In New York City, nowhere is the intersection of religion and government more keen than in the world of parking enforcement.
Alternate-side street cleaning regulations are suspended on Jewish holidays most Jews never heard of as well as on every Muslim or Christian holiday. (In the not-too-distant future, the Department of Transportation will announce a list of days when parking rules are in effect.) And Sunday meter rules are suspended throughout the city on Sunday in deference to churchgoers as well as on Saturdays in some areas.
In the latest concession to devout drivers, the city has amazingly agreed to turn off the spigot of parking meter quarters two hours early on Borough Park’s 16th Avenue to make it easier for Sabbath observant drivers to park during fall and winter months, when Shabbat starts as early as 4 p.m. Previously the meters ran until 7 p.m., making it sometimes impossible to cram in enough quarters to last from sundown until the meter maids and mavens call it quits. (There's a two-hour limit.)
"This is a great step towards solving a problem that has plagued thousands of drivers in Borough Park for years," said Councilman David Greenfield, who said he has negotiated with the DOT on this issue since he arrived in office 18 months ago. "On behalf of the thousands of Borough Park drivers who will now have approximately 150 new parking spots in the heart of Borough Park on Erev Shabbos, I thank Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn and her staff at the DOT for working with me to solve the Erev Shabbos parking problem."
On a recent Friday he found that after sundown there were only six cars parked at 16th Avenue meters in Borough Park. So the city wouldn't be losing much income from the meters, he said.
The change is considered a pilot program that could (in all likelihood) soon spread to other parts of Borough Park, if not around the city. Greenfield says he prevailed by demonstrating that the vast majority of stores in the area in question are closed on Shabbat, hence no need for the meters to be in effect. "The whole point of parking meters is to keep traffic flowing" in commercial areas, he noted. But when there's no commerce …
Kudos to Greenfield for his negotiating skills, since the city could have less expensively solved the problem by adding meters with a greater coin capacity, so drivers could pay for three hours of parking on Friday afternoons.