Council Considers Eliminating Truck Parking Fines (Update #2)

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UPDATE: Intro 637 has been tabled. There will be no council vote today.

As of this writing, the City Council is scheduled to vote today to codify a Department of Finance program that makes it cheaper -- and in some cases free -- for commercial trucks to park illegally.

The DOF Stipulated Fine Program, started in 2004, includes a secret fine schedule for participants which eliminates fines for many parking violations, including double parking and parking at expired meters. (In other words, truckers in the program can park forever at an expired meter.) It also reduces fines for dangerous parking activity like blocking a fire hydrant, parking in a traffic lane, parking on the sidewalk, blocking a crosswalk, and parking in a bike lane.

In return, businesses in the program agree not to contest fines for these and other violations, thereby maximizing revenues for the city while encouraging illegal parking.

Intro 637, introduced by David Yassky, David Weprin and Simcha Felder, would convert the controversial Department of Finance program, which was begun in 2004, from a regulation into a permanent city law.

City sources say the Stipulated Fine Program is unpopular with NYPD and DOT, as it undermines enforcement and street management efforts and contradicts the city's sustainability goal of using sound parking policy to reduce traffic and air pollution. The timing of the bill -- which appears to be at DOF's behest -- is especially odd, given that such efforts are already hampered by the defeat of congestion pricing, and since DOT and NYPD are beginning to work together on traffic policy. Instead of improving truck access to curbs by encouraging DOT to raise meter rates during peak periods and meter free parking spaces, the City Council appears ready to lock in the dysfunction that currently reins at street level.

UPDATE: Here is a PDF of Intro 637 along with the Stipulated Fine Program violation fee schedule (pages 6-9). On the schedule, the "COMM-ABATT" columns list fines prescribed by the Commercial Abatement Program, which is available to companies that are ineligible for deeper Stipulated Fine discounts. (Column A represents areas outside Midtown; column B is Midtown.) On pages 4 and 5 is a FOIL request submitted to the Department of Finance by Transportation Alternatives, which was necessary to obtain the fee schedule.

Here is City Council testimony by DOF Commissioner Martha E. Stark from February and April.

Photo: kerfuffle & zeitgeist/Flickr