Weingarten: “Teachers Are Not Abusers of Parking Permits”

teacher_parking.jpg
A car with a teacher’s permit on the dashboard is parked beneath a "No Parking Anytime" sign. The license plate number does not match the one printed on the permit. (UncivilServants.org)

United Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten sent a letter to Mayor Bloomberg Friday expressing objections to his plan to reduce the number of city government parking permits and prevent unions and city agencies from printing their own. Weingarten’s letter echoed Teamsters president Gary LaBarbera’s recent assertion that "parking permits are a form of compensation for teachers"and other city employees (Is anyone paying taxes on that "compensation?" Is it accounted for in any city budget?)

In her letter, reprinted below in full, Weingarten makes three particularly remarkable claims:

  1. "Teachers are not abusers of parking permits."

    A quick visit to UncivilServants.org (or your own neighborhood streets) shows Weingarten’s blanket claim is, obviously, incorrect.


  2. "Teachers do not clog areas such as lower Manhattan" with their personal vehicles.

    Not only are teachers’ cars part of the Lower Manhattan traffic jam, in a city where 43 percent of elementary school kids are unhealthily obese, teachers and education officials have been known to clog school playgrounds with their personal vehicles. In one notorious case, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum intervened to stop city employees from using the Tompkins Square Middle School’s playground as a parking lot in 2004.


  3. Parking permits are necessary to "attract the best and the brightest to teaching" in New York City.

    Really? I’m no education policy expert and I’m sure that some teachers really do need to use cars for work, but do the world’s best and brightest come to live and work in New York City for the convenient parking?

I think Weingarten and the unions may find that they are fighting a costly and losing battle here. The public has little sympathy for the maintenance of a city employee parking system that is so blatantly abused. Few issues draw the ire of such a broad range of New York City civic groups as city government parking placard abuse.

A recent Independent Budget Office report found that cops, firefighters and teachers drive to work at double the rate of any other group of New York City workers. Why?

As DOT Deputy Commissioner Bruce Schaller told Streetsblog in the very first post we ever published, "Free parking has a tremendous impact on the decision whether to drive or take transit." Moreover, among teachers working in Manhattan, "nearly all of these auto commuters have transit alternatives," Schaller said. His 2006 study found that ninety-five percent of the government employees driving into Manhattan from Brooklyn and Staten Island live in neighborhoods where the majority of their neighbors use transit.

No one is proposing eliminating teachers’ permits. Rather, there just needs to be a more centralized and rational system for distributing parking permits based on real need. And there needs to be real enforcement. Hopefully Weingarten and the unions will realize that they are better off pushing for a parking "cash-out" law like California’s than fighting to maintain their oft-abused parking privilege.

Here is Weingarten’s letter to the Mayor in full:

To:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Deputy Mayor Edward Skyler

Cc:

Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott

Labor Commissioner James Hanley

Chancellor Joel Klein

Gentlemen:

It was deeply troubling to learn — through media coverage — of your plan to reduce by 20 percent the number of parking permits issued to all city employees.

On the numerous occasions we have raised the need for more parking for teachers, we have been repeatedly told that this is a collective bargaining issue. If increasing parking availability is a bargaining issue, then clearly, reduction is as well. Now you have apparently chosen, by fiat, to move forward a plan that would penalize the hardworking men and women who teach our city’s kids.

Teachers in New York City public schools receive permits that enable them to park on a portion of their school block, during school hours only. Taking away these permits at a time when we’re making strides to attract the best and the brightest to teaching (the NYC education workforce is the highest-qualified it’s been since the fiscal crisis of the 1970s) makes absolutely no sense. Many city schools are difficult to reach by public transportation, many teachers travel between schools and available parking is clearly one incentive to attract teachers to high-needs schools.

Teachers do not clog areas such as lower Manhattan. Teachers are not abusers of parking permits, and to publicly suggest that they are is deeply troubling. Holding abusers of parking privileges accountable for their actions should not be done at the expense of teachers whose jobs are hard enough already.

I urge you to reconsider your position and would like to meet with you on this as soon as possible.

Randi Weingarten

  • Why do New York University employees deserve Parking permits for their own personal vehicles? Their permits say Public Safety. Their only use is to allow them free parking. There not even city employeees! Look at the NYU buildings especially on 13th street between Third and Fourth Avenues.

  • ALRIMIR

    People talk about “Public Transportation….Public Transportation”. Maybe some of you don’t have to take your children to day care, or to school, and maybe run into traffic or are running late and need to park somewhere in a hurry. How can a teacher do that when people who live in the neighborhood who probably don’t even work are taking up the only possibility of a parking space…..? Perhaps there were some cases when someone with a DOE permit was parked somewhere they weren’t supposed to be. But what does that have to do with anything ? I’m sure they got a ticket, or would’ve gotten one had they have been caught. But, there are thousands of people who are parked where they shouldn’t be on a daily basis without permits. It’s not like being a law enforcement official, where you can pretty much park anywhere and NOT be ticketed by your fellow law enforcement officials. I guess teachers will now have to send their kids on the bus or train in a separate direction because they can’t use their cars to safely and personally drop them off. Maybe after a kidnapping, or a subway raping of some sorts, will someone finally see the importance of having something as small as a parking permit to help teachers park near their workplace. Obesity is not an issue in this case. That’s a personal choice for every individual on this planet. There are plenty of obese people in this world that are not teachers, and do not live in our city. As for Randi finding the mayor’s plan “deeply troubling”, I would think that if I continued to ask someone for more and am suddenly getting less, “deeply troubling” would come to mind as well. Bottom line… if they are not being cut totally, who then decides who deserves them ? What is the plan for teachers who can’t make it on time because they were out trying to find a parking spot because they worked in the Bronx and lived in Brooklyn, and perhaps their babysitter lives in Queens and there was traffic on the tri-boro ? This should be an issue where teachers who CAN and are willing to take public transportation should NOT apply for a permit, so those who really need one won’t get sucked into this mess. I’m sure there are plenty of teachers who have gotten parking tickets regardless of them having these supposed “life saving” “let me park anywhere” permits that all the Metrocard holders love to hate. Sure, let me keep giving the MTA my money, so they could keep raising the fairs on me, knowing that I have no choice but to use them because I can’t use the car that I bought because the mayor and his infinite wisdom came up with a plan to take away perhaps the ONLY thing that made my job a LITTLE easier………. Unless any of you have problems like these, you won’t know ( or care ) what people like us go through.

  • Unless any of you have problems like these, you won’t know ( or care ) what people like us go through.

    No, I didn’t lock myself into an unsustainable lifestyle that requires the city taxpayers to subsidize it by providing free space to store my personal vehicle.

    Instead, I walk my child to school (before that it was daycare), and then walk or take the train to work. No problem.

    Please do us all a favor and reorganize your life so that you don’t need to go everywhere by car. This is New York City – it ain’t hard. If you really want to live in Charlotte, move to Charlotte.

  • Ian Turner

    Alrimir,

    I’m going to address some of your points one-by-one.

    Maybe some of you don’t have to take your children to day care, or to school, and maybe run into traffic or are running late and need to park somewhere in a hurry.

    I would argue that most of us don’t, seeing as how this is New York City and most people don’t even have a car.

    How can a teacher do that when people who live in the neighborhood who probably don’t even work are taking up the only possibility of a parking space…..?

    Sorry, you’re going to need to explain why our hypothetical teacher is more deserving of the parking space than anyone else who would want to use it.

    But, there are thousands of people who are parked where they shouldn’t be on a daily basis without permits. It’s not like being a law enforcement official, where you can pretty much park anywhere and NOT be ticketed by your fellow law enforcement officials.

    You can visit for an inventory of counterexamples. Regular people get ticketed for parking illegally, public employees don’t. And yes, that includes DOE.

    Maybe after a kidnapping, or a subway raping of some sorts, will someone finally see the importance of having something as small as a parking permit to help teachers park near their workplace.

    Wait, isn’t this an issue for anyone in New York with kids? And yet most people who aren’t teachers seem to manage quite nicely without their kids getting kidnapped or raped. Right?

    I would think that if I continued to ask someone for more and am suddenly getting less, “deeply troubling” would come to mind as well.

    Public school teachers in NYC make more than their private-school counterparts, and that’s before you throw in the benefits, health care, unheard-of pension plan, etc. NYC spends some $250,000 per year per teacher on salary and retirement benefits. In that context, asking “for more” looks pretty unreasonable to me.

    What is the plan for teachers who can’t make it on time because they were out trying to find a parking spot because they worked in the Bronx and lived in Brooklyn, and perhaps their babysitter lives in Queens and there was traffic on the tri-boro ?

    I think the plan is that those teachers should reorganize their life. Why should you live in Brooklyn if you work in the Bronx? Why couldn’t you find a babysitter from the neighborhood? Again, people who don’t work for the government choose to live in places that make for a decent commute. Why is it unreasonable to expect teachers to do the same?

    Sure, let me keep giving the MTA my money, so they could keep raising the fairs on me, knowing that I have no choice but to use them

    You do realize that the subway is still the cheapest way to get around town, right? And that roads are highly subsidized while the city gives the MTA nary a cent? Right?

    because I can’t use the car that I bought because the mayor and his infinite wisdom came up with a plan to take away perhaps the ONLY thing that made my job a LITTLE easier

    Nobody is saying you can’t use you car, we’re just saying you should have to pay for it. Parking is expensive, but you’re welcome to buy a garage space. Why should the taxpayer cover it?

    Unless any of you have problems like these, you won’t know ( or care ) what people like us go through.

    I don’t have problems like these because I live in a neighborhood with nearby schools and an easy subway trip to work. These are choices; I wouldn’t take a job in Westchester because it’s too far away. These are the trade offs that real people who are not members of the placard elite face every day.

  • J. Mork

    Whew — I hope you’re not a writing teacher — can I get a paragraph break in here?

  • ALRIMIR

    Wow, I really like how you sat there and pretty much came up with an answer for everything… sounds like we have a city school student among us. But, I don’t want to stray away from the issue. But, I will respond to certain comments you made.

    Let’s say you’re a teacher, you live across the street from a school… should you have to teach there ? Now, if you were lived deep in Queens and was offered a job at Stuy…. would you take it ? I mean, you didn’t go to school to just teach anywhere. So, let’s say you now work in the city, let’s get you an apartment now… something with a view of the east river….and also a pair of new balance sneakers, and a shiny gold metrocard…. there’s the answer …

    I guess the logical thing to do is exactly what you said, but who can afford to do that ? Besides, when did it become open season on DOE employees ? In my neighborhood, police park their personal cars in fire hydrants, No standing zones… which sometimes block the view of cross traffic, so I have to move in closer to the intersection in order to see if a car is coming….

    Now, I don’t know where any of you are from, or what type of job you have… But, I find it hard to believe that teachers, in any state or country, should have to put themselves in a position that makes their already hard-to-do job harder… Doesn’t anyone care ? Or is it a matter of jealousy ?

    Look at the MTA with their new fair increase, and proposed service cuts, etc… Now, I won’t totally write them off as useless… But, not everyone wants to ride with hundreds of people on a train first thing in the morning before work, and after a trying day….

    I guess a question that would probably shed some light on how everyone here feels is; which city or state agency should be allowed to have parking permits ? This way, we could know where everybody is coming from… All of you cops could come out of hiding, fdny, etc…

    In order to get anywhere in life, you have to go to school and get those degrees…. Maybe we’ll let all of the good teachers who drive to work move away and get jobs elsewhere… and maybe their train and bus taking buddies who have a conscience would follow them. I have no intention of making this city anymore money off of me than I already am. And for the job that teachers and other school staff do, I think that parking in front of a school is the smallest gift they could give…. btw… Private school teachers deserve better… are you going to suggest that they get better jobs while you’re at it ?

    As for paying for my parking, I think I already am… it’s called TAX… Now, just because you might pay the same amount of taxes that I do, that doesn’t change the fact that you chose to be what you wanted to be, and I did too…. So, why bother comparing ? And for this being NYC and most people don’t even have a car… how come we’re fighting over parking space then ? Who do those other cars belong to ? And why should the city give the MTA money ? The MTA is not a city agency… They had their own guys strike 2 years ago… and even sued them… Saying that they couldn’t strike… What kind of job backs you into a wall and tells you ” don’t bother to disagree with our policies… you can’t strike… so shut up and go to work ” ?

    I feel sorry for any employee being treated unfairly private or public… Why is it that people who don’t have parking placards hate the fact that they don’t have one ? It’s not a big deal, if the streets go fully public, that’s fine. I’m sure that the city will love to recruit more traffic agents to give more tickets out for alternate side parking…. whether or not you took the train to work and left your car on your block….

    One of the funny things about this is that some people claim to have seen DOE employees parked where they shouldn’t be and not get ticketed… I would like to know how that happened… especially since about 75% of all the city’s tickets are BS. The problem is that working people lose the amount they’d have to pay in order to fight a ticket that they might still have to pay anyway… So, why bother ? With that in mind, what’s to stop a traffic agent from putting a ticket on anyone’s car ? And then their response be ” well, you could fight it and they’ll reduce it”

    But, I don’t want to be here all day rambling… But, if you live in the city, then yes…. why even have a car ? If you never learned to drive, then yes…. why have a car ?…. If the highlight of your day is being on the train…. then yes, by all means…. take the train… But, no matter what you say…. you can’t tell every single person that gets into their car everyday to take the train…

    If pollution is your issue, I don’t think that parking placards in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island are going to matter much…. Now, if I worked in Manhattan and had a car, I probably wouldn’t drive there….. But, that’s why I don’t work in Manhattan… So, don’t be mad at me for having a choice…. Yes, I could take the bus… But, I don’t want to… I don’t have to…. And yes, permits could become a thing of the past…. But, so could the reputation of this city… Especially since a fellow NY’er can’t even side with someone because since they can’t do something, why should you ?….Everything starts from somewhere… even the littlest thing could trigger it….

    Lastly… again… unless you know what’s it’s like… especially to teach in a public school, schools where metal detectors are used, you won’t think that the 25,000 dollars you speak of is worth it…But, some teachers do their jobs because they love it… and they care about those kids…

    It was nice talking here. But, if you’re going to respond, stick to the issue… I don’t really feel like E-arguing….or E-debating about this subject anymore…. we could agree to disagree… That’s that… I hope we get to keep our placards… and I hope that you stop hoping that we don’t…..

  • Hey dear as i know that Teachers displeased with their union’s decision not to even hold a vote on Michelle released his ten-part recommendation for reducing placard abuse. Weingarten’s fight to protect parking permits is the sort of action that harms,

    loving seem
    parking sensor

  • spike

    Currently, it is cheaper for a teacher to drive in from LI (free) than it is to take the subway. Putting tolls on the bridges across the East River would make driving less advantageous, and perhaps a few teachers and cops would actually car pool or take the train.

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