Ask AOA: Parking in Center Square

smart cars

A necessary Center Square parking accessory?

Tweeted @daveyrich yesterday: "@alloveralbany I just rented an apartment in center square. How bad is parking, really? Am I gonna need to sell my truck and get a car?"

We re-tweeted and a handful of people responded. Their thoughts -- and maybe yours -- after the jump.

From @SallyBlock: "it's not as hellish as you think. sunday nights are bad after 5pm on state, but mon/weds nights are bad for alt parking."

From @JRathman: "tell him to sell his truck and get a bike"

From @bkraus: "He needs to buy a segway otherwise he won't be cool."

From @SandorS: "Above or below Lark? Above, then fine, not much problem. Below? Get a mini cooper."

From @brianzimmel: "I rent a spot in the Lancaster garage - to me its worth the $60+ a month cost"

From @SallyBlock: "just be patient and follow the parking rules and you'll be fine"

From @ersie: "No place to park truck OR car in Center Square of ALB.. Get a bus pass and find friends who drive!"

From @SummerWilber: "Sun night definitely the worst.The Hamilton Street lot is free on nights and weekends. Plan to not move your car too often."

Anything to add? Please share.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Permit permission
+ Alternate parking grace period in Albany
+ Stuck on the bull's eye
+ How the rest of us are ticketed


I had always wondered how much the Lancaster lot cost. I had assumed it would be more.

The Hamilton street lot across from El Mariachi is free on nights and weekends, but that's really more convenient if you're expecting guests or having a party or something. I just tell people to park there rather than subjecting them to the parking "situation."
Other than that, 5-8 pm is the best time to park during the week. Saturday and Sunday nights fill up a bit earlier, so try to have a spot by 5.

It's not great. If you have very little patience (like me), rent a spot. There are many options on the fringe streets (Spring and Hamilton, due to alleys), and some lots in the middle. I spent $80 a month when I lived on Chestnut for a night spot, but it had to be gone by 9 a.m. On Hamilton there was $100 spot included in our rent, 24 hours a day.

Both investments were worth it to me and my sanity.

I've lived in 4 different apts in center square; people often comment to me that parking down here must be horrible, and site parking as a reason why they'd never live here. Personally, I almost never have a problem parking (I've had an SUV and a wagon). Yeah, sometimes I have to walk a block of two. Big deal. If you come home every night after 8 pm, then I would see a reason to complain, but otherwise, the parking issue is overrated.

@@brianzimmer (yes, that's a double @ for you): $60? That's cheap. Do you have to be out at 8 or 9AM? I used to rent on State St. for a year, back in 04, with two cars. One slept on the street, the other in a single-car garage I was renting full time behind my house on Spring St., for $125 a month. There is a huge garage on Spring St., almost at the corner of Lark and State, which also opens on Washington Av.; it was about $200+ a month for a full time spot. I'm pretty sure you had to leave your first born child as a deposit.

Craigslist always has some ads for garage spots in the Center Square/Hudson Park neighborhood. I love my garage space. It makes life a million times easier.

@myself: "There is a huge garage on Spring St., almost at the corner of Lark and State, which also opens on Washington Av.". Rrright; it would have to be one huge garage to span 3 streets. I meant Lark and *Spring*; the other entrance is near 194 Washington Av, across the armory.

Also, Segways were cool in 2003. For a month. 2003 is the new 1984; might as well buy a pogo stick.


Also, I didn't mean Segway. Those are totally _not_ cool. I meant the PUMA, because that is totally cool.

Mine also has a cappuccino machine.

If you can swing it, rent a parking spot. Even if you can't afford it, rent one anyway. That $100 a month will not only save you money in tickets (are they still $55 a pop?), but also preserve your sanity, especially on those days when you come home from work and all you want to do is go straight to bed instead of driving around looking for a spot.

I usually didn't have a problem when I was working a 9-5 job and stayed in Center Square at night.

Otherwise, there have been some situations where I've spent a lot of time looking. On top of that - Sunday nights are the worst. Especially if you have to go out and come back from work anytime after 8pm.

Since I have moved off of Lark street, I've gotten 0 tickets in Albany. It has saved me tons of money.

As a caveat, I did work nights the entire time I lived in Center Square, and it sounds like your hours will determine how you fare. Not only would I come home and find every parking spot taken, but if I did find one, it often meant having to get up at (what was, to me) an ungodly hour the next day to move my car.

@-S Technically I pay for the Lancaster Garage $62.50 a month for nights, weekends, and state holidays. It's managed by the same group that runs the garage across from the Armory. Every time I hear someone playing bumper cars trying to fit into an open spot on the street, I write out another check for the next month of parking off the street. In the winters, I love getting in my Jeep and on the road without needing any scraping or brushing of snow, though I have felt bad driving past folks digging out from 2 feet of snow. The garage even has cameras for that extra level of security. The monthly price is nothing compared to the comfort of knowing my vehicle is safe.

Urgh. I worked miserable hours when I lived in Center Square and parking was pretty rough when I'd get home late at night. Most of the time I took the bus and/or walked places & just used the car for adventures. But I think if you work regular hours it's not too bad...

@bk: wait, that is sarcasm again? You are on fire!

Well it also doesn't help that parking enforcement "officers" in Center Square are particularly douchey. We've gotten a ton of tickets but the church parishioners who come to CS from other neighborhoods park as illegally as they want; in front of hydrants, on sidewalks, in no standing zones...and I've never seen a single one of them get a ticket.

I hear that you can get some special sticker to place on your car that makes parking a breeze no matter where you are in Albany. Just ask any of the local cops or politicians for one.

Ah, how far away winter feels on this beautiful day. But when it is the end of February and the streets are getting narrower and narrower from the every-encroaching snowbanks and you start losing your side mirrors? You're gonna want a garage. Not to mention the total douchbaggery of the cops during alternate side parking. Pay for a spot, its the only civilized way to live.

I used to live across the street from the Lancaster garage. The garage is worth it for a truck unless you're OK with parking as far as the park now and then.

Can somebody please tell me where Center Square is? I know it's near downtown, but where, exactly?

I second Lola's comment, but I worked some weird hours when I lived in CS, so there would be times when I'd be hoping that I got back before 8:30 a.m. after a night shift since there ain't nuttin' to be found between then and 11-ish on weekdays for parking. That's one of the reasons I moved, actually; avoiding the parking nazis/always worrying about where I parked the car/schlepping several blocks back to my apartment on icy sidewalks with heavy bags of groceries got a little old after a while. And the ever-increasing rent didn't help.

This article is scarily timely! I just rented an apartment on Jay. I've found that parking hasn't been too hard to find in the afternoon, but it's definitely good to know about that lot just in case.

Center Square is between Willett & Swan and Madison & Washington. More or less.

the parking is awful if you aren't home before 9. it's made even more awful by the sticky sap that drips from most of the trees they brilliantly planted along some of the sidewalks. parking was one of the big reasons i recently moved out of center square.

You just need a VIP Sticker. ;)

In their defense, many of those trees were planted before the rise of widespread car ownership.

I like the trees; they're pretty. What I DON'T like are the broken side-view mirrors and scraped side panels from other idiot drivers.

Wow, I just took a step back and realized we may be making Center Square seem terrible. It really is a wonderful place- I don't want to live anywhere else. The parking situation is just...bleh.

Summer said: "Wow, I just took a step back and realized we may be making Center Square seem terrible. It really is a wonderful place- I don't want to live anywhere else. The parking situation is just...bleh."

Turning things in a different direction: How could parking be made easier in Center Square?

@Greg: I don't think there is a unique obvious solution, but maybe a long list of small solutions, many of them you can find online. I would love to say: hey, provide better public transportation and people will get rid of their cars, thus reducing parking demand, but I don't see it quite happening. So instead of decreasing car density you probably would have to increase or optimize parking density first; convert some traffic lanes to parking lanes (though I think Center Square maxed out on this one); convert a few large-enough streets from parallel to angled parking; subsidize parking facilities to move people off the street to (cheaper) under-utilized parking lots (with car stackers even). And of course: tandem Segways.

I grew up in Center Square (we moved about 6 years ago, but I work down there now) and though parking was kind of a pain, it was never a a huge problem. You just have to have patience and be willing to walk a little if you have to. It's not idea, but whatever. I work on Lark now, and I find a spot within two blocks of work every day.

Technically, I'm not in "Center Square," but "Washington Park," but I'm close enough for it to count. However, I note, being west of Willett St. on State definitely alleviates problems that others have. For example, this Sunday after 8pm thing? I don't even know what the problem is! I've never been affected by that.

Living across from the park is particularly great, because if you work a "traditional" M-F job that you have to drive to, parking in the park is almost always an option for nights/weekends. I don't (I would say "unfortunately," but having a ten minute "commute" on foot is really fabulous), and therefore Monday and Wednesday nights are a challenge.

So, my advice to the OP is, "it depends on where you live." I would agree that if he's west of Lark he should be fine.

@irisira: I dunno. I have a friend who lives at State and Henry Johnson, and parking is always a nightmare for him too. He stays parked as often as possible and rides his bike everywhere.

I've lived in this neighborhood for 14 years, and over those years, I've lived without a car, with a car, and with parking. Most people have noted that the parking problems are bad in the evening. And they are, but I avoided that by not driving at night until I rented a parking spot. During the day they are also bad - which is a problem for for the many people in the 'hood who at home during the day. It bothers me more because I am not competing with neighbors or local business patrons, but state workers who refuse to pay for parking (Note to state workers: Stalking people coming out of their homes for parking is NOT OKAY). The solution to that is planning your trips so you return when the parking restrictions expire. And you realize how nice those regs are despite the douchey parking police.

I think part of the solution is permit parking, but the only way you will have no parking problems in center square is to get rid of your vehicle.

And technically what people call Center Square is a mix of three neighborhoods: Center Square (spring to Jay), Hudson/Park (hudson to park) and washington park. Each had its own neighborhood association.

"Stalking people coming out of their homes for parking is NOT OKAY" -biodiva

You said it. I am fortunate enough to have a parking spot. I wouldn't have moved downtown without one. If I leave to run an errand on a busy day and come back 10 minutes later to find someone illegally parked in my spot, they're getting towed.

I wonder if we could get a car sharing service like zipcar. That might make it easier for more people to get rid of their cars.

Walk. I don't understand why people must park their cars right in front of their house in the city. Park up a few blocks, and just take a bus up there, if god didn't give you two feet. If you want to drive everywhere, then move out to the 'burbs. Maybe Guilderland?

@biodiva re: stalking. AGREED. I mostly walk to work, but if I'm taking my car that day I'll purposely walk by it to lose the stalkers and then run back to it. Silly and childish? Probably, but I really don't appreciate being followed or yelled at when I walk out of my house.

Then again, I believe Center Square is the best place to live, and you've got to take the good with the bad.

@Just another suburbanite
I don't think anyone's really complaining about parking a few blocks from their's when you have to park all the way in the next neighborhood that it's a problem. Also, buses stop at a certain hour. I don't really think it's a great idea to trek miles from your car to your apartment by yourself in the middle of the night -- anywhere.

@Summer - Really? I guess it depends on when you move your car, and, for that matter, what your definition of "nightmare" is.

After 8pm or so on Mondays and Wednesdays REALLY sucks, but I really haven't had a huge problem at any other time (later evening on Sunday/Tuesday/Thursday, occasionally, though that's rarely an issue for me, anyway). If it's the weekend and I don't find something close by right away, I just park in the park.

There are tricks, too - certain areas that aren't as far a walk as you may initially think (not any further than, say, parking over by Hudson St.), that usually I have luck on when all other spots are gone. I can't say I've really suffered that much. Though, I say this as we're coming into Park Playhouse season, which is by far the worst.

Is the title image from that dealership on the north side of route 7 between Schenectady and Latham?

@intrinsic: Yep, Keeler's Smart Car dealership on Route 7. The pic is from last year. We were driving by and noticed the dealership had opened.

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