Illegal Streets: Off the Map, Not Off the Grid

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(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation)  In his press conference yesterday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was asked a question about how long it would take the city to plow every street. His response generated some curiosity.

"I don't know that you ever get everything plowed, because there are always streets that---there are streets that aren't even mapped on the map, there are illegal streets."

We called the Mayor's office for clarification of the term "illegal streets;" we've received no response yet. In the meantime, we turned to the The New York City Department of Transportation, which avoided the word "illegal" and said that there are two criteria: streets that are mapped, and streets that aren't.

The City doesn't own all the streets it turns out. According to Montgomery Dean, a DOT spokesperson, streets not titled to the city are classified as unmapped. The City doesn't maintain (pave, plow, or impose/enforce alternate side parking rules) them. These would also be known as "private streets."

Each borough president's office maintains a topographical unit, so we began calling around. Staten Island leads the list, with 638 private streets. A spokesperson for Brooklyn borough president's office said that Brooklyn has about 100. The Bronx has far fewer; while a spokesperson couldn't given an exact amount, she said there were "not many." The Manhattan borough president's office said that they had never heard the term "illegal streets."

So who maintains these streets? The residents, many of whom are happy to foot maintenance bills in order to keep parking there—residents can require permit parking only. A New York Daily News article quotes one Brooklyn resident as saying "it's like having your own garage." Of course, there can be a flip side: a Brooklyn Eagle article describes a dozen residents of one Bay Ridge block who lost heat and hot water in January after a pipe burst--and had to come up with $10,000 for repairs.

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