How to Determine if a Driveway is Legal

Summary & Quick Facts

  • Illegal driveways can cause issues in city neighborhoods.
  • They take away legal parking spaces and negatively impact the appearance of the neighborhood.
  • Parking in front of an illegal driveway in NYC can result in a $95 parking ticket.
  • A new city bill aims to require NYPD officers to verify the legality of a driveway before issuing tickets.

The Harm Caused by Illegal Driveways

Finding parking in the city seems to be increasingly challenging, especially in boroughs with higher car ownership rates. It’s no surprise that drivers in these areas get frustrated when they come across an illegal driveway. And they have every right to be upset. Illegal driveways not only occupy valuable space but also pose serious dangers to bikers and pedestrians. Unfortunately, many drivers receive parking tickets for unknowingly parking in front of an illegal driveway, adding to the existing tension around the scarcity of parking spots. It is crucial for both homeowners and drivers to familiarize themselves with illegal driveways, as they ultimately burden all drivers and neighborhoods in the city.

What Constitutes an Illegal Driveway?

As the name suggests, an illegal driveway is one that homeowners install without the necessary city permits and permissions. Some homeowners opt to create these driveways by cutting the curb themselves or painting it yellow. More audacious creators even drive over short curbs onto newly paved lawns. Illegal curb cuts are most commonly found in the boroughs and neighborhoods outside of Manhattan, where car ownership is higher. Instead of searching for street parking daily, these drivers choose to take matters into their own hands and sacrifice their lawns to create their personal driveways.

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The Implications of Illegal Driveways

Curb cutting involves homeowners illegally modifying the curbs in front of their houses to create makeshift driveways. This practice severely limits parking options for the rest of the community, leaving drivers to endlessly circle the streets in search of available spaces. Furthermore, multiple curb cuts and paved-over lawns can noticeably detract from a neighborhood’s aesthetic appeal. Cars occupying space on lawns or sidewalks can appear unsightly and disrupt the natural drainage of the area. By increasing non-porous concrete surfaces and reducing the grass that helps manage storm runoff, illegal driveways may contribute to street flooding.

Illegal driveways also have social ramifications within our communities. These driveways often lead to confrontations between frustrated owners and drivers who legally park and, inadvertently, block the illegal driveways. Some incidents have escalated to the point where security cameras capture driveway owners slashing the tires of cars blocking their way. While not all drivers resort to such extreme measures, driveway owners often retaliate by involving the police.

Adverse Effects on Law-Abiding Drivers

Unfortunately, the police sometimes unwittingly protect illegal driveways. Why is that? Without access to the Department of Buildings (DoB) records, officers cannot definitively determine the legality of a driveway. Consequently, there have been numerous cases where motorists park in front of illegal driveways only to discover a ticket on their windshield. Blocking a driveway can be a costly mistake, with tickets amounting to up to $95, and the risk of having your car towed in New York City’s tow-away zones. At present, unsuspecting drivers have limited recourse if a disgruntled homeowner with an illegal driveway contacts the police. However, a local City Council member seeks to prevent people from receiving tickets for parking in front of unlawful driveways.

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The City’s Effort to Combat Illegal Driveways

In response to community concerns, NYC is taking measures to crack down on this detrimental practice. Councilman Robert Holden of Queens’ 30th district introduced a bill in May to require NYPD officers to verify the legality of driveways and curb cuts before issuing parking tickets. Holden emphasizes the need for a system that enables officers to check the status of a driveway on the spot. This likely involves accessing an online portal via mobile phones or police computers. If the system is implemented, and an officer finds a car parked in front of an illegal driveway, the car will not receive a ticket.

Identifying an Illegal Driveway

Currently, the city can only address illegal driveways through a complaint to the Department of Buildings (DoB) or if an officer witnesses a vehicle driving over the curb to park in front of a stoop or front door. However, appearances can be deceiving, and not all driveways are what they seem. If you receive a ticket for parking in a driveway that you believe to be illegal, you can check the city’s official website for permit information at Garrity Traina. Additionally, you have the option to report an illegal driveway using the Illegal Driveway Complaint Form.

Are illegal driveways causing issues in your neighborhood? Share your thoughts in the comments below.