NYC Unwritten Rule: You Dig Out A Parking Spot, It’s Yours

But Some Say If It's Not Official Law All Bets Are Off

NEW YORK (CBS 2/1010 WINS) — Nearly 20 inches of snow fell in parts of the Tri-State Thursday. Mayor Michael Bloomberg promised that all New York City streets would be plowed by Friday. How are they doing?

In Queens Village, a city sanitation hybrid salt and plow truck navigated a tight residential street. The problem: with this much snow on the ground, even a thorough pass will not yield blacktop. The result has driver after driver spinning their wheels, with their vehicles stuck in the snow.

Useful Links: Forecast | Closings & Delays | Traffic & Transit LISTEN LIVE: 1010 WINS | WCBS 880

“Now I’m stuck, stuck. I’m like, I don’t know what to do now. Guess I should’ve stayed home,” resident Claudette said.

“I’ve been trying to call 3-1-1 maybe since last night. I never got a response. Everyone in the City’s been stuck. I think they really need to do something about this,” one man said.

At one point, CBS 2’s Jay Dow spotted a garbage truck outfitted with a plow. The driver told him he was assigned to clear bus stops and that his large plow apparatus was not designed to clear those residential streets.

“These are wings. I’m going to pile a whole bunch of snow. It does not turn to the side where I can push it to the side. See I have wings on. They need to come off,” said plow truck driver Luis.

1010 WINS’ Terry Sheridan with the unwritten rule of the city 

On-street parking is at a premium in Pelham Bay with mounds of snow eating up spaces and most cars still buried. Most residents abide by the unwritten rule of the city – don’t take a spot that a neighbor cleared out.

“People around here are all friendly they know you live around here and that’s your spot constantly,” one man told 1010 WINS’ Terry Sheridan. “Why put up a fight for a spot?”

Still, some people, though they are digging, said they’re not moving.

“I’m not going to move the car cause I would never find parking again,” one woman said.

That led CBS 2’s John Slattery to investigate and he learned violating this unwritten rule can sometimes lead to unpleasant encounters.

Anyone who has done it can tell you, digging out a car is a heavy investment of time and sweat equity. Then, when they drive off, some people will try to hold the parking spot by pulling out garbage cans, or cones, or even with chairs.

“In a way you can’t blame ‘em. They shovel it and when they get home they want a spot. You can’t blame them. Personally, I don’t do that,” resident Frank Morrone said.

But plenty of people do, in all of the outer boroughs where street parking is a prized possession.

“You put two garbage cans out in front of your house and you hope for the best. You hope nobody moves them,” resident Mike Lauri said.

For generations, many residents have honored the markers. But some do not.

“There are people who don’t and that’s where you get problem. Cops come. I’ve seen it. It’s not nice, you know,” Lauri said, adding when pressed about his seriousness, “over a parking spot.”

“I haven’t seen any physical disputes. They gripe over it. Not friendly. Neighbors no more, you know,” Ron Bleimeyer said.

Some residents look upon the parking spot in front of their home as an extension of their own property.

“It’s not their space. It’s not their spot. Just ‘cause you shovel it doesn’t mean it’s theirs. But people lay claim to it for their own. It’s been done as long as I know,” said John Wohlfahrd.

Can you legally hold a parking spot you cleared? Of course not, but it’s a local custom that many residents honor and support.

On top of that battle, storm-weary residents across our region are facing the fact that when it comes to cleaning up the snow, it has to go somewhere. Neighborhoods across our region are simply running out of room.

“I think it’s ridiculous. It’s really ridiculous. All the plows push it into everybody’s cars, and we all got to dig it out,” said Joe Leone of Staten Island.

Matthew LiPani, spokesman for the Department of Sanitation, told the Staten Island Advance that they will start transporting the snow to melters which are positioned above city sewer connections. He said the city used to dump snow in large bodies of water but due to environmental reasons the practice was ended.

LiPani said residents should not throw snow into the street, instead they should pile the snow in their front yards or on the sidewalk near the curb.

ALSO: Why Is The Big Apple Seeing So Much Snow?

The Department of Environmental Protection said it will allow some New Jersey towns and counties to dump snow in rivers on a case by case basis, The Record reported.

Municipal road crews from the suburbs to New York City seemed to be on top of this storm, clearing first the major roads and highways, and then the side streets Thursday. “The streets are definitely clearer. The last one was a disaster as we all know,” said Abigale Leone of Staten Island.

Armed with three dozen industrial sized snow melters and a healthy dose of embarrassment from last month’s bungled blizzard response, Mayor Bloomberg proudly declared Thursday that all primary streets and highways had received at least one plow pass.

“We learned. We asked the question of what didn’t work last time and whether there’s anything we could do differently. And we did have a lot of things different in terms of lining up private contractors. We have more communications as you know,” Bloomberg said.

Snap a few pictures? Send your storm photos to

SEE: Photos from This Storm

You ever dig out your car only to have someone steal your spot? If so, let us know about it in the comments section blow.

  • digyoursnow

    Don’t blame people for putting trash cans in the parking spot they dug out when other people are so lazy they don’t even take the time to dig out their cars, imagine if everyone dug out their cars and cleaned up the parking spot you wouldn’t have people putting trash cans on the spot now would you? Its logical but if you want to complain about people who worked for two hours cleaning up a parking spot and you want to park you car there go ahead just dont get mad when it gets flagged and you get a nice broken window or keyed in the near future!!!

  • paula

    Unwritten rule? what part of NY are they talking about? I’ve lived in a few places in Queens, and , as far as I knew, NOONE Owns the street. My bf and I have dug out both our cars multiple times this winter. Everytime we get home from work, somebody takes the spot.
    It’s backbreaking work cleaning the snow, but even I’m not selfish enough to think that just because I dug it out means that spot is mine. Come on and Get real! I’m only in my 20s and I know better then these whiners!

    I do have a few complaints though:
    1. If i dug the spot out, why do people with their driveways move their cars from the driveways to park in a spot where I just pulled out from? You pay extra in taxes to have a drive way, why not use it!?!! And If you dont want your drive way, I’ll gladly rent yours!

    2. Like I said, I live in Queens. Anyone else notice that hours after a snow storm, Manhattan looks clean like they never saw a storm?
    I’m alittle annoyed that Manhattan is getting better treatment with snow cleanup then the rest of us. And considering Queens is the largest boro (area wise), and Brooklyn is the most populated….and it’s most of us busting our tails to shovel our sidewalks before we get tickets, dig out our cars, and haul ourselves to go to work and help keep whats left of this economy afloat, you would think the mayor and other officials would take notice and maybe put in place a snow removal program that works!

    I pay city taxes, why is my street not halfway clean??? We are still rolling on 4 inches of ice since the storm after christmas!! I thought the City meant Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten island, and Manhattan, because if not, then I want some of my taxes back and let those Manhattanites pick up a shovel for a change. It seems like “the city” only means Manhattan.

    Guess what mayor?
    I don’t care if broadway is up for business because if you don’t plow my block after a storm, then I cannot get there. And if they ever plow my block, I rather go to work and earn a living. Snow days shouldn’t be break days or days off. Sure, 12+ inches of snow, city should close down for a day so that sanitation can work on fixing the streets. But don’t talk on the news about “well since you have a day off from work because of the snow, you should go to broadway and catch a show…” Are you out of your mind???

    Bottom line, you dig out a spot, you dont own it. I dont care that it is in front of your property. If the street cracked in half and swallowed your car, you’d look to sue the city…But yet you somehow ‘own’ the spot??? Then you pay for it!

    And shame on you people for thinking you can hold it with garage cans and cones. Who do you think you are? You are not special. I’m going to park in a PUBLIC street. I
    ll leave the garage cans on yoru front door. HAVE A NICE DAY! and BTW, LORD help you if you touch …no better yet, Don’t even look aqt mycar, or think of damaging my car… Because that IS my property… I own it , I paid taxes for it.
    See the difference …. Car… is owned…. because I pay for it…..City Street… you don’t pay for ownership… it’s not your to save.

    Grow up people.

    • Humphrey

      Paula, I agree with you totally. How the city allows this to happen, it’s anyone’s guess.

      I commend you for your comments.

  • 3rdGenBklynite

    born, raised and lived in wiliiamsburg for 49 yrs. You shoveled a parking spot and moved your car….you lost the spot. that’s the way it was and still is.

  • Bonzo

    I understand that the spot you clear does not belong to you. The problem is that some lazy idiots will not clear an entire parking spot but just enough to get their vehicle out. They do this knowing that when they come home they will park where somebody has put in the time and effort to clean an entire spot.

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