More cars, fewer parking spaces in New York City

Drivers across New York City are complaining about a lack of parking spaces as the pandemic has driven many New Yorkers to buy cars - part aversion to mass transit and part the desire to be able to get out of town after being cooped up during the pandemic. 

Add to that what the city says is 6,000 to 10,000 parking spaces given to restaurants to be converted for outdoor dining, and drivers are as unhappy as ever.

But experts, from AAA to Transportation Alternatives have been warning New York City is maxed out on what it can do for cars, whether it be congestion or parking.

The math is simple, according to the experts who point out the square footage is the same yet there are now nearly two million vehicles registered in the city.

In addition to a spike in New Yorkers buying cars for the first time, AAA says sub-prime car loans has also increased significantly.

"The geography of Manhattan city streets only allow for a certain amount of space," says Sarah Kaufman is Associate Director of NYU's Rudin Center for Transportation. "You cannot physically fit many more cars in the city."

The up to 10,000 spaces that been converted for outdoor dining represent a small fraction of the 3 million parking spots the city maintains and offers.

It is no luxury for restaurants as the industry struggles to survive having already laid off an estimated 300,000 workers - half the workforce.

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Ironically, restaurants were once a vocal critic of converting parking spaces for community use. That's changed.

Streetfilms, a documentary blog from filmmaker Clarence Eckerson, recently released a documentary show how Amsterdam, for instance, has evolved their streets to make them more livable by breaking its car-minded culture, essentially finding a better use of public lands than parking private vehicles.

Transportation experts say it is time NYC looked to do the same.

"One way to do that is to turn over static parking spaces currently used by cars that are parked for 95% of the day and think about how we can turn them over to active uses like dining, recreation and socializing." Kaufman told FOX 5 News.

Experts say drivers are right when they say parking in the city is getting more difficult. And they say with the number of cars outpacing what the physical capacity of the city, those migrating to join the car culture are in for a bumpy ride.