Officers say when they have tried to enforce parking rules there they have been told to back off by supervisors who inform them these orders come from “downtown” meaning One Police Plaza.
“(Fernando) Mateo has more power than us.”
– NYPD Officer (name withheld).
How is a massive Valet Parking operation allowed to exist on a city street, and in a No Standing area? This is a complicated question due to various changes in property maps over the years, but it has a simple answer — it’s not, it’s illegal, and there should not be any valet parking of any sort. Since re-opening in 2012, the concession has taken over the parking spaces from the western end of Dyckman Street up to Staff street several blocks away well as the public streets for use as a massive valet park lot. The Parks Department (DPR) claims in emails and conversations with residents that they allowed the concession to do this. For example, an email sent by Northern Manhattan Parks Administrator Jennifer Hoppa to a resident on Sept 17, 2012 included:
“As per their agreement with NYC Parks, and in consultation with the 34th Precinct, La Marina has permission to operate Valet Parking at the western end of Dyckman Street and make use of Parks’ parking lot there.”
As it turns out, that is technically impossible. But the circle of confusion and finger pointing has gone on so long that nothing has been done about it, and so for six years a massive operation parking hundreds of cars has illegally occupied parkland and city streets in an unprecedented and astonishing manner. In Manhattan. With police watching over the entire operation. It’s almost too much to believe.
Parking was never even discussed in the RFP. The accepted bid from Manhattan River Group proposed a significant amount of parking on the concession site to serve the 300 diners and supplement area street parking but it was never built due to design changes. The License Agreement in fact contains no language about parking at all. It is also clear from the definition of the site and the submitted site plans that the northern border of the concession site is Dyckman Street, not Inwood Hill Park.
The concession agreement does not include the small parking lot sitting on the former Dyckman Street tax lot north of the Dyckman Marina premises. This parking lot used to be part of Dyckman Street back when a ferry operated here, but was transferred to Fort Washington Park in 1995. It is now parkland. (Note – the city’s own tax map database has been confirmed to be in error; it was never properly updated to reflect the transfer.) A valet business operating there would thus require a separate concession agreement just like any other business operating in a park. No such agreement exists. So how can Parks grant permission to La Marina to operate a parking lot outside their premises? It can’t, according to the New York City Charter. According to Chapter 14, Section 374:
a. No city agency shall grant a concession without either complying with the procedures established by the franchise and concession review committee or obtaining the approval of the committee prior to granting the concession.
Neither of the above was done. But Parks has allowed the valet parking all the same. Why? It is not in the License Agreements, it was not disclosed to the Community Board. The chair of the Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee for Community Board 11 testified at the September 8, 2008 Franchise and Concession Review Committee (FCRC) hearing:
“It would be helpful to know that there is adequate enforcement, NYPD enforcement, to maintain minimally issues that will arise with traffic,” said CB 12 Park and Cultural Affairs chair Liz Ritter. “There also isn’t anything in the contracts with respect to parking….the fact remains there isn’t anything in the contract, either one of the contracts, that talks about trying to manage that or mitigate the potential problems. That would have been helpful.” A local resident from nearby Henshaw Street also testified at the hearing: “I asked concessioners about the size of the operation, said Maggie Clark on behalf of 1795 Riverside Drive Tenant’s Association, Inwood Livable Streets, and Riverside-Inwood Neighborhood Garden. “They said 300 diners was the number they were talking about. We asked about parking; had a parking study been done, had a traffic study been done? Any kind of environmental impact statement? No, nothing. And as far as I know, still nothing.” “I fear it will be such a large operation it’s going to contribute to a lot to parking problems, air pollution problems, congestion problems,” she said.
Responding to residents’ concerns regarding the inevitable congestion and the lack of arrangements for parking in the license agreement the FCRC was told by the Parks Director of Concessions that parking would be through valet parking at area garages, not at the site. “We don’t think there is going to be any – the concessionaire has offered to work with – local garages to make sure that there is valet parking; to encourage people to come by public transportation, testified Charles Cloth, brushing off concerns. This is his following statement, and it cannot be emphasized enough: “We don’t think there’s going to be a particular traffic impact based on the concession.”
That is certainly not the case, in part due to all of the parking that is being provided. In addition to the parking lot mentioned above, street parking spaces under the overpasses and running east along Dyckman Street are also being used as part of the valet parking lot by the concession regularly, sometimes being coned off as early as 7 am. On busy dates such as Sundays the valet parking lot extends for multiple blocks along Dyckman Street and Staff Street. Valet signs often say “Lot Full” setting the stage for negotiations between drivers and parking attendants who say they can receive between $ 150- $ 200 per car for expensive vehicles from patrons who wish to park closer to the nightclub, a number that is rather difficult to track for the city’s percentage rent.
This valet concession and the illegal valet parking operation deprives the local community of much needed parking and creates nightmare traffic conditions due to the presence of the Henry Hudson Parkway highway offramps that exit directly into the valet parking areas.
Adding further insult to injury, ALL of the spaces both on the city street and in the western parking lot are marked with standard DOT signs for regular street parking. These regulations were modified in 2012 to be No Standing Zones at night at the specific request of Parks, likely to force residents and visitors to clear the spaces from 6 pm to 6 am and make it easier for the concession to take them over. Other parking spaces along Dyckman just east of the concession lot were changed to No Standing from 3 pm to 1 am (conveniently matching the hours of most major concerts held at the concession.) The Community Board was not consulted on these changes. How is a valet parking lot complete with barriers and cones being allowed to legally operate in the No Standing areas, and also in regular street parking spaces further along Dyckman and Staff Street? How is this regular taking of public parking spaces for a nightclub’s $20 valet parking lot a legal exercise? The question has been asked of city officials many times. Said DOT representative Josh Orzeck in an email to a resident on 7/8/2013:
“We are aware of no agreement with DOT to allow valet parking for La Marina. I highly doubt the legality of charging $ for parking on those public streets….Ultimately, without an agreement with the City, NYPD is responsible for enforcing.”
and a month later in a separate email dated 8/28/2013:
“As with other traffic enforcement matters, it would be at the discretion of NYPD to enforce anything like that, with the exception of unauthorized pavement, curb or street markings or (fixed) signs. And, as I may have said before, I am unaware of any arrangements between businesses (restaurants/clubs/etc.) in the area.”
In a separate email on 12/20/2013 to another resident, the same representative said:
“I am still unaware of any agreement between the City and La Marina to charge $$ for parking on a city-owned street… If you are referring to the cones, barrier and sign shown… this appears to be in violation of the NYC Traffic Rules (34 RCNY §4-08 (n)(7))”
Since August 2014, local DOT officials have refused to answer further questions on the above and refer all inquiries to the DOT Borough Commissioner. The Manhattan DOT Commissioner, Margarget Forgione, wrote to a resident on June 30, 2014 in reference to the valet operations:
“Thank you, we will follow up with NYPD on enforcement of these issues. DOT does not have enforcement capabilities.”
and on September 16, 2014, the same official confirmed again that there is no agreement to use the street and furthermore that:
“A No Standing regulation in an area like this would be provided for drop-off at a highly active venue. Cars should not be parking there, and as you know it would require PD enforcement.”
To summarize, DOT has stated there is no agreement to allow a valet lot outside of the small Parks parking lot, and that the NYPD should enforce the illegal parking along Dyckman Street. The Parks Department stops NYPD from enforcing against their concession by telling them that everything is fine when it legally is not.
For six years none of the governmental agencies responsible for enforcing these various laws have done so. Why? The lack of enforcement is why Manhattan’s largest illegal valet parking lot has been allowed to exist for six years in plain sight with the police literally watching over the entire operation. It is an enormous and lucrative valet parking operation, gifted to a politically connected concessionaire.
This illegal parking operation is the engine and one of the key elements to the financial success of the entire Dyckman Marina concession operation, one that allows the whole operation to exist. It enables the illicit concert venue uses and numerous related problems at the site.
The concession should be restored to its original intended uses of a restaurant/cafe and marina, with no valet parking of any kind. Patrons can either street park in the available spaces (which are perfectly adequate for restaurant use) or use area garages, just as they do for any other neighborhood business. The public streets and park lands are for all to use; any other treatment is inequitable.