What’s More Important: Parks or Parking?

Proposed McCarren Park expansion plans.
  • gothamist.com
  • Proposed McCarren Park expansion plans.

That’s a trick question, obviously. The answer, to everything really, is always parks. Well, the answer to everything might not always be parks, but the answer to everything is never parking. This is New York, after all, where it is basically always easier to get around by public transportation than it is by car. And that’s kind of how it should be. Driving a car in this city should be difficult. That’s part of the social contract of New York, I think. It’s not written down anywhere, but it exists in our hearts and minds. We all have hearts and minds, don’t we? Sure we do. Anyway, apparently not everybody feels this way because it turns out that some people care a lot about their right to not only get around in a car, but also their right to find somewhere to leave that car once they’ve arrived at their destination. Talk about privilege.

Anyway, this car-centric mentality could actually wind up preventing a much-needed addition of green space to Williamsburg, in the form of an expansion of McCarren Park. Gothamist reports on a proposed expansion of McCarren Park and how the main thing holding it up is people who think that parking spaces should be prized over additional green space. The other night, “the Open Space Alliance and city’s Parks Department came before Community Board 1’s Land Use Committee… to jointly discuss ‘demapping’ Union Avenue between North 12th Street and Driggs Avenue, linking two chunks of the park for an additional 33,850 square-feet of space.” The planned expansion would remove 34 parking spaces from the neighborhood, but one of the plan’s proponents, Colleen Alderson, a representative from the Parks Department, claims that “there are perfectly viable parking spaces hidden all over the place, parking spaces just waiting to be freed from obsolete signage and non-functioning fire hydrants.”

So, there you go! Problem solved. I’m so sure that New York City, where over 10 million parking tickets were given out in 2010, is in a big rush to make parking signs easier to understand in an effort to reduce that pesky work of handing out tickets and collecting millions of dollars in fines. Even if the city isn’t in any hurry to get rid of obsolete hydrants and incorrect signs, though, it shouldn’t really matter. Space for cars should never be a priority over space for people. And even though the expansion is not imminent—”it could take up to four years”—the space where the park will be built out could transform into an interim space “with benches, picnic tables and the like” almost immediately. That can only be a good thing.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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  1. Elimination of parking spaces hurts those who have to drive for their jobs, many of these are working class people who may not even reap the benefits of a park. Parks are great for attracting garbage, vagrants and wild animals (rats, possum, & badgers anyone?). Not everyone in brooklyn is an independently wealthy hipster. There has to be room for ALL of us and that includes the drivers who get pushed aside for bike lanes and unnecessary pedestrian plazas and parks.