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I live about an hour outside the city, and I frequently take the train in on my days off from work. Occasionally, however, I drive, and as much as it humiliates me to admit this, I'm still somewhat confused by all the "no parking" signs and rules. I know about driveways and fire hydrants and all that, but occasionally I'll see a "no parking" sign with cars parked all around it. Or I'll get all befuddled by that whole "alternate side" thing. Sometimes I'll park in a line of cars where there is no visible no-parking sign only to return and find my car towed. I've tried to search online for information on NY parking laws in general, and came up empty-handed. Forgive me for being an embarrassment to quasi-New Yorkers but I figured I can't be the only one who's less than clear on this.
-Ally

Gothamist thinks parking in New York City should be considered an Olympic sport. It is a skill that is only honed after years of practice. Just as athletes endure sprains and broken bones, the NYC motorist suffers from tickets and broken windows.

Without being in front of your specific potential parking spot and assessing the situation, we can't give you detailed advice on every parking dilemma in the city. Of course, we can offer some general guidelines. According to the New York City Insider, "Parking tickets are a key source of revenue for New York City. Last year, the city raised millions of dollars by putting those annoying slips of paper under windshield wipers. The Department of Transportation is constantly looking for opportunities to add to this revenue source, so if you double park, ignore the parking signs, or block a bus stop, fire hydrant, or intersection, there is a good chance you will get a ticket."
New York City Traffic Rules state that one sign per block is sufficient, and suggest that you check the entire block and read all signs carefully before you park. Even though there may be cars parked in front or behind of where you're about to parallel park, make sure you're not parking at a bus stop or fire hydrant. You can't park within 15 feet of a hydrant, either. Sometimes you can barely make out the faded yellow paint applied 10 years ago to the curb which means you can't park there. Parking kibitzing is a favorite spectactor sport in some neighborhoods, so don't be afraid to ask that old guy sitting on the stoop if it's ok to park where you're about to leave your car. Check out the DOT's "Things to Remember" web page for more parking tips.

Alternate side parking occurs because of street cleaning. Cars on one side of the street have to move so that sweepers can clean the streets. Signs should clearly indicate the hours of street cleaning, which vary by neighborhood. Although the city might not officially tell you this, everyone knows that people just double-park their cars on the other side of the street during street cleaning. See the DOT webpage for dates when alternate side parking is suspended for holidays.

If you really think you've gotten a ticket in error, fight it by contesting the ticket. If you're piling up too many tickets due to carelessness, consider taking the train more often or shelling out the cash to park in a garage.