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

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.

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"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.

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