Brooklyn Boro

Opinions & Observations: Once-a-week street cleanings? Actually, once a month is plenty

June 25, 2020 Stuart Miller
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Mayor Bill de Blasio just announced a new experiment with alternate-side-of-the-street parking: blocks that have two scheduled days of street sweeping per week will now only have one. That’s a nice baby step but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.

Street sweeping and the parking chaos it causes dates back to the 1950s when people had to clear out three times a week for three to five hours a day. From searching for a spot where the car can be left without being moved for several days to remembering to double park the car and move it back on the blocks where alternate is happening, New Yorkers have never stopped complaining and stressing about alternate-side-of-the-street parking, even as the number of days and hours has been reduced through the years. (Just ask George Costanza.)

In the midst of the pandemic nightmare and the protests against police brutality and systemic racism — when the mayor seemed to misstep on every major issue — he did one minor thing right. Alternate-side parking has been suspended for all but one week since the pandemic hit, giving car owners one less thing (albeit a small one) to worry about.

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Looking around Brooklyn’s residential blocks you’d be hard pressed to notice a difference in terms of the cleanliness of the city’s curbs. That may simply be proof that those street sweepers really do nothing but move fallen leaves and debris around or it may be that there just isn’t enough there to warrant a weekly sweeping.

Most of those Brooklyn streets are only swept once a week anyway so they will not be altered by the mayor’s experiment. But it seems clear that if street sweeping could be suspended almost entirely for four months then we don’t need to go back to once a week alternate. The City should declare that residential streets in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island will only have street sweeping and alternate-side parking once per month.

This is not just about making life easier for car owners. If street sweeping happened just once a month, the City would save money and it would yield a cleaner city as well, reducing pollution not just from the street sweepers but from all the drivers starting their engines and then often idling after they nab a coveted spot and wait for the ticking clock to reach the start or end of their alternate side period. (Additionally, it would reduce the amount of times an emergency vehicle cannot go down a block because someone forgot to move their car and someone else double parked opposite it.)

The City has far more serious problems than this and is crying for real leadership on all of them. But New Yorkers put up with the hassles of city life — like alternate-side parking — because of all the benefits, like museums, theater and community life that are not available for the foreseeable future. Especially in times like this, every move that eases the burdens of city living is a positive one.

Stuart Miller has written about civil rights, race, police militarization and politics for the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, Newsweek, the Daily News and other publications. He is also the author of “The 100 Greatest Days in New York Sports” and co-author of “The Other Islands of New York City.”

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  1. Andrew Porter

    My street used to have alternate-side parking on Tuesdays and Fridays. This was reduced to Tuesdays only a few years ago. The lockdown showed that even this often is not necessary.

    Decades ago, New Yorkers were much more prone to throw trash everywhere. A lot less of this casual littering happens nowadays.

  2. Trevor Harris

    Total agreement: once monthly sweeping is enough in much of Brooklyn.
    Perhaps more than enough. DOS has metrics that tell us where cleaning
    is needed…have they been interviewed on the subject?.

  3. Ramona Dunlap

    I don’t know what part of Brooklyn you all live in but in Bed Stuy and Crown Heights, alternate-side parking/street cleaning happens 4 times a week on Monday/Thursdays and Tuesday/Fridays! That’s waaaayyyy too much and only further burdens our neighborhood with more debt in tickets and inconveniences small business activity.