Plan Forces Parking Freeloaders to Pay

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By Dan Rivoli

Should free meter parking on Sundays say its prayers?

An Upper West Side business owner is trying to eliminate free Sunday parking in front of meters in the neighborhood–a practice the City Council instituted 2005 after outer borough religious leaders and their driving parishioners complained about having to leave Mass to feed the meter. Supporters of the free Sunday parking called the situation “pay to pray.”

Free meter parking on Sundays, says nightclub owner Marc Glazer, has been abused by residents who suck up the treasured spots for hours while those that may want to shop or eat at a restaurant in the Upper West Side are unable to find a decent parking spot.

“Sunday is one of the busiest days of the week for small businesses on the Upper West Side,” Glazer said. “The small businesses are being hurt by the lack of parking.”

Glazer, owner of Columbus 72, a nightclub on Columbus Avenue and West 72nd Street, says his business has taken a hit because cars squat in front of parking meters on Saturday night and keep the space all day on Sunday. He is also a member of Community Board 7, which recently approved his proposal in a 22 to 11 vote with five members abstaining. The Council would have to approve Glazer’s proposal now that the community board weighed in with a resolution.

“People should car pool, make other arrangements or at least pay for the privilege of staying in the spot all day,” Glazer said.

Parking spots in the neighborhood are increasingly becoming a commodity. Rampant development and new bike lanes haves caused the number of parking spots to dwindle in the Upper West Side. A higher turnover on parking spots would be a boon for business, said Barbara Adler, executive director of the Columbus Avenue Business Improvement District.

“The businesses on Columbus have continued to say their business was killed after that law went into affect on Sunday,” she said.

When the law first passed in 2005 Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed the “pay to pray” measure because the city would lose out on $14 million from the parking meters. The Council overrode Bloomberg’s veto.

Most of the original backers of banning meter parking on Sunday, hailed from the outer boroughs.

“I don’t think anyone from the Upper West Side came,” remembered Gale Brewer, a Council member representing the area.

Glazer believes that Upper West Side Catholics and Christians will support the end of free parking on Sunday.

“Most residents of the Upper West Side,” Glazer said, “walk to their houses of worship.”

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