The Parking-Spot Whisperer

Photo: Lauren Klain Carton

On November 13, when 36,000 parking spaces citywide become free again on Sundays, one man, Erik Feder, will see it as a sign that the tide is beginning to turn in his war against the dark forces of Mayor Bloomberg’s increasingly aggressive traffic cops. The 40-year-old Long Islander has, over the past four years, surveyed and logged the parking regulations on each and every of Manhattan’s 4,859 blocks below 124th Street. He’s even written The Feder Guide to Where to Park Your Car in Manhattan (and Where Not to Park It!). His writing is quasi-messianic in tone.

“I want to help the little guy,” Feder explains. He remembers with excruciating detail the day, ten years ago, when he was ticketed, towed, and impounded for $215—and had to resort to begging for bus fare at the Port Authority to get back home. The rule was no parking until 7 p.m.; he says he parked at 7:05, and the ticket had 7:09 written on it, which is how he beat the city in the end. “It hurts when you get towed or ticketed. It hurts for a long time.”

On a recent Friday, he reinspected the signs along Madison from 60th to 108th Streets, triple-checking for any new changes. His silver Hyundai Accent, with its cracked windshield, sputtered along, bottled water jostling around behind the front seats. He does this 60 hours a week.

He knows that Diwali, a Hindu festival, recently earned the privilege of relaxed parking regulations. When he was on local radio, he knew that the D.J. could have saved himself $56 on a garage by going to one two blocks away that charged only $9. He exhales stats. And he has disciples: 500 or so subscribers to Parkazine, his free e-mail newsletter. “The more people have access to good information, the less they’ll get ticketed and the less money the city will be making,” he says with pride.

His obsession is abetted by his wife, Manuela, who earned a master’s in marketing (these days, the couple lives off Manuela’s wages) with a thesis that was simultaneously a promotional strategy for Feder’s project and a plan for world domination: “It’s quite possible to go national with this in other cities that are parking-challenged. Or international.” But right now he’s happy helping New Yorkers. “People say, ‘Thank you. I’ve been wishing for this for a long time.’ ”

A Parking Nut’s Tips
Reserve a place with a garage ahead of time by calling or using its Website. This can save you more than 50 percent.

Read the signs carefully. Example: Many meters say 1 HOUR PARKING 10 A.M.–4 P.M. But under that, it may also say NO PARKING 4 P.M.–7 P.M.—it’ll be a ticket if you’re there past 4 p.m. Likewise, many people will pass up good spots because they don’t pay attention to the signs. NO PARKING EXCEPT COMMERCIAL VEHICLES LOADING AND UNLOADING, 3 HOUR LIMIT (M–F) 10 A.M.–7 P.M. means free parking after seven at night, even during the week.

Some streets are full of eligible spaces: Greenwich Street and many of the cross streets between Greenwich and Hudson; Thompson and Sullivan near Washington Square Park; assorted streets near the Williamsburg Bridge; and streets like Cherry, Monroe, and Water on Manhattan’s southern tip.

The Parking-Spot Whisperer