Bay Ridge drivers looking for parking on Third Avenue have some serious competition—from private valet services run by local restaurants that use plastic signs to reserve public, on-street parking.
“It’s not only illegal, it’s totally obnoxious,” said City Councilman Justin Brannan, who lives in Bay Ridge. “When parking is at such a premium, and you see the restaurant around the corner is reserving 10 parking spots… people get rightfully frustrated and start resenting the businesses.”
Parking issues are nothing new in Bay Ridge, where over 62 percent of households have at least one car, per the U.S. Census.
“A lot of these businesses rely on valet services, or they say they do,” said Brannan. “They say they can’t exist without the valet.”
Brooklyn Community Board 10 has recently expressed its concern over the uptick in illegal parking complaints in its 2020 Statement of District Needs. There has been a 135 percent increase in blocked driveway complaints, a 461 percent increase in illegal parking complaints, and a 3604 percent increase in traffic complaints reported to 311 within the district from 2013 to 2017. The Board suggested stronger traffic enforcement around congested areas.
Valets are not permitted to block off parking spaces on public streets or to double-park vehicles for any period of time according to Department of Transportation regulations. (The DOT did not respond to requests for comment.)
But there is no law that prevents valet services from having their drivers park vehicles in available, legal spots.
“They park anywhere they want,” said Gary McCarthy, a long-time resident of Bay Ridge. “I see that all the time.” McCarthy lives just off of Third Avenue, around the corner from a number of restaurants that offer valet services.
Two of the restaurants that offer valet parking, Baci and Sofia, both say they have private lots for their valet services. When Baci’s 12-car lot is full, the valets “park around the area, wherever [they] can find a spot,” explained Sal Finazzo, owner of Baci.
All of the restaurants that offer valet hire through an independent contract with third-party companies. The valet company contracted with Sofia says the protocol, if there are no spots immediately available, is to double-park cars until a spot opens up, according to a representative of the company who answered the phone but declined to give their name.
On a recent Friday evening, a reporter watched valets for Sofia keep a car double-parked across from the restaurant for approximately 30 minutes. Sofia declined to comment on the actions of its valet service.
Cebu, another popular restaurant along Third Avenue, relies solely on public street parking to accommodate its all-week valet service, according to a manager, who would only give his name as Abdel.
“I have seen restaurants take up spots,” said Lorraine Dazzo, who works on Third Avenue. “Obviously they shouldn’t be taking up those spots, especially if it’s illegal.”
Third Avenue has recently been the focus of a collective effort to support local businesses. While some residents have expressed interest in establishing a Business Improvement District (BID) around Third Avenue, they are hesitant to worsen their already poor parking situation. Earlier this year, city officials received pushback from Bay Ridge residents on installation of bike lanes near Owl’s Head Park because residents feared losing their parking spaces.
Last year, Brannan secured funding to explore a BID for a portion of the popular road. The $36,000 city grant, given to Merchants of Third Avenue, provides increased sanitation, promotion, and safety services through the new BID to help the area compete with other popular shopping districts in South Brooklyn.
Merchants of Third Avenue did not respond to a request for comment.
“It’s about being a good neighbor,” Brannan said. “Saving 10 parking spots, you’re not being a good neighbor.”