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Posts from the "Parking Permits" Category

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Will Loss of Parking Perk Get Community Board Chairs Out of Their Cars?

Theresa Scavo and her car. Photo: Brooklyn Paper

It’s no secret that NYC community boards are highly protective of on-street parking, since their members seem more likely to be car owners than the population at large, but it was news to us that board chairs and district managers have free parking perks.

The Brooklyn Paper reports that, come February 1, community board chairs will lose the city-issued placards that allow them to park in metered spots for three hours. While you’d think that would spur them to walk, bike, or take transit to get to meetings in their own neighborhoods, CB 15 chair Theresa Scavo says she will spend less time performing civic duties and more time feeding the meter.

“If I park at a meter that only takes an hour’s worth of quarters, I can’t stay at the meetings the whole time,” Scavo said.

Judging from the quotes collected for this story, it’s as if free parking is considered a reward for the onerous burden of community service — even among community board staff, who are paid for their work.

“They’re doing the community a favor,” said Community Board 18 district manager Dorothy Turano. “I’m doing it as part of my obligation, and there’s no question I deserve to have this pass, but so does [Community Board 18 chairman] Sol Needle.”

Turano and other district managers will retain their parking perks.

The sense of entitlement on display here goes a long way toward explaining why many community boards tend to value curbside parking — for automobiles, not bikes — above all else. From street safety projects to Greenmarkets, in some districts no sacrifice is too great when it comes to preserving the privilege of on-street vehicle storage.

If it looks like their volunteer work might compromise the time required to tend to their cars, Scavo and other auto-dependent board chairs should consider surrendering their posts to people who have a more realistic perspective on what it’s like to get around in New York.

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DOT Study Rejects Residential Parking Permits For Stadium Neighborhoods

The Barclays Center, under construction. Photo: Tom Kaminski/WCBS 880

The Department of Transportation has rejected neighborhood demands to implement residential parking permits around the Barclays Center and Yankee Stadium, according to a DOT report released last Friday. DOT cited the availability of on-street parking spaces during Yankee games, the large number of non-residents parking on the street for purposes other than visiting the stadium, and the heavy costs of administering and enforcing an RPP program.

The idea of a residential parking permit system has support from across the city — City Council members representing very different neighborhoods came together in support of the reserving on-street parking for locals in a hearing last year — but the Department of Transportation opposes the idea (the Bloomberg administration, however, did propose a citywide, opt-in RPP system as part of the push for congestion pricing in 2008).

At last year’s hearing, DOT representatives allowed that if residential parking permits belonged anywhere, they belonged around stadiums, and announced that the agency was in the process of studying RPP around Yankee Stadium and the Barclays Center. Now complete, that study has led DOT to believe that parking permits don’t belong there, either [PDF]. Another parking management tool is still on the table: DOT is considering modifying the parking meters near the Barclays Center to charge more or extend later into the evening, according to Norman Oder at Atlantic Yards Report.

At Yankee Stadium, DOT found, game day brings a parking crunch, but not one that the city feels the neighborhood can’t handle. Of those who drive to the park, 90 percent park in off-street lots (of which there are far too many in the area). The 10 percent who opt for on-street spaces cluster within a ten minute walk to the park. The on-street parking occupancy rate in the area rises by 3-14 percent on game days, hitting a high of between 77 and 93 percent.

Moreover, DOT found that Yankee fans wouldn’t be the group most affected by a RPP program. On non-game days, non-residents account for as many as 45 percent of parked cars, even adjusting for false registrations. “Most non-residents who park on-street during games are there for work, shopping, personal errands and so forth,” states the report.

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City Council Signs Off on Residential Parking Permits, Next Stop Albany

The City Council today passed a home rule message backing Albany legislation that would allow the city to implement a residential parking permit program. The vote was 40-8. Charles Barron, Lew Fidler, Peter Vallone, and Al Vann joined four out of the five Republicans on the council in voting against the measure. (Eric Ulrich was the GOP vote in favor.)

RPP is intended to curb traffic by designating street parking for local residents. On Wednesday the council’s State and Federal Legislation Committee passed a home rule resolution supported by council members who say their neighborhoods are being used as parking lots for out-of-area commuters and sports fans.

While support in the City Council is strong, passage of the Albany bills, introduced by Senator Daniel Squadron and Assembly Member Joan Millman, is not assured. The Bloomberg administration, which introduced its own RPP plan three years ago, has expressed limited interest in the concept. Meanwhile, legislators including Republican senators Marty Golden and Andrew Lanza have said they will work to kill the bill. Even if the legislation clears both houses in Albany, the city would still have to devise and pass a program.

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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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