I’m a hard working mother of four. My husband takes the subway to work in the morning and returns home in the early evening; I remain at home with the two younger ones. I am busy all day cooking, cleaning, feeding, changing, nursing and bathing. Many of you will sympathize with me (I know Ann Romney will) when I say that I work every day; I just don’t get paid for it.
I also own a car. Yes I know Mayor Bloomberg (proud owner of a fleet of helicopters, yachts and limousines) quips from time to time that New Yorkers don’t need cars. Try taking four kids to visit Grandma – who lives in the outskirts of Queens – on the subway, or perhaps a bicycle.
You can understand that, with only one parent working and the fact that we have to pay for tuition, after rent is covered there is not much money left for food. But we manage. My husband and I are satisfied with what we have. We don’t complain (until this op-ed :), and never ask for handouts. One thing we can’t afford, though, is a driveway. We have to parallel park our car on the curbside.
Because of that, according to Mr. Bloomberg I am an evil person. Why else would he hound me every day and do whatever he can to make my life unbearable?
Every single weekday (except for Wednesday), I have to drop whatever I am doing and move the car to make room for a big machine that blows leaves and garbage around without cleaning much. If I forget to move my car, I get slapped with a $45 fine.
Those of you who own a garage or driveway just don’t know what it’s like. If I know I won’t be able to move the car the next morning, I have to roam around the surrounding blocks for eternity looking for a spot on the right side of the street; this can sometimes take over an hour.
But that’s the easy part. I am not here to complain about that.
Since there is not physically enough space for every car in the city to park on one side of the street for an hour and a half, there is an unwritten rule that you can double park during that time. Why this is an “unwritten rule” is beyond me, apparently in the world of New York City legislators the basic laws of physics don’t apply.
Since it is an unwritten rule, there is no “buffer zone” during which it is okay to move your car back, nor is there a five minute “grace period.” This means that if you move your car back a minute after 12:30, you get ticketed for double parking. This is a whopping $115 dollar fine.
Now it’s semi understandable that the city issues such a hefty fine for those who maliciously double park – it blocks traffic, it blocks in the parked cars and it’s a selfish thing to do. But there is a reasonable amount of traffic cops at any given time and place in the city to randomly seek out and ticket these offenders. And the fines are supposed to be a deterrent, not a revenue mechanism.
But Bloomberg uses our predicament – the fact that we have no choice but to “break the law” and double park – as a tax collecting tool. The second Street cleaning time is up Mr. Bloomberg’s honchos swoop in like vultures and issue $115 dollar fines to any car whose owner did not yet frantically scramble out of their home and move it back in the nanosecond between 12:29.99 and 12:30 (those pesky laws of physics again!).
So basically it goes like this: if you don’t follow the rules, you get fined $45; if you try to follow the rules but slip by even one minute, you get fined $115.
Now if Mr. Bloomberg needs the money to pay the lavish salaries and benefits to the city workers who don’t shovel the snow and yell at you in the subway booth, let him be honest about the cost of our government, and balance the books by either raising taxes (which will probably drive business away) or cutting spending (which will probably drive votes away).
Instead, Mr. Bloomberg has a perfect solution: pick on the politically powerless demographic of hard working lower-middle class people, who own a car but can’t afford a driveway.
Yesterday, as I was feeding my infant, my alarm struck 12:25. I finished feeding the baby as fast as I could, put on a pair of slippers, grabbed the keys and rushed outside. I made it to my car at exactly 12:31.
The traffic cop must have had a better alarm; he beat me to my car, and all my pleas and excuses fell on deaf ears.
So this week my children will go hungry. Because $115 that was supposed to become warm meals in their tummies will now become cold cash in Mr. Bloomberg’s pocket.
I’m sure he will spend it well.