NYC Councilman: Paint Curbs Near Fire Hydrants

Says This Will Answer 'How Close Can I Park?' Question

NEW YORK (CBS 2/ WCBS 880) — In New York City, parking near a fire hydrant can cost you dearly. So a councilman is proposing a way for motorists to “see” how close they can get to a pump and still be legal.

Do you know how far away a parked car must be from a hydrant? Well, the answer is 15 feet. CBS 2’s John Slattery saw several vehicles well within that distance on Thursday.

With several hundred thousand tickets issued each year for parking too close to a hydrant, Councilman David Greenfield wonders how many of us can actually judge the proper distance.

“Motorists shouldn’t have to carry a tape measure in order to park their car in New York City,” said Greenfield, D-Brooklyn.

The answer, he said, is to get out the red paint.

“The simple solution for New York City is to paint the curbs red 15 feet in either direction and people will know exactly where to park and where not to park,” Greenfield said.

Chicago paints the zones in Yellow and New York did decades ago. The remnants can still be seen. The head of the Council’s Transportation Committee said it should be explored.

“It’s a mammoth undertaking, but I do think the people should know where the boundaries of the fire hydrants are,” said Councilman James Vacca, D-Bronx.

Proponents said defining the distance might actually add parking spaces, by the thousands.

Motorists in Brooklyn said, get out the paint.

“If it’s painted and you’re across the red line you should get a ticket. If not, you shouldn’t get a ticket,” motorist Joseph Lavi said.

Greenfield and Councilman Daniel Dromm of Queens are also proposing that the zones be reduced in overall size from 30 feet to 20 feet.

“Twenty feet is plenty of space for fire trucks,” Greenfield said.

But the FDNY disagrees. A spokesman said fire engines need 30 feet to connect as fast as possible. As for the red curbs, the spokesman said it would be helpful.

There are more than 109,000 fire hydrants in the city. So, the cost of such a painting project in tight economic times will be a critical question.

  • Lance

    When was the last time you witnessed a Fire Truck of any size parked at the curb by a fire hydrant> The answer is NEVER. In all honesty I appreciate the fact that they dont and do block the street while attending to a fire. Would you really want our New York’s Bravest to waste time parking? No, we would not. Would you really want cars to travel down the street while homes are on fire? No you would not. However, the law is the law and if 15 feet on both sides of the hydrant is what they want – so be it. I believe the City should paint the curb accordingly. I agree with the yellow so it can be seen at night. But the City should do it so people will not take this into their own hands.

  • newyorker

    Its all about the money. If NYC DOT does not have it I am sure many individuals and motorist groups will chip in. If they really want to do it- they can. But if they want to keep people confused and collect fines, they will not give a damn.

  • Carey

    Instead of painting, why not planting a fire-hydrant garden by getting in touch with Natalie Jeremijenko, whose unusual lab puts art to work, and addresses environmental woes by combining engineering know-how with public art and a team of volunteers? See her work on TED at:

  • Cynic

    I don’t thing its for the people parking. I think its for the low functioning traffic police who don’t know how to measure and have no measuring tape. How damn much is this socialist move going to cost us again?

  • RottenApple

    The city wants to spend millions to change street sign names from upper case to lower case. Yet some of the above folks have a problem with the cost of paint for a worthwhile cause. Go figure!

    • DanTe

      Who said we had no problem with wasting money on street sign changes? “Go figure” is right. You NEED a LOT of figuring. Maybe if you do it reeeaallll slooooowwly?

  • CT

    Some city blocks are so crowded with parking cars, reduce the space by a few feet could fit another car. But no, FDNY disagrees. Ah well, it’s a foot closer & there’s your ticket – more money for the city.

    • KPMc

      Park your car legally and you wont get a ticket… Can’t get much simpler than that!

  • BOB C

    Do the meter maids carry tape measures? Or do they guess? Is a tape measure part of the police and meter maid uniform?

    • Cynic

      Bob you beat me to the point I just made. Glad so see we have a thinker!

  • Jason Sharke

    A NYC councilman with an idea that isn’t bone-headedly ridiculous. Color me shocked to the core.

  • DanTe

    So the taxpayers are going to pay for how many millions of gallons of paint? And how many union labor hours per year to paint and maintain?

    All because some people are too stupid to read the rules when they supposedly “learned” how to drive?

    Die Off. You Effing waste of people’s time.

    • KPMc

      Scary that I totally agree with Dan Te… but seriously folks…

      You’re gonna complain about how much money the city wastes, how high our taxes are… but you need the government to hold your hand on EVERYTHING?

      If you can’t figure out how far to park away from hydrants than please do us all a favor and move to some Podunk town where you can pull in diagonally on an empty street.

      It’s not the city’s fault when you get parking tickets, double parking tickets, household trash tickets or even jaywalking tickets. You know the rules… it’s not that hard to follow them. And you’re not that special that you don’t have to abide by them.

  • rweinburger

    great idea. if there is a public vote for this, i am all for it.

  • Don Juan

    Good idea. Also, fix or remove non-working hydrants.

  • C. Smith

    It should be done. There are plenty of community groups that would volunteer to paint the curbs under the direction of a DOT official. I’m sure most would pay for the paint for their individual community. Let’s do it in 2011 beginning in the Spring.

  • NYnative

    N.Y hasn’t done it because it’s a big source of income. BTW, I one of those people who carry a measuring tape in my car.

  • C.J.

    This has been done in N.J. for a very long time. Don’t know why NY hasn’t ever done it.

  • teetotaler

    There would be plenty of volunteers to do it at no cost to anyone.

    • rd

      NYC actually does have painted curbs at fire hydrants. Is everyone sleeping?

      • keeping the city coffers filled

        Some curbs are painted, but NYC DOT rules say paint means nothing. 15 feet is the rule. The main problem is not that people can’t judge 15 feet, its that if a person judges even 6 inches too short, the city cashes in. There is no more common sense allowed. Its easy to see if some one is trying to cheat the 15 foot mark or if they make an honest mistake at 14 feet.

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