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New Yorkers Want Normalcy? Fine. Go Move Your Cars.

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In the pandemic, drivers got a two-month reprieve from moving their cars for street sweepers.Now the city has decided to clean things up.

By Corey Kilgannon

As the coronavirus lockdown kept John Thomas holed up in his Manhattan apartment for weeks on end, fearful to go out even to shop, there was one silver lining that made him especially happy: He could leave his Subaru parked on the street without having to move it for the usual morning street cleaning.

That changed on Monday.

For the first time in more than two months, alternate-side parking rules went into effect in New York City, forcing Mr.Thomas, a 70-year-old painter, to interrupt his self-quarantine and again partake in a roundly reviled ritual of life in the five boroughs.

He and other anxious New Yorkers who had left their cars on public streets for weeks donned face coverings and gloves and ventured out of their homes to start their dusty cars and abide by the restrictions, which prohibit parking on the side of the street scheduled for sweeping .

There was some predictable grumbling that requiring drivers to move their cars during a pandemic seemed to contradict stay-at-home orders.

“It's been a pleasure not having to move the car, especially because I'm staying inside these days to avoid the virus,” said Mr.Thomas, who started his Subaru on West 108th Street in Manhattan, giving up his precious curbside parking spot to make way for the street sweeper.

But along with the resumed drudgery, drivers like Mr.Thomas also acknowledged that the task did pose a hopeful sign that, with the virus showing signs of retreat, the city was inching back to normalcy, even as stores, restaurants and other parts of metropolitan life remain shut down.

“It's tough for older people like myself to have to come out and do it,” he said, “but I have to admit, it is kind of reassuring in the sense that you realize some things in the city are going to continue.”

Another driver on West 108th Street put it more bluntly.

“It's a sign we're coming back, abso-freaking-lutely,” said Mark Pine, a maker of sailing apparel, as he sat in his car with his usual coffee and cigarette while double parked on the downtown side of the street so that the uptown side could be swept.

The reinstatement is a brief one.After Sunday, the city will suspend alternate side parking again for at least two more weeks.The city's Department of Sanitation will then assess when to schedule the next street cleaning.

The regulations, which make for a musical chairs-type dance to secure free spots in dense parts of the city where parking is a premium, had been suspended since mid-March - one of their longest hiatuses ever - as part of the coronavirus lockdown.

Another driver nearby, Steve Bate, 61, had moved his Subaru Outback.

"It's one shred of normalcy that has come back," he said."Of course, it's the one shred of normalcy we'd rather do without.But annoying as it is, it's also a reminder of how life used to be."

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