A sea of vehicles line the parking lot outside of Chavez and Tubman residential halls. Littered in variety, it seems simple to find a spot — assuming one is a faculty member. If you are one of the 1,000 residents who live within the most expensive residence halls on campus, parking is reserved for zone five, a small space that is shared with Mendelsohn Community.
Stony Brook University (SBU) issued new parking maps for the Fall 2021 semester, reducing the number of residential parking zones available to students.
Beginning in the Fall 2021 semester, parking zone five, which used to extend to Chavez and Tubman, was reduced to a shared lot with Mendelsohn Community.
As of the Fall 2021 semester, all parking spaces around Roth Community are now almost totally designated for faculty parking; students who can park there are fully upperclassmen. Residents of Roth who want to park their cars now have to share a parking lot with Tabler Community, which is not only partially reserved for faculty but is also a 10-minute walk from many portions of Roth.
Residents who cannot find any parking spaces are limited to the commuter lots, in the South P and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) lots.
“It’s unfair because there’s so much parking for faculty in Tabler, but they all park behind Hendrix,” one resident wrote on Instagram, where enraged students have frequently expressed their worries over parking on campus.
“People are that desperate,” said Christine Sukhwa, a junior who has experienced increasingly more stringent parking situations alongside her sister, Celene Sukhwa. Both are commuters and biology majors.
“Where am I going to park now?” Celene said.
The increased demand for residential parking has also raised concerns about commuter space.
“There are not a lot of spots you can park to and walk to campus from,” Dylan Rehman, a senior business management major said. “A lot of people just refuse to park in South P,” Rehman, who is also the commuter assistant and communications director for the Commuter Student Association (CSA), a student-run organization focused on the issues of commuters at Stony Brook, said.
The South P Lot is one of the main parking lots for commuters, but it’s also one of the least desirable because it’s nearly a mile away from Main Campus.
“I don’t want to go to South P,” Rimsha Farooq, a senior health sciences and biology major and president of CSA said. She tries to avoid the lot as it is far from East Campus and “there are no lots for health science students.”
But the problem extends beyond students going to class on East Campus. Commuters appear to be having issues across the board.
“We wake up at 4:30 a.m., we leave at 6:00 a.m., and we get here at 7:30 a.m. and we can’t get any parking at all,” Christine Sukhwa, who faces issues with the expanded faculty lots as well, said. “All of the gym lot would be full, and the part reserved for faculty is all empty.”
According to Celene Sukhwa, parking issues have only recently arisen. Pre-pandemic parking, she added, was never an issue for her, despite how crowded it was. “At 8:00 a.m., I wouldn’t have to look for parking,” she said.
Last semester, SBU allowed students to use the Island Federal Credit Union parking lot, along with temporary spaces in Tabler, Roth and Kelly Communities. These areas are no longer available to students.
Parking Services, in an email addressed to the student body, said that they have added 267 spots in the LIRR lot for commuter residents. They have even added the new section as part of the official 2021 Stony Brook Parking map.
Farooq and the Sukhwa sisters said that this claim is misleading. “Commuters would be able to park there just fine … it’s always been,” Farooq said. “When I read we added 267 spots, I was like, ‘I don’t know… it’s always been that same strip.”
Prior to this semester, the LIRR lot was accessible for anyone to park in. While the number of spots haven’t changed, the requirements to park there have—now everyone must have a commuter pass.
The Statesman reached out to both Daniel Akins, the parking manager of West Campus, and Erik Andersen, the director of West Campus Parking Services. Akins didn’t respond in time for the publication of this article.
Andersen’s comments came from himself, members in the Parking & Transportation Department and members in the Facilities and Services Department. The response attempted to explain the situation as part of a transition process to overall better parking, according to an email sent to The Statesman.
The parking plan is said to “improve the University’s parking and transportation infrastructure, reduce on-campus traffic congestion, increase the number of parking spaces available for our campus community, and thoughtfully allow for future growth at the University and Hospital in the years ahead.”
The department acknowledged criticisms about the new arrangement but said the overall parking situation will “improve rather quickly.” Andersen also said that expired residential parking passes and misuse of the now smaller lot in front of the Mendelsohn Community were the reason for recent congestion. Parking Services will ticket students who have an expired parking pass or none as of Aug. 31 to resolve the situation.
Similar statements were made about parking zone four lots in Roth, saying the recent reallocations in the Tabler Community Lot provide more space than previous designations.
The University also said that the commuter parking expansion, as well as the addition of six new shuttle buses from South P, aims at reducing commuters’ travel time.
Rehman feels more sympathetic towards SBU’s attempt at a new policy.
“A lot of students are struggling to understand parking,” Rehman, who helps run the Commuter Student Services Instagram page and answers student’s questions there, said. “A lot of parking is just frustration. I don’t think there’s a really big issue.”
Rehman also understood the increased faculty parking. “There’s a lot more [faculty] than students think … those people need to be a little closer than most,” he said. “As faculty, you kind of earn that privilege.”
Others believe the issue has gone on for far too long.
“If [students] are complaining about it … something has to be taken away for them to say something like that,” Farooq said.
Andre Ayala, a junior psychology major, has created an Instagram account called @sbuparkingsucks that attempts to expose the flaws of the new student parking policies.
“I’m really sick and tired of the parking at Stony Brook,” Ayala said.
Originally trying to get a residential parking pass for zone five, the closest parking to their residence hall, Ayala was denied a parking pass because of the lot being full.
“The people working there know that this is a problem, it’s kinda obvious,” he said. “You can see it on their faces.”
When Ayala called Parking Services later to address their concerns, he failed to reach anyone.
Ayala refutes many of the claims presented by SBU, saying that the current parking arrangement heavily favors faculty and lots reserved for faculty are rarely full.
Ayala’s account has reached many students who have reached out to their cause. The Instagram account currently has 460 followers, and a subsequent petition on Change.org created by Ayala has nearly 1,500 signatures.
“It’s obvious everyone is upset about this,” he said.
While currently no demands are specified in the petition, he hope it will force the administration to pay attention to their concerns.
“I just want to make sure, when we strike, it’s not ignorable,” Ayala said. They wish to increase their presence on campus through fliers and peaceful demonstrations on campus in the coming weeks.