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Posts from the "Parking Permits" Category


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.


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.

Read more…


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.


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.

Read more…


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.


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.]

Read more…


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).


Bronx Rep Promises to “Make Every Effort to Avoid Blocking the Bike Lane”

vanessa_gibson_block.jpgvanessa_gibson_placard.jpgThe rules don't apply to you if you've got one of these on the dash. Photos: Boogiedowner
Via Gothamist, here's a story that nicely encapsulates why parking placards should be completely abolished. On Monday, a Boogiedowner reader caught Bronx Assembly member Vanessa Gibson parking in the bike lane on the Grand Concourse, NYPD-issued placard on the dash for all to see. When the Bronx News Network asked Gibson to explain herself, she offered this apology:

The bike lane on the Grand Concourse has been a positive addition for a lot of Bronx residents. As you know, there is a serious lack of parking on the Grand Concourse, but I have always respected the bike lane and apologize for blocking it. In this instance, my car was left in the bike lane for a few moments while I was unloading supplies for my district office. I realize that caused some inconvenience and will make every effort to avoid blocking the bike lane in the future.

A few refreshers. Forcing cyclists into traffic isn't just an "inconvenience," it endangers other people. The rate of injuries and deaths on the Grand Concourse led the Tri-State Transportation Campaign to name it the second most dangerous road in the Bronx last year. Also, as Transportation Alternatives' Wiley Norvell told the Bronx News Network, a placard on the dash doesn't make bike lane-blocking legal. But it's enough to intimidate traffic agents into not issuing a ticket.

Gibson, a freshman Assembly member who replaced her former boss, Aurelia Greene, after a special election last fall, didn't explain why she was using a police placard. Giving it up for good might help her keep the promise not to block the bike lane. It will still be tough to find a safe, legal place to park and unload stuff in front of the district office, so the next step would have be to putting in a request with the city for performance parking on the Grand Concourse.


To Thwart Terror Trial Traffic Snarls, Curb Placard Abuse

The pending trial of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has thrown lower Manhattan into a tizzy, for good reasons. Foremost, of course, is the dread of revisiting the horrors of that day, mingled with fears of new attacks linked to the trial. But there are also concerns that the NYPD's aggressive countermeasures will impede movement, worsen traffic and suffocate the economy of the area, pockets of which never recovered fully from police-ordered street closures and other 9/11 aftershocks. These concerns could be assuaged by a tough, zero tolerance stance on parking placard abuse by government employees.

12_20_2007_NYPDTowsNYPD.JPGTo offset the effects of its terror trial security zone, NYPD should adopt a zero tolerance policy for placard abusers.
Two developments last week brought new attention to the traffic issue. First, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly disclosed the boundaries within which police will spot-check vehicles, restrict delivery times and otherwise impose a massive presence. The "soft perimeter" surrounding Foley Square is bounded by Canal and Frankfort Streets, Bowery and Broadway. (An inner “hard perimeter” will “include 2,000 interlocking metal barriers staffed by uniformed officers,” according to The New York Times.) Second, a proposal floated by Community Board 1 chair Julie Menin to move the trial to Governors Island won the support of new Council Member Margaret Chin and is expected to be formally endorsed by the board this Wednesday.

The soft perimeter appears to include around five-and-a-half linear miles of streets comprising 17 "lane-miles." (These figures exclude Park Row and other streets already taken out of service by the NYPD since 9/11.) Clearly, restricting vehicular travel on these streets will aggravate gridlock, but by how much, and at what “time cost” to travelers? City Hall isn’t saying, of course, but with the help of the Balanced Transportation Analyzer, it’s possible to make a rough estimate.

Assuming that the restrictions take away one-quarter of the carrying capacity of the affected streets (one-half for streets within the inner section), vehicles in the area can expect to spend 2,200 additional hours stuck in traffic each weekday. Scaled to a full year, that translates to $30 million in lost time for motorists, truckers, taxi riders and bus passengers. (Go to the “Cordon” tab of the BTA spreadsheet to view derivation.)

This is a mere drop in the regional bucket, which now loses $13 billion a year to gridlock, according to the Partnership for New York City [PDF]. But locally, where most of that lost time will tick away, the impact could be tangible -- particularly in Chinatown, the epicenter of post-9/11 business closings and a major component of the area targeted by the NYPD.


Eyes on the Street: Placard Abuse, From Sea to Shining Sea

We got a tip yesterday about an errant driver hogging a curbside spot in a residential area:

So, outside my house is a street with two hour parking. Today a Jaguar with dealer plates was parked there all day. When I checked, it was because there was an FD placard on the car.

No news there, right? Except our tipster was Streetsblog LA's Damien Newton, and the placard in question was emblazoned with the logo of the FDNY Uniformed Firefighters Association.

Placards without borders. Gotta love it.