at a creative rendering of a man of some mystery that we have entrusted our city’s good fortunes to for 3 terms. With this link you will always have a direct line to hizzoner when you need it in a hurry, even when he is on the back nine, and you will be able to send all your requests and complaints (and compliments) directly to him no matter at which office, and long before I stumble in too late with a brilliant idea, so that he might actually be able to consider it in time.
          To get back to the email that he sent me, in his response, Mayor B claims he has targeted littering and advises me that whenever I see a Quality of Life Crime being committed, well here are his words:
"If you observe quality of life crimes committed in your neighborhood, please call New York City's Citizen Service Center by dialing 311."
          Problem is who hasn't had a day when your quality of life is a crime but if we all whimper to 311 every time that happens we'll be cutting into someone else's quality of life. I mean there are only so many parking spaces out there, right? On weekends that is a long distance call.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Alternate Side Parking Suspended for EARTH DAY Protest!

          OK, the mass emails to Mayor Bloomberg have not had the effect we wanted. I want to thank the many(?) of you who took the time to request our Mayor honor Earth Day by suspending Alternate Side. Your efforts were noble, but the time for gentle persuasion is over. The Mayor would not hear our pleas. Well, let him see our demands. We must act on behalf of our heavenly planet or let our children's children's children suffer the consequences. That is why I am beginning the Alternate Side Parking Suspended for EARTH DAY Protest! The time to act is now!
          We will not move our cars on Earth Day! We will not crowd the streets, will not pollute the air, will not consume the Earth’s precious natural resources with our cars on Earth Day. The Mayor and his ticket writing shock troops be damned. We will honor our great celestial home with an automobile lock down!
          I invite all law-abiding citizens to join me in this protest. Let the National Guard don their riot gear; let them throw their tear gas; let them forcibly remove our automobiles. We are not afraid. As long as we know how to love, we will survive! We will burn their tickets in trash cans (with fire permits, of course). Better yet, we’ll throw them all in a wire mesh trash can and their high visibility (high anxiety) orange will make them appear as if they are burning. We will fill up the tow pounds until they have to drop our cars on the Westside Highway, until there are more tow trucks than cars, until the tow trucks themselves cannot move. The city will come to a standstill until they free our cars and us and the mighty Earth with them. The publicity will be fierce. Mayor Bloomberg will recant. In a news breaking Earth Day moment, all of the tickets will be forgiven. All of the towed cars will be released without charge and will drive a slow procession up Broadway launching the first ever Earth Day Protest Parade!

          More Fine Print
          As it turns out (dumb luck really), my car is on the right side for Thur and this will be true for about half of us. But I promise you we will be just as committed to the great cause as any of you, risk just as much (spiritually) as the rest of you. So, do not start that car. Do not move it. Be a part of the Great Earth Movement. This will be a day you can tell your grandchildren about with pride. This will change the importance of Earth Day for years to come. This will get you (or your car) on TV!
Good luck!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Alternate Side Suspended for Earth Day Movement! (Should be!)

          Now hear this!

          I am sending the following email to Mayor Bloomberg and I ask everyone who is reading this, everyone who has ever read this Blog and all those people who think they may have heard about it somewhere, and their friends, to do it too. Email Mayor Bloomberg with the following pledge @ Contact the Mayor

Mr. Mayor,

Please show your unconditional support for the most enlightened of all holidays, EARTH DAY, by suspending Alternate Side Parking rules on this April 22. EARTH DAY is a day for the planet, a Day for our future, a Day for our children (the littlest voters). Suspending Alt Side this Thur will enable the majority of street parking New Yorkers to park their car on the Tuesday/Friday side and not have to move it again until the following Sunday (counting Wed and Sat as OFF Days). By suspending just one day of Alternate Side Parking, you can bequeath to New Yorkers 5 blessed days of less air pollution, 5 days of less traffic, 5 less days of fuel consumption, and 5 days of less noise. What better way to celebrate the life and preservation of this remarkable planet where we make our home

As my part in this EARTH DAY celebration, I pledge to you and my fellow New Yorkers not to use my car or truck unless absolutely necessary. For these 5 days to not start it or drive it; to leave it as idle and as quiet and as green as it can be.

Let’s show the world New Yorkers know how to say Thank You!


The Fine Print
          I know some cynics among you are saying I only care about suspending Alt Side, but that is not completely true. Just about everyone I know who drives wants to go more green, but, if you do have a car or need a car, there are not too many choices. You could buy a hybrid car, but a new car in this economy (?) and how many people actually know how to fix these things? Also in my defense, I can happily point out that our apartment electricity comes through the Con Ed wind power program (available for a 10% higher bill) and thus uses a more natural source of power. Other than moving for street sweeping, I only drive my car around the city 15 or 20 times all year and take subways and taxis most of the other times. A good parking map helps me decide when it makes sense to drive. I would say ride a bike more, but I can’t afford the liability. Have you seen the statistics for bike/car accidents in this city?
          Let’s look at mine. I have one friend who was struck and left on the curbside unconscious. Eventually he was taken to hospital where he barely survived in a coma for 5 days and has no recollection of who or what hit him. My wife’s doctor was killed by a tow truck while he was on the West Side Highway bike path. She called to make an appointment one day. I pedaled into a taxi door when the fare decided to jump out at the light. Lucky for me I was thrown into a parked car which actually held my bike up, but the bruising on the left side of my body was enough cause one coworker to get sick. Cars often zoom past cutting so close to me I am shaken by the wind. Vans and trucks blow past me as if I was also behind a 2 ton steel reinforced hull rather than mere flesh and brittle bone. (But the city will write you a ticket for biking in the wrong direction in Central Park!)
          My latest is the cab that whacked me on the elbow with its side mirror. The cabbie, hearing the loud crack, decided that the best response was to pull over which he did… into me. The grinding noise he heard as his cab refused to turn in was my bike against a parked car. My handlebars were scraping both cars and were the only thing keeping me from being crushed. I was not liking my chances. Fortunately, he did pull away and stop to see if I was OK and then asked me to straighten his mirror since he couldn't reach it. This is not the appropriate forum to describe my response.
          Most of us do our parts, and as more choices become possible will do even more, but this week is an opportunity for all of us to do a small, but very symbolic, part.
          So be a friend to the planet this EARTH DAY and Email, Twitter, go down the hall and tell your friends who drive. Tell everyone who might think this is a good idea, everyone who just has a little free time on their hands, and everyone who wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves to Contact the Mayor.
          As Arlo Guthrie said it once: imagine hundreds or even thousands of people emailing the Mayor to suspend Alternate Side Parking for EARTH DAY. He’ll think it’s a movement and no elected official with the uncanny sense of survival of Mayor Bloomberg could ignore that.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Muni (not puny) Meters

As some of you have figured out I am in the business of creating the ultimate street parking map for New Yorkers and the Manhattan version (already available @ was the true test of whether our mad scientist's parking rules with all their complicated phases and contradictions could even be put into readable symbols on a map. I, of course, love my solution. You can decide for yourself, but, at least, you have to agree that it’s a cool resource to have. Anyway, in the ongoing effort to perfect this map even further, I occasionally like to get a refreshing workout by crawling up the massive tower wall of the DOT to seek out whatever tiny morsels our government, in their overflowing tables of data and closely guarded data of tables, have left behind for us. The more chance I get to see data versions and updates, the more I can spot the occasional trend in our city government’s conniving (er, thinking) about parking regulations. As I was enjoying some free time the other day sifting through my latest DOT Parking Data playing my favorite game I call Needle in a Laughing Haystack (or Laughingstock for short), I was looking for any new regulations that would actually make possible some brand new parking spaces somewhere, anywhere, in Manhattan. And here’s the shock, at least for me. There are some.
If you’re like me, you know that the DOT spends all its waking hours scheming and conspiring, squeezing and twisting, dealing and wheeling to make parking in this city a living Hell. I can see the late night lights in their windows and their deformed, broken silhouettes as they mix concrete and diesel, time and money, love and hate in endless midnight ceremonies to concoct powerful potions that just to be poured on our city streets shrivel up available parking everywhere they seep underground...
Turns out I was wrong. Yes, the DOT is out there attempting to balance traffic congestion and delivery truck schedules, commerce and tourism, even living and dying but, yes, they also keep an eye toward freeing up good old car parking at those times and places when the rest of the desperate mob is not thrusting their steel and cement elbows into powerful ribs.
So we have won some and lost some, but by far the greatest trend I have noticed lately is the Muni Meters. They are everywhere fast and I don’t know the timetable for the extinction of the good old, loyal parking meter and all of its small town charms, but you can bet that old fashioned, coin guzzling contraption with its “Feed me Seymour!” demands and its relentlessly clownish expression that nickels and dimes us to death will strangely be missed. Those mechanical men, not to mention the gainfully employed that empty those meters, will become fondly remembered museum pieces soon enough.
It is the inevitable push into the electronic age and touch credit lifestyle that will probably someday make dollars and sense obsolete, you say, and no doubt you are right. But it is also (and always) just business. With the arrival of this new, I-Am-Always-Right electronic tyrant, that doesn’t even pretend to have a face, gone forever is the fun of pulling into a space with that partially (or even completely) full meter.
Been missing that "I’m lucky" feeling lately? Well, get used to it. Because Muni Meters, and their entire alien civilization, are moving in fast, and, in addition to some of those cool new conveniences, we will now always have to spend the full price of Metered Parking. And with Muni Meters isn’t the city’s ability to raise meter rates now as quick and easy as the tapping of our Mayor’s congestion-pricing fingertips (Oops! It already has in its Park Smart program.). Damn if they didn’t find another way to tax us, because the chances that an equally harried, rushed, multi-tasking New Yorker will offer you her overpaid Muni Meter Parking Receipt as she is pulling out are about as likely as those that she will suddenly hand you her phone number. (Maybe she could write it on the receipt?) Bottom line: from now on, the full price of parking in that space (and any playing-it-safe overpayment that you kindly donate to our NYC coffers) will be paid to the city, or else!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Macho Macho Parking!

          We all know road rage is a foolish thing, but is it always? What about if a mad trucker is trying to run you and your family off the road? Or an escaped convict has a gun to your head and demands you slow down? Your life is not an action movie you say, but how about if you’ve had a parking space taken from you exactly at the moment you were backing in? They just zipped in front first and started getting out of the car before you even had a chance to realize what has happened. It’s happened to me and, let’s face it, it’s a head on, full barrel attack so brazen that it tests your most primitive survival instincts. Suddenly you want to go all Harrison Ford. Hey, mess with a New Yorker’s parking space and you get the horns (the loud ones). Those lavas run so deep in our New York state of mind that the only natural eruption is rage.
          I credit a lot of my survival in this city to my ability to throw off unnecessary arguments about unimportant things. It’s not like even if you win, you win: you get the space, but come back the next day to find your headlight smashed in; you give him a black eye but break your little finger for a month; or you have to look over your shoulder for several weeks in case the loser is a stalker. It’s not winning. It’s not worth it! But just as the body releases endorphins in the brain that cause a “natural high” after sex or after we find that perfect parking space right in front of our building, likewise does the body pump us full of adrenaline when our territory, our feeding grounds, our very way of life is threatened, and sometimes we act before thinking.
          When this happened to me I was with my girlfriend and I don’t have to list here all of the times throughout history that men have done stupid things to save face in front of women. My first approach was to just explain to my fellow traveler that he had innocently taken the space I was backing into. Like that was going to work. Like everywhere else in the world parallel parkers pull past an empty space to back into it, but in New York we drive head first into it. Like we were going to behave any better than a pair of primitive apes warring over the one cave.
          Only by the time I got out of my car he was already on the sidewalk with his wife and starting to walk away. His car was already turned off, already cooling down, with the doors locked, and suddenly it cast an imposing shadow. There it was, flexing at me like a giant, prehistoric boulder that would not budge, a timeless geological formation where I had only moments ago seen my parking space, and so I guess my anger got the better of me. I must have insulted him adequately because he says to his wife “Wait here honey. I’m going to have to pop this guy.”
          This supposed familiarity with “popping” people surprised me but didn’t have the effect he was hoping for. I had been looking for a space for 3/4 of an hour (TIME PARKING (in minutes) x 10 = % of ANGER) and to me he just looked like a poser trying to impress his girlfriend, so I started walking around the car (and probably even stuck out my chin a little) telling him to try it. Looking back I know that somewhere, drowned out in that adrenaline blast zone, a calm, sensible, but a little too quiet, voice was advising me that none of this was worth it, but in the roar of progress rushing and earth moving equipment throttles straining, who could hear it? We’d already lost most of our senses anyway. Now we were just eyeballing.
          It was over quick. As luck would have it the only “popping” he did was into a nearby storefront (urgent shopping?) and I was left standing on the street, horns blaring, trying to look reasonable in a traffic jam of adrenaline and my half parked car blocking a lot of annoyed drivers.
          I didn’t get the space, but I did learn that uniquely New York parallel parking skill: sometimes we have to stop over the space first to guard it so no lowlife, wannabe thug can shoot in behind our back. And I’m convinced I’ve seen a few in my rear view mirror over the years who did leer and would have plundered were it not for that ton of metal casting its wide shadow and so at least have avoided that kind of confrontation ever again.

          In all fairness I should mention that he did say something about how I didn’t turn on my blinker. You be the judge. In busy Broadway traffic I pull just past an available parking space and stop. He immediately drives into the space head first, jumps out and locks the car and, this is the sad part, his wife/girlfriend/whatever has jumped out just as fast. Did I really need to mention this?