Cities are living breathing spaces, with all manner of vehicles in nearly perpetual motion. So what happens when a city with limited vacant real estate is suddenly put ‘on pause’, and all those vehicles have to be stored somewhere? For New York City, this has meant a fair bit of improvisation and relaxation of strictly enforced parking rules. We recently went out to document in photographs the impact on taxis, for-hire vehicles, buses, and MTA buses and subway cars.
The taxi industry is perhaps the most dramatic example of what happens when fleet owners suddenly need to find space for hundreds of vehicles for which there were few provisions to actually park them anywhere. Yellow cab fleet owners often own or rely on repair shops to maintain their cars while the rest are kept on the road nearly 24 hours per day. Rarely do they have enough space to park every car. Above we see one such lot in Long Island City. On a normal weekday it would be closer to empty.
To deal with this lack of parking space, at least one car wash (above) in Sunnyside has been repurposed and packed bumper to bumper with cabs.
One of the most dramatic scenes we came across was in a quiet industrial corner of Long Island City, where an app based car hire service has tucked over a hundred cars into a small lot formerly used as a ready mix plant.
The relaxation of alternate side parking rules has yielded some much needed long term space as well, with a fleet of for-hire cars that normally serve Uber, Lyft and other companies stored under the Gowanus Expressway. Normally cars stored here would accumulate tickets every week. Instead, they are accumulating an ever-thickening layer of dust.
School bus fleets have also been hit by a need for more storage. One company has taken over a parking lot at ‘The Getty’ – a former oil transfer station where many New York City based television shows have filmed scenes (Mr. Robot, Luke Cage, etc.).
Last but not least is the MTA. The MTA is actually one of the largest real estate owners in New York City. Much of that real estate is devoted to the storage and maintenance of its vehicles. The Grand Avenue bus depot in Maspeth is another example of a facility designed to store most, but not all of the buses assigned to it. With a drastic decrease in service as a result of coronavirus, the result has been buses overflowing the building, stored on the sidewalk outside.
Subway yards are similarly filled to the brim. Corona Yard, home to the 7 train, was jam packed full of trains on a recent weekday morning. Under normal operating conditions at the same time, it would be nearly empty.
These are but a few examples of this by-product of COVID-19’s affect on New York City. This level of improvisation has helped keep our streets a bit more de-cluttered given the circumstances, but sets a striking visual reminder of the unprecedented situation the city faces at the moment.