New York City Kids Stay Home, Cars Stay Put

Correction: A friend correctly points out that alternate side was suspended because of a “lesser-known” Jewish holiday, not due to an obscure civic holiday. Juan regrets the error.

Although I don’t own a car, I almost always catch wind of whether “alternate side” is suspended for the day. For those unfamiliar with the intricacies of New York City on-street parking, “alternate side” refers to the schedule when most New York City streets are swept, which forces car owners to move their cars long enough for the sweepers to scatter trash around the street. On one day, one side is swept, and on another day, the “alternate side” is swept. The frequency of the sweeping varies, but both sides of most streets are swept at least once a week.[1]

Each morning, the local news media announce whether “alternate side” is suspended, usually due to a civil or religious holiday observance. Today, June 5, alternate side is suspended, but I couldn’t figure out why.

It turns out that today is the first Thursday of June, and in New York City, that’s a school holiday known as Chancellor’s Conference Day. Before 2005, it was known as Brooklyn-Queens Day. Back in 2003, The New York Times explained the quirky school holiday.

If you happen to attend public school in Brooklyn or Queens, chances are you are sleeping late and may never glimpse this article because today is all about leisure. If you are stuck in Manhattan, the Bronx or Staten Island, on the other hand, suck it up and get to class.
Such are the vagaries of Brooklyn-Queens Day, a relic of a school holiday that is exclusively for students and teachers in two boroughs. Even weirder than the holiday’s existence, perhaps, is that nobody seems to know why it exists.

After 2005, the city renamed the school holiday and expanded to the other boroughs. I’m pretty sure this is why “alternate side” is suspended. But it is fine that one side of the street won’t get swept today. Close to an inch of rain fell on the city this morning.

  1. Hunters Point in Long Island City is a notable exception.  ↩

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