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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Alternate-Side-of-the-Street Amusements

Clyde Haberman amuses in tomorrow's NYT:
Today is Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, celebrating the triumph of good, represented by Lord Rama, over the forces of evil. It is a holiday that thrills some of my friends. Not that they are Hindus themselves.

The three-day Islamic feasts of Id al-Fitr and Id al-Adha thrill them, too. They aren’t Muslims, either.

They are, in the main, Christians and Jews. Most of them are not the sort to be found in church or synagogue every Sunday or Saturday morning. But they derive enormous satisfaction from holy days like the Feast of the Assumption or from a days-long Jewish festival like Passover.

That is because they answer to a separate authority. Their true devotion is to the Church of Internal Combustion. You probably know these people better as car owners.

Nothing delights them more than a religious holiday, any religious holiday — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, it really doesn’t matter — that liberates them from the city’s alternate-side parking rules.

In the New York diocese of the Church of Internal Combustion, the highest virtue is being able to leave one’s car parked on the street for days at a time. Church members reach this state of exaltation through a special dispensation granted by a nonecclesiastical synod, a body called the City Council. The Council is vested with the supreme authority to suspend alternate-side rules. This it does. Faithfully.

Diwali, celebrated by Sikhs and Jains as well as by Hindus, is the latest holiday to receive the sacrament of discarded parking regulations. By official count, there are 35 such holidays through the year, spread across 44 days. Council members love few things more than adding days to the list. They have done so with fair regularity.

Although some members of the Church of Internal Combustion may not believe it, alternate-side parking does not exist to torment them. The rules were created for the common weal: to make it possible for Sanitation Department sweepers to do their stuff.

Once upon a time, the main exceptions to the rules were legal holidays, when city employees are off, and certain days on which observant Jews are forbidden to drive: Yom Kippur, for example. There is no known Talmudic exception for alternate-side parking rules.

But any privilege for a particular ethnic or religious group is not allowed to exist in this city without others’ claiming it as well. And so, over the years, the Council has steadily expanded the exemption list to include all sorts of holidays with no inherent proscription against driving: Ash Wednesday, Purim, the Asian Lunar New Year and All Saints’ Day, to name a few.
I always think it's hilarious when I hear the radio announcer declaring that "alternate side of the street parking rules are suspended" due to some minor Jewish holiday or other - particularly because if I am listening to my radio, it follows that there is no religious reason I can't get into my car and move it. But hey, it's certainly nice to see NYC celebrate and give equal footing to the different religious groups that make the city the great place it is.

28 Comments:

Anonymous tired anonymous mom said...

Lsst year there was an article about just this. It seems that for all those "cute" "minor" holidays there are kids taking off school or saying they can't take a test and the public schools are feeling the heat. Where do they draw the line? Interesting topic for discussion. Not now, though.

11:27 PM  
Blogger Charlie Hall said...

I live in New York City. There is no alternate side restriction on my street.

11:44 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

CH likes to revisit this topic from time to time. A few years ago, he subtly reamed Noach Dear, who is one of the creators of alternate side suspensions.

The whole practice is ridiculous and an enormous loss of revenue for NYC. The demand for suspension days is both ever-expanding and widely exploited. It is, sadly, a political can of worms that cannot be contained because suspending the suspensions will seriously impact many, many New Yorkers, Orthodox Jews primarily.

It's really true ... no good deed goes unpunished.

8:12 AM  
Anonymous Tal Benschar said...

The rules were created for the common weal: to make it possible for Sanitation Department sweepers to do their stuff.

The whole practice is ridiculous and an enormous loss of revenue for NYC.

What I found irksome about the rules is that they seem designed more to create an excuse to give out tickets (and generate revenue for the city) than anything else.

Near where I lived, alternate side forbade parking from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., on one side of the street on Mondays and Wednesdays, on the other side on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Now I understand they need to clean the streets. Almost invariably, the street would be cleaned around 11:30 a.m. So far so good.

But then the meter maid would arrive at 1:45. It was clear that the street had been cleaned by then. Nevertheless, tickets were handed out, all to the increased "revenue" of the city.


Such behavior breeds cynicism and contempt for the law. If the city were really interested in keeping the street free to be cleaned, they should have the meter maid follow the sweeper, and anyone blocking the sweeper gets a ticket -- and that can be a stiff one, $200-$300.

12:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the city were really interested in keeping the street free to be cleaned, they should have the meter maid follow the sweeper, and anyone blocking the sweeper gets a ticket

Don't worry, they do that too. I've seen the sanitation cops driving right behind the sweeper in Far Rockaway.


The whole practice is ridiculous and an enormous loss of revenue for NYC.

Yeah, well I'm sure the city will make it up somehow ;-)

I think that the rules make life easier for a lot of folks, not just Orthodox Jews. If people are celebrating some sort of holiday they might have company over and this frees up more parking around the city.

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like o-mom is mocking any other religion but her own

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lived in Brooklyn for four years. Our life was circumscribed by the alternate side of the street parking signs. There was no rhyme or reason to the rules--in a two square block radius you had 8 different days and times. Parking was a nightmare, but we all obeyed. Strange thing though. In all those years not once, yes NOT ONCE did a street sweeper ever come up our block. The major avenues were cleaned occasionally but the side streets never were.

Perhaps someone with better mathematical abilities then those who work for the city should add up the number of street cleaning trucks, the number of people working those trucks, the time it takes to sweep a street and how many streets can be swept during a working period and see if there is not a better schedule and method then the alternate side one presently in affect.

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Give me a break. Those stupid street sweepers come by and gently brush the garbage as they pass. They accomplish nothing. The streets are just as dirty as before. There's garbage and schmutz everywhere. The whole thing is just an excuse to give out tickets. Plain and simple.
They should disband the whole thing. Make building owners responsible for cleaning the fronts of their buildings and give them tickets if things aren't tidy and leave poor residents who are just trying to live their lives alone!

9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Make building owners responsible for cleaning the fronts of their buildings and give them tickets if things aren't tidy

So does that mean the owners should be expected to crawl under your car to clean?

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No. It means that building owners should be out there (or there agents) throughout the day making sure the sidewalks and streets are clean. I gaurantee that things would be much cleaner than by having one of those obnoxious streetcleaning machines roll by and do nothing.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And then the santiation police would be out there ticketing every poor homeowner $75 a day for not cleaning up when they are at work. Come on.

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So have city workers go around and clean stuff up manually. But stop inconveniencing millions of people - yes millions of people- so a dumb truck can rumble by and do nothing!!!!!

9:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or better yet, fine millions of people, millions of dollars for not cleaning the trash on the street in front of their house by 2pm that was dumped at 11 am because they are at work. That is fair too.

9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about the PPL Vote today??

7:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what about it? why are you stirring up a pot on a blog that has nothing to do with the vote?! You are a trouble maker, dearie.

8:21 AM  
Blogger David said...

OM-

I tried emailing you, but it bounced back. Check out today's New York Law Journal. http://www.law.com/jsp/nylj/PubArticleNY.jsp?id=1194602645187

8:58 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

thanks for reminding me to check the alternate side calendar!

9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would also question the entire validity of the cleaning system. I lived in Chicago for many years. There was street cleaning only 4 or 5 times a year and I can assure you the streets were a lot cleaner then those in NY. We managed just fine without the whole headache and inconvenience of alternate side nonsense.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

OM!!! LOOK!!!! YOU'RE FAMOUS!!!!!


http://www.vosizneias.com/2007/11/new-york-ny-court-rules-no-need-to.html

4:48 PM  
Anonymous laughing lurker said...

All I can say is, thank goodness for street cleaning regulations.

Near our house in Riverdale, there are a couple of blocks that, for whatever reason, are exempt from alternate side parking. Guess what? People park their cars not for days, not for weeks, but for months (not an exaggeration) at a time.

So no, it doesn't keep the streets clean, and yes, it's a pretty transparent form of taxation, but the silver lining is that it helps to fairly allocate a scare public resource. I'll take alternate side any day if the alternatives are free street parking with zero turnover or no free parking at all.

10:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So as not to stir the pot, but just for information on the PPL vote, see the link below:

http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=19023115&BRD=1601&PAG=461&dept_id=479855&rfi=6

2:55 PM  
Blogger Lion of Zion said...

ORTHOMOM:

"I always think it's hilarious when I hear the radio announcer declaring that "alternate side of the street parking rules are suspended" due to some minor Jewish holiday or other - particularly because if I am listening to my radio, it follows that there is no religious reason I can't get into my car and move it."

purim is the only jewish holiday that it is suspended on which you are not prevented from moving the car. it is not suspended on hol hamoed, hanukkah, or any other "minor" jewish holiday.

also, the underlying logic behind the suspensions is not that it against religion to move the car (because no one else has this problem). the regulations, it is claimed, disrupt the holiday in general, e.g. churgoers will have to run out in the middle of services to move their cars. this is why sunday meter rules were quickly revoked after churches complained that parishioners would be coming and going to feed the meter.

that being said, the whole street sweeping thing is a joke. those sweet sweepers don't really do that much. i have always said that i would vote for any mayoral candidate, including al sharpton, who abolishes it:

http://agmk.blogspot.com/2007/02/al-sharpn-for-mayor.html#links

STEG also had a great tefilah recently regarding the regulations.

7:38 PM  
Blogger Lion of Zion said...

DR. HALL:

"I live in New York City. There is no alternate side restriction on my street."

where i grew up (in sheapshead bay, brooklyn) there is also no alternate side of the street. but the vast majority of NYC's 5 boroughs has it

7:41 PM  
Anonymous Ronia said...

This is great info to know.

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