Alternate Siders: Mini Cooper owner

Take a lesson from one New Yorker who is beating the parking problem hands down. “Alternate Sider” Richard Barreto drives a drives a 1989 Mini Cooper Mayfair each and every day to a parking spot he calls "my own."

The mini just fits in the tiny space between a crosswalk and a fire hydrant. It’s so small that others have to pass it by.

"Sometimes I have to go around the block if someone is standing in my spot, come around again, and by that time they are gone," he says.

Richard is an acting student at Marymount Manhattan College and his spot is waiting for him just down the block every morning before class.

"For the most part," he says with a laugh, "that’s my (parking) spot."

Richard bought the car in Japan when he was in the Navy and brought it to the United States. Since then he has rebuilt it from the ground up. The Mini has a new engine, new suspension, new transmission and of course a new paint job.

"When I got the car it was battleship gray," he says. "But I was in the Navy and was so tired of gray I just had to change the color."

The Mini is now beige with a red racing stripe and red and white interior, but the Mini still has lots of Mini extras like a wooden steering wheel on the right side of the car because that’s the way they drive in Japan. Extras like "eyebrows" on the headlamps, Union Jack shifter and a gas cap that looks like something NSA added just before a moon launch.

But the fun doesn’t end with the extras.

"Every time I stop at a red light, somebody comes up kind of timidly and says 'Can I take a picture?'" he says. "Or when I park, I turn around a look, and there are always people looking at the car."

People stop him all the time after to talk about his car. One woman told him about a Mini she tried to bring into the country but couldn’t because of stringent U.S. emission laws. Another told him that his first car was a Mini.

"But mine didn’t drive on the right side like yours does," the man said.

Richard says, "It's not about attention. It's about bringing joy because we need it more than ever, more than ever, right now."

"I love this car," he says. "I can fit in a lot of parking spaces that others can't. But the real reason I love this car is the smile that it brings to everyone's faces."

"Alternate Siders" is a featured Fox 5 News series, introducing us to fun and interesting rides and their owners. If you or one of your friends has a great machine and wants to tell the story behind it please contact us at WNYW/Fox 5 News: WNYW.FOX5NEWS@FOXTV.COM