Free Parking Bill Is Meter Made By MICHAEL O. ALLEN, Daily News Staff Writer

December 6, 1996

The City Council wants to give you something for nothing: 10 free minutes at parking meters everywhere except midtown Manhattan.

But there’s a catch. As the city giveth, it taketh away: A quarter in that same meter would then get you only 20 minutes more.

The free meter plan was introduced yesterday by Bronx Councilman Michael DeMarco as a way to ease motorists’ pain when they stop to make a fast phone call or grab a cup of coffee.

Instead of double-parking, drivers could pull into a legal space without fishing for change to feed the meter.

“All they have to do is flip the meter and get 10 minutes,” DeMarco said.

But for somebody who wants to stick around longer, pumping in a quarter will push the meter up only an additional 20 minutes — 10 minutes less than what a quarter usually gets.

If you put a quarter in without flipping, you’ll still get 30 minutes.

Still, business leaders and drivers said they’ll take what they can get.

“The impact on business will be favorable,” said John Dell’Olio, president of the Westchester Square Merchants Association in the Bronx. “The meter will not be an enemy to the motorists.”

“Motorists shouldn’t have to pay just to run in to get a cup of coffee or pick up their dry cleaning,” agreed Marta Genovese of the New York chapter of the American Automobile Associaton.

Randy Barretto of Brooklyn said he could have used the plan yesterday, as he stopped in lower Manhattan to make a quick phone call.

He waved to an approaching police officer, miming that he was moments away from moving his car.

“I’m an outside salesman,” Barretto said. “I constantly have to stop and make quick phone calls, and I’m always pleading with police officers and meter maids not to give me tickets.”

This time, he was successful.

Typical of the city, the meter plan actually is geared toward making money.

DeMarco said it has been so successful in Yonkers and other municipalities that it has increased parking revenues 25%.

But Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro said it’s an interesting idea whose time may have passed.

In three years, the city will have phased out its mechanical meters, switching to electronic devices. You won’t be able to flip for the free 10 on them.

“Technology is changing so quickly it may be impossible to go this route, even if everyone agrees,” Mastro said.

About 20% of the city’s 68,000 meters are already electronic, he added.

Meanwhile, Staten Island Councilman Jerome O’Donovan wants to give freebies to commuters from his borough. In a new bill, he called for free ferry fares for passengers transferring from a bus or subway.

It will be up to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the city to approve free transfers.

The MTA will have free transfers between buses and subways, starting in July.

Original Story Date: 120696