I never noticed the fine print that appears on many of the “No Parking” signs (all?) posted by film studios, but the brightly colored laminated posters themselves had been decorating my neighborhood with an increasing frequency as shows like Girls and Steven Soderbergh’s The Knick found homes on the north side of Greenpoint.
All I saw when I viewed the signs was the “No Parking” in huge, bold, black letters taking up its own line, followed by “Towed,” almost as large, bold, and underlined, as well. They scared me enough to completely ignore what followed “Towed,” which was, “to the nearest legal spot if not moved by” X day and date.
On the way back from a morning run a few months ago, out of habit, I peaked down Java Street to the spot where I had last parked my car just to make sure it was still there. Only, I was surprised to find that it wasn’t. A film production company, Cine Magic Riverfront Studios (the one that produces The Knick), had recently moved to Java, and their frequent shooting schedule was becoming a real threat to my fail-safe parking haven.
As I made my way down the block and got a hold of one of the signs, I saw the writing clear as day, but I still couldn’t fathom how it would all play out. Would I have to pay a huge fine to collect my car? Would there be some kind of device on it preventing me from driving it? How would I know where it was? Would I have to just walk around the neighborhood blindly until I found it?
As a mass of people filed into the studio’s office that morning to start their work day, wearing button-downs and desert boots, I sauntered in on their heels sweaty from my run, and dressed in short-shorts (over leggings) and a pink and purple fanny pack around my waist, demanding to know where exactly my car had gone.
It was true: the procedure was nothing like when the city tows your car, where, for a hefty sum of money, you get to pick it up at the pound; then spend the next three months trying — unsuccessfully — to wash the white, waxy numbers they use to ID your car off your windshield, as if you were some kind of vehicular Hester Prynne. I didn’t owe anyone hundreds of dollars to retrieve it either.
After consulting a list of all the cars that had been towed, I was given the address of where to find mine just a few blocks away. The guy helping me was even nice enough to look it up on his iPhone, sharing the exact cross streets with me. When I reached it, I was welcomed by a huge neon yellow sticker that had been slapped right smack in the middle of my windshield. It demanded in all caps that traffic enforcement engagements, police officers, and other summons issuers “do not summons or tow within 48 hours from date of relocation.” So, essentially, they not only move your car to a legal parking space for you, but they give you a two-day get-out-of-jail-free card, to boot.
In reality, it wasn’t quite as easy as that. Despite my glowing neon hall pass, there was a ticket waiting for me anyway, issued a few minutes before I arrived on the scene. But I was able to dispute it online, and I won without much effort. It was pretty painless. Next time I don’t have time to move my car, I think I know just where to park it.