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Posts from the "Parking Permits" Category

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Council Committee Endorses Residential Parking Permits Over DOT Objections

Then-Council Member David Yassky examines the proposed design for a residential parking permit system put forward by the Bloomberg administration in 2008.

A City Council committee took the first step toward bringing residential parking permits to New York City neighborhoods this afternoon. Details haven’t been worked out yet, but committee members signaled their desire to move forward on a system that would restrict a portion of curbside parking space to use by local residents.

While most council members wanted to see residential parking permits brought to neighborhoods across the city, the Department of Transportation opposed RPP except perhaps in the areas immediately around stadiums.

The action in the City Council today marked an early milestone in what would be a complicated path to passage. The State and Federal Legislation Committee, chaired by Council Member Helen Foster, passed a home rule resolution allowing state legislation sponsored by State Senator Daniel Squadron and Assembly Member Joan Millman to move forward. If passed, the Squadron/Millman bill would then authorize New York City to set up its own RPP program with a few restrictions. The city would still have to work out the details and pass an actual program.

The Bloomberg administration opposed the first step in that process today, testifying against the home rule amendment and the Squadron/Millman bill. While the administration had put forward an RPP system during the push for congestion pricing in 2008, today officials said that a citywide RPP program wouldn’t be worth the trouble if it’s decoupled from road pricing. Council members, meanwhile, expressed high expectations for how RPP might alleviate the traffic and parking woes in their districts.

Foster, the bill’s sponsor, argued that her district needs RPPs are needed in her district, which is just a block from Yankee Stadium. On game days, she said, Yankee fans’ parked cars block residents from finding a parking space in their own neighborhood or even being able to walk safely. Foster said cars can regularly be found on the sidewalk and in front of hydrants during home games. Fans fill up the on-street spaces despite the thousands of empty spaces in the city-subsidized Yankee Stadium parking system. “If I could park on the sidewalk, why would I pay $45 to park in a garage?” asked Foster.

Almost every council member in attendance supported the RPP concept. Parking permits are “a long time coming,” said Stephen Levin, who noted that his Downtown Brooklyn constituents had been clamoring for an RPP program for years. The district has “a real danger with cars driving around looking for a space,” he added. Letitia James, whose district includes the Atlantic Yards site, said that RPPs would ease congestion, protect pedestrians and reduce air pollution. James Vacca, the East Bronx-based transportation committee chair, said that parking permits would encourage the use of mass transit, “which is what we want in this city.” Brad Lander called RPP “the one piece of public policy that can make a difference” on Atlantic Yards traffic.

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NYPD Opposes Bill to Curb Placard Abuse as Total Soars to 118,000

This fake placard for the New York State Numismatic Agency escaped ticketing over seven hours of illegal parking thanks to lax enforcement. NYPD claims, however, that its placards are designed with the appropriate security features. Photo: Kevin Hagen for the Daily News

At a City Council Transportation Committee hearing today, the New York Police Department announced its opposition to legislation that would curb parking placard abuse by requiring barcodes on official placards. NYPD claimed that it has placard abuse under control and that only Police Commissioner Ray Kelly should have the power to determine what tools are used to defend against it. Testimony from NYPD and DOT also revealed that there are currently 118,000 official placards in circulation, tens of thousands more than previously realized.

Putting barcodes on placards would allow traffic enforcement agents to easily and accurately know whether the laminated plastic sitting on a car’s dashboard legitimately grants extra parking privileges. That wouldn’t solve every kind of placard abuse, but it would empower agents to ticket the truly bogus placards.

Council Member Dan Garodnick, the bill’s sponsor, cited yesterday’s experiment by Transportation Alternatives, in which a placard from the “New York State Numismatic Agency,” marked with the official seal of Bulgaria, escaped ticketing during seven hours of illegal parking in Lower Manhattan, Downtown Brooklyn and Times Square, proving that placard enforcement was effectively non-existent. “It’s clearly time for the city to take a bolder step,” said Garodnick.

Council members from across the city understood that allowing placard holders to hoard curb space and escape parking regulations is hurting their neighborhoods. “It seems like New York City has become the Wild West of parking permits,” said Brooklyn’s David Greenfield. Said Queens rep Jimmy Van Bramer, “Others, particularly those who work for a city agency, are held to a different standard.”

The only person who didn’t see the need for action on placard abuse was Susan Petito, the assistant commissioner for intergovernmental affairs at NYPD. While Petito gave lip service to the council’s concern, she ultimately claimed that the NYPD had the problem under control.

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DOT’s Jamaica Plan: Unclog Queens Transit Hub With 1.4 Miles of Bus Lanes

Plans call for doubling the mileage of bus lanes in Jamaica. Image: NYC DOT

We missed these when they were first released in late March, but DOT has come out with its preliminary recommendations for improving bus service in downtown Jamaica [PDF]. The plan calls for adding roughly a mile and a half of new bus lanes and beefing up an equal amount of existing lanes. It would also redesign two intersections and create new pedestrian space.

Anything that helps buses move quickly, smoothly and reliably through downtown Jamaica would be an enormous boon to Queens transit riders. Jamaica is both a subway hub and a job center unto itself, with 47 different bus routes running through the area. Archer Avenue carries more local buses than any other road in New York City, according to the DOT, with a staggering 180 buses per hour in each direction.

Along Archer, the existing bus lanes between 150th and 160th Streets will be visually strengthened, getting a coat of terra cotta paint and new signage. The eastbound lane will be extended on both ends, from Sutphin Avenue to Merrick Boulevard.

Similarly, along Jamaica Avenue the existing lanes (serving 90 buses per hour in each direction) will get the new paint and signage as well as expanded hours of operation and some new turn restrictions. The westbound lanes will be extended from Parsons Boulevard to Sutphin.

New dedicated lanes on Merrick Boulevard and 165th Street will help buses enter and exit the 165th Street bus terminal.

Currently, camera enforcement is not an option for these bus lanes, since the state law which enabled bus cams on Fordham Road and First and Second Avenues only applies to officially designated “Select Bus Service” corridors.

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NYPD Still Won’t Ticket Their Own

With the release of Transportation Alternatives’ new report on parking placard abuse and the introduction of City Council Member Daniel Garodnick’s bill to add scannable bar codes to official placards, the push is on again to curb the flagrant exploitation of parking privileges. Despite the substantial reduction in official placards by the Bloomberg administration in 2008, vehicles sporting both official and fake placards continue to illegally obstruct sidewalks and clog streets wherever government employees work in large numbers.

Photo: Noah Kazis

It’s an open secret that agents won’t ticket placarded vehicles, or any vehicle with a placard-like thing on the dash, out of fear of reprisal from higher up. As this placard abuse story indicates, in some cases the agents may just be following orders. Streetsblog was copied on this message sent to NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau and the Manhattan DA’s office, from a reader who asked to remain anonymous:

[Yesterday] afternoon around 2:00, I saw Traffic Enforcement Agent Faruque walking down Gramercy Park North checking for Munimeter tickets on the dashboard of parked vehicles. When he passed by a vehicle with no proof of payment, which also had an expired NYPD Restricted placard, I asked why he did not write a summons. He insisted he was not able to write a summons because his supervisor had instructed him not to issue summonses to any vehicles with NYPD placards. I pointed out that the placard was clearly expired, and therefore could not be valid, but he insisted he could not write a summons, and stated that I would need to speak with his supervisor…

If a supervisor has ordered or otherwise directed TEAs to not write summonses for actual violations to vehicles with NYPD credentials, the matter should be properly investigated and prosecuted. I remind you that this organized effort to park without paying constitutes theft of services, and I find it absolutely shocking that this would continue in broad daylight with the attention already directed to the ticket fixing scandal. For us to have any faith in the NYPD, and a bearable quality of life in this city, it is important that police officers and those familiar to them are held equally accountable as everyone else under the law.

Please also be advised that I have written the Commissioner on more than one occasion about the many violations with vehicles using NYPD placards that persist in the area around Gramercy Park, the Academy, and the 13th Precinct. These also include parking at fire hydrants, at crosswalks, using reflective license plate covers, and dark-tinted windows. Despite my repeated pleas, the NYPD has made no apparent effort to address the highly visible illegal conditions created by its own officers in this area.

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New Study: The Parking Placard On That Car Is Probably Illegal

Only a minority of the placards on the street are being used legally, according to a new Transportation Alternatives report.

What happens when you put a police station, a courthouse, and borough hall in one place? Utter lawlessness.

In a new report [PDF], Transportation Alternatives looked at the dashboards of the vehicles parked in the civic centers of each borough. In areas just a few blocks wide, hundreds of vehicles were displaying placards boasting of their special parking privileges. Fifty-seven percent of them were being used illegally.

In Concourse Village in the Bronx, for example, half of the 262 placards on display in a mere five block area were legitimate permits improperly being used to park, perhaps in a no standing zone or on the sidewalk. The other half were simply fake: they were handed out by the police union, a photocopy of another placard, or an item like an NYPD patrol manual that implies that the owner is a cop.

In Manhattan’s civic center, the problem was even worse. Only eleven out of 244 placards on display in a thirteen block area were being used legally.

At a press conference in front of City Hall today, T.A. joined with Council Members Dan Garodnick, Leroy Comrie, and Margaret Chin to call for an end to placard abuse. One top priority is Garodnick’s bill to put bar codes on official placards in order to make it easy for traffic enforcement agents to know with just a scan whether a placard is real and being used legitimately.

“It’s dangerous,” said T.A. executive director Paul Steely White. “When motorists are parking in front of fire hydrants, in front of crosswalks, on sidewalks, they’re blocking emergency vehicles from getting through. They’re making life very difficult and dangerous for pedestrians in particular.” Placard abuse also contributes to congestion by giving a sizable population free parking wherever they like.

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Henry St. Placard Abuser Fends Off NYPD By Mixing Church and State

Is the operator of this car on official Parks Department business or praying? And why does either activity excuse parking in the bike lane? Photo: Peter Kaufman

At this point, it’s hardly news that the length of the Henry Street bike lane was filled with parked cars yesterday (see here and here). Being a Sunday, it was par for the course, though still infuriating, that churchgoers were taking advantage of an informal agreement with the police to snatch that lane away from cyclists and give it to parkers during services. Can it get more outrageous than the status quo? Yes it can.

Ink Lake blogger Peter Kaufman snapped a few pics that nicely capture the multiple layers of exemptions and perks that NYC’s entitled motoring class employs at the curbside. A white SUV was parked in the bike lane. On the side and rear windows was printed “City of New York Parks & Recreation, Construction Division, Official Use Only.” On the front dashboard sat a homemade placard: “Attending Liturgy: Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral.”

From the driver’s perspective, this was probably a sensible belt-and-suspenders approach. If the police officer wouldn’t give the driver a pass for being a fellow city employee, being at church should put him over the top.

From the perspective of common sense and the law, of course, the doubled-up exemption shows just how absurd the system has become. The city had better hope that its employees aren’t attending mass as official business, or this could pretty quickly turn into a matter for the ACLU and not just transportation advocates. And whether it’s waiving the rules for city employees or worshippers, the NYPD doesn’t have the authority to change the rules for groups it favors and put cyclists’ safety at risk in the process.

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Cuomo to Cut 10 Percent of State Parking Placards

A state-issued parking placard, in this case owned and cut in two by Senator Tony Avella. Governor Cuomo has called for reforming the state's placard process. Photo: Transportation Nation

In response to some high-profile abuses of state-issued parking placards and a report by the state’s Inspector General, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that he will be reforming the way placards are issued and releasing ten percent fewer total placards. The new state placard regime will be only modestly more strict than before, but creates a framework for regulating what have become coveted perks and magnets for petty corruption.

Currently, there are 2,210 state-issued parking placards, 1,730 of which are ostensibly police placards. Under Cuomo’s plan, the total will drop to 1,993 placards and most will be converted to “official business” placards. For comparison, New York City issues tens of thousands of official placards.

The list of state officials caught abusing their placard privileges could fill a book, but the issue grabbed the spotlight when the Times reported that State Senator Carl Kruger, now indicted for corruption, had managed to swing police placards for his housemates Michael and Gerard Turano. In October, Brooklyn Assembly Member Vito Lopez’s car was photographed with no fewer than three separate placards on the dashboard.

Cuomo’s plan also sets into place a formal application process for receiving a placard, something that did not previously exist, according to the governor’s office. Applicants will need to explain why they need a placard and which vehicle they’ll be using it with, and they’ll have to sign a statement accepting the proper use of placards. Those applications will then be reviewed by both the applicant’s agency and by either the State Police or Governor’s Office of Public Safety.

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Garodnick Proposes Bar Code Scanners to Curb Parking Placard Abuse

City Council Member Dan Garodnick has introduced a bill that could cut down on the abuse of fraudulent parking placards. The bill would require that city-issued placards be equipped with bar codes that traffic enforcement agents can scan to verify. If enacted, it should cut down on one form of placard abuse: the use of bogus laminated pieces of paper to park illegally with impunity.

A new bill could make it easier to discern official parking placards from fakes, like the one above. Photo: Noah Kazis

The Bloomberg administration substantially cut the number of city placards in 2008, after a concerted advocacy campaign to wrestle the proliferation of officially sanctioned parking perks — and all the traffic they cause — under control.

The potential for abuse is still high, though, since traffic enforcement agents are reluctant to ticket any vehicle that bears the stamp of official privilege. As Streetsblog has reported, there’s a whole cottage industry devoted to the manufacture of fake parking placards. Synagogue- and church-goers have shown no compunction about putting placard-esque items on their dashboards to get away with parking illegally.

Garodnick’s bar code proposal would help traffic enforcement agents tell the difference between what’s real and what’s fake. “The idea is that this would make it easy for them to scan a placard, to remove the element of doubt when a TEA may be uncertain of whether this is a legitimate placard,” said Dan Pasquini, Garodnick’s communications director.

Other forms of placard abuse will be tougher to stamp out. The bar codes wouldn’t help agents muster the will to ticket vehicles with official placards parked in front of bus stops and fire hydrants, which are illegal spots no matter what’s on the dash.

The bill has been introduced in the transportation committee, where Garodnick’s office hopes to get a hearing soon.

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Illegal Parking in Brooklyn Heights: Scenes From the Placard Orgy

Spotted outside Our Lady of Lebanon on Henry Street on a recent Sunday.

Spotted outside Our Lady of Lebanon on Henry Street on a recent Sunday.

A few weeks ago we ran an update on the Henry Street bike lane in Brooklyn Heights, where members of the First Presbyterian Church illegally park on Sundays and police look the other way. The era of NYPD-sanctioned bike lane blocking had supposedly come to an end this summer, right before primary day, when local Assembly member Joan Millman said she’d told the 84th Precinct to start enforcing the law. But afterward, the lane-blocking resumed, and Millman explained to Community Board 2 that she’d brokered a “compromise” that allowed churchgoers to keep on parking in the bike lane during services.

One reader went to check up on the situation and found that the bike lane-blocking churchgoers not only get a free pass from law enforcement — they’re all part of the same fraternity. Here’s his tour of Henry Street on a recent Sunday, starting at First Presbyterian:

Most cars (there were 15 in the bike lane) had bogus “Church Business” placards on their dashboard, though one had a DOT Agency Business Permit, and one parked in the No Parking Anytime zone had a District Attorney placard! Calls to 311 were made, but according to the 311 web site, the cops showed up hours after church service was over. In fact, the only police activity I saw was two NYPD Highway Patrol employees illegally park their cruiser in a “No Standing Anytime” zone for an hour while they grabbed lunch at a nearby diner.

It seems that the siren call of parking sin has spread elsewhere in Brooklyn Heights. Further down Henry Street, at the corner of Remsen Street, the Catholics are taking a cue from the Presbyterians, and are one-upping their brethren! Members of Our Lady of Lebanon were observed parking upwards of 15 cars simultaneously in the bike lane and on the sidewalk, as well as several in front of the Church in a No Parking Anytime zone. All sported bogus Church placards, sacred offerings to the saints of traffic.

While investigating the situation, I came across a Traffic Enforcement Agent giving a ticket to a commercial van parked at a hydrant at Henry Street and Montague Street. The owner of the van yelled out of a nearby window, unsuccessfully pleading with the TEA not to ticket him. I called the TEA over and asked him if he was going to ticket the drivers parked in the bike lane too. He responded that he could not, saying that his bosses said the church members could park there during services. I asked who, specifically, this order came from — the response was “Brooklyn North.” [Editor's note: Brooklyn North encompasses several precincts. The commanding officer is Chief Gerald Nelson.]

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Want the Best Deal on Parking? Get Yourself a Police Surgeon Placard

AMTRAK_Placard_small.JPGThis unofficial placard illegally grants its owner free access to a no-parking zone near Union Square every workday. Photo: Noah Kazis
For only $250, the ability to willfully disregard the parking laws of New York City can be yours. With barely a fuss, at least two different police organizations will sell you an illegitimate parking placard, with all its attendant perks. These placards aren't official and carry zero legal protections. Even so, if you display one on your dashboard you get a free pass to park almost wherever you want, when you want.

Because free parking perks granted to police and other public employees directly contribute to traffic congestion on gridlocked streets, the Bloomberg administration moved to clamp down on them in 2008. The city has eliminated tens of thousands of official placards, but the abuse of both official and fraudulent placards persists. While traffic enforcement agents are only supposed to honor a few specific types of placards, all issued directly by New York City, in practice, any dashboard decoration that looks semi-official can intimidate agents into giving the owner a pass

So how do you get your hands on one? Here's the deal. If you're an MD -- or belong to a loosely-defined cadre of medical professionals, including dentists, acupuncturists, and even "chaplains" -- you can send a copy of your medical license, diploma, resume, and a $250 check to Amtrak Police Lodge #189, an affiliate of the Fraternal Order of Police based in Maple Shade, New Jersey. You also agree to treat members of the lodge. They'll designate you an "Amtrak Police Surgeon" and send along a parking placard, like the one shown above, that looks suspiciously like an official document.

But they only look official. While completely illegitimate and invalid on the streets of New York City, these placards grant their owners de facto immunity from the law and provide free access to some of the most valuable curbside real estate on the planet.

One Streetsblog tipster reported seeing an SUV using an Amtrak police surgeon placard pull into the same no-parking zone on 13th Street at Fifth Avenue every weekday, without fail. When I went to investigate this morning, there it was. Law enforcement doesn't seem to mind, even though only government-issued placards are valid in New York City (other municipalities can honor what they choose).

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