Alternate-Side-of-the-Street Parking and Spontaneous Order

My neighborhood in Brooklyn, like elsewhere in New York City, has Alternate-Side-of-the-Street Parking regulations. What that means is that twice a week, for three hours, a particular side of the street must be free of parked cars so the street sweepers can clean it. Two other days the same thing happens on the opposite side.

Now, my neighborhood has no excess parking spaces -- its pretty much chock full of cars all the time. But for 12 hours a week, half the parking spaces in the area are unavailable. So where do the cars go? At least where I live (I understand this is not a citywide practice), they go across the street. But didn't I say that side is already full-up? It sure is -- the people from the other side double-park and block entire streets of cars in for three hours.

So don't the people who are stuck get mad? No they don't, because they know it will happen, and it happens in a very predictable way. The street sweeping here occurs between 8am and 11am. Nobody double parks before 7:55. If you need to get out, you have until then to do so. And everyone who double parks moves back by 11:05. It's like you've signed an agreement, by taking a spot on the free side that morning, that you don't need your car between 8 and 11.

The amazing thing is, this isn't an official system at all. The double parking isn't even legal. These rules are not posted anywhere. No city commission worked them out. You just learn them when you move to the neighborhood -- and if you're not clever enough to do so on your own, someone will help you: "Hey, pisan, whadaya doin still friggin blockin me in at 11:10?!"


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