The City Council voted overwhelmingly yesterday to eliminate metered parking on Sundays, restoring to New Yorkers a treasured privilege whose loss has been much lamented in the two years since it was sacrificed to bring added revenue to the city’s depleted treasury.
The Council’s decision touched off an unusually bitter debate with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who attacked the legislation as naked election-year pandering, and whose transportation commissioner, Iris Weinshall, told the Council in testimony yesterday that it had chosen to “put both pedestrians and motorists at risk,” a charge that infuriated many Council members.
Mr. Bloomberg vowed to veto the legislation, but mayoral aides acknowledged that they would likely not have the necessary votes to defeat an almost certain override. The vote in favor of the bill was 43 to 1.
The legislation will most likely prove popular with city residents, some of whom seemed ecstatic yesterday that they would no longer have to dart out of church to feed the meter or scrounge for quarters on a Sunday morning instead of sleeping in.
“I think that’s great. I think that’s about time,” said Jerry Barber, 34, as he parked his car on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights. Mr. Barber, who works seven days a week as a security consultant, said he had heard reports of the change yesterday morning and was grateful for it. “The city bleeds us of cash. It’s time to give the working man a break.”
Patsy Grant, 53, a jazz singer from East New York, said, “It’s crazy trying to park on Sundays when everybody’s off work.” Almost every cost involved in owning a car has gone up, she noted. “It would be great to relax on Sunday and not worry about that $150 ticket.”
Legislation to suspend metered parking on Sundays was first proposed in 2003 by Councilman Vincent J. Gentile, not long after the meters in his Brooklyn district became active on Sundays. “As time went on, more and more meters became active, and so more and more constituents came to object,” said Mr. Gentile, who cosponsored the final version of the measure with Councilman Hiram Monserrate.
“Everything needs a break one day a week — even parking meters,” the Council speaker, Gifford Miller, said at a press conference in City Hall, appearing with Mr. Gentile and Mr. Monserrate.
Mr. Gentile said the measure would cost the city about $12 million a year in lost revenue, which he described as “a drop in the bucket.”
But during testimony before the Council’s Finance Committee yesterday morning, Commissioner Weinshall criticized the bill and the Council in unusually strong terms, saying that the meters served as an important tool for managing both traffic and the availability of parking spaces.
High turnover, she added, made it easier for motorists to find parking spaces and reduced illegal parking in bus stops and at fire hydrants, enhancing public safety.