Open Season on Parking Spots, and Parking Agents


Which excuse is this guy using?

The Daily News today has the sickening story of an off-duty NYPD officer beating an NYPD traffic agent for ticketing his girlfriend’s illegally parked car in the Bronx. The capper: the agent was reportedly cuffed and taken to the precinct, while the cop he says assaulted him has not been charged with a felony, though the state just adopted a law stiffening penalties for attacks on traffic agents.

"If the NYPD doesn’t show respect to us, what will happen with regular civilians?" said Traffic Agent Eric Celemi.

Celemi, 29, says Officer Eladro Mata beat him bloody last month after he ticketed the double-parked car in the Bronx.

Mata has been stripped of his badge and gun, but not charged with a felony, despite a law signed last month by Gov. Paterson that makes assaulting a traffic cop a crime punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Celemi contends he was not only beaten, but then hauled off to the 48th Precinct stationhouse in handcuffs for following his traffic supervisor’s order to remain at the scene and wait for an ambulance.

Shocked and bleeding from the ear, Celemi was jeered by the crowd as an NYPD lieutenant ordered him cuffed.

"I had been writing tickets and people standing on the street were applauding when I got arrested," Celemi said.

"I always try to treat people in a nice way but I understand people don’t like traffic agents. I knew that before I got the job and I learned it even more now."

Not that this is news to Streetsbloggers, but the emotional intensity that seems to be part and parcel of car ownership is as frightening as it is mind-boggling. (Full disclosure: recovering auto addict here.) Officer Celemi’s story — particularly the part about onlookers cheering as he was led away — brought to mind the "Parking Wars" reality show, a chronicle of the incessant abuse parking agents take at the hands of self-righteous motorists. But it also reminded me of the reaction to the suspension of alternate side parking in Park Slope: not only the near-orgasmic response from drivers, but the portrayal by the media (the Times in particular) of the city’s free parking culture as a charming New York quirk, rather than a toxic, destructive, borderline diagnosable obsession.

Of course, in the case of Officer Mata, what can we expect at the precinct level when the air of entitlement wafts down from above. In 2004, NYPD Transportation Department Chief Michael Scagnelli had an agent suspended for ticketing his unmarked SUV. At least she wasn’t beaten and arrested, too.

Photo: Too Many Notes/Flickr

  • Moser

    I figured the Times must have a motor-head assistant editor that lives in Park Slope for the Metro section to carry that stupid story two days running.

    My main thought in reading it is what horrible fucking losers these people who build their lives around parking their cars are.

  • Car Free Nation

    Why do they have to put a physical ticket on the car? Can’t they just take a picture, and fine them like with a red-light camera? Then there’s no confrontation, and more cars can be ticketed for less cost.

  • CFN – Even better, make it something anyone can do with a camera.

  • Just Bike It

    I had a friend who told me that she couldn’t do anything for the next 2 hours because she had to go sit in her car and wait for alternate street parking to turn over so she could get a spot…so that she could then move her car when her parents came into town. Talk about obsession.

  • Just Bike It

    CFN: That’s an awesome idea, because then you also have physical evidence. It would be quite difficult to contest that ticket.

  • Moser

    Car-Free, you will need to move to Albany and devote your life to getting that one through.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    I’m glad Streetsblog picked up on this. The Times’ coverage of the Park Slope parking bonanza has been completely nauseating.

  • (N)

    I like the lessening of bureaucracy with Glenn’s suggestion, but wouldn’t that just make everybody innocently snapping pictures of anything subject to a beating like this poor traffic agent? (never thought I’d be siding with meter-maids…)

  • Josh

    “Not that this is news to Streetsbloggers, but the emotional intensity that seems to be part and parcel of car ownership is as frightening as it is mind-boggling.”

    I think this is off base, Brad. This isn’t about car ownership, this is about cops believing that the law doesn’t apply to them. It strikes me as Uncivil Servants territory.

  • Mark Walker

    It’s about both.

  • Spud Spudly

    I swear just yesterday I was wondering why parking agents don’t have cameras. They already have portable computerized devices that print out tickets for them so how hard would it be to put a digital camera in that thing and print a photo of the offending car right on the ticket itself? It would have to save the city money in administrative costs and result in a higher effectiveness rate for parking fines.

    Meanwhile though, that story about the cop is outrageous. Typical feelings of entitlement.

  • No criminal charges have been filed, but there are obviously grounds for a civil suit.

  • Josh

    I’m sorry Mark, I have to disagree. I really can’t picture an average, civilian, non-cop car owner (my father, say, who LOVES his car, or anyone else I know) beating up a traffic agent who’s writing him a ticket. Outside of the movie “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” I can’t think of any other time I’ve heard of someone beating up a traffic agent.

    Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree that a lot of drivers feel entitled to hog a lot of space. I just feel like this is much more about the guy feeling like his girlfriend is allowed to park illegally because he’s a cop and flashing your badge is “supposed to” get you out of little things like this.

    For instance, take a look at this thread on NYPD Rant.

    “i mentioned this before,
    i hate TRAFFIC agents,
    whose ideal was it to make them part of nypd.
    they forgot to tell them one thing, don’t ticket cops,
    period.”

    “i’ve received multiple parking summones this year alone as a po by traffic agents, one time caught him mid-act and flashed my shield and ID and he just continued…if they don’t show us professional courtesy then why should i do the same for them?”

    “I bet the Officer knew that IAB and the news would be all over this. The guy says that he got treated wrong by his own agency, well welcome to the NYPD. It happens to all of us. Like said in a previous post, dont ticket UMOS. Traffic will never win against the UMOS. Didn’t a traffic agent get fired for ticketing the vehicle of a Chief in the past??”

  • Komanoff

    Kudos to Brad for a perfect-pitch pulling together all the strands, from the Times’ “charming New York quirk” take on the Park Slope free-parking window, to Chief Scagnelli setting the tone with his outrageous (and unpunished) abuse of agent Soto-Centeno four years ago. Law and Order indeed.

  • md

    Josh, I believe assaults on the officers are fairly common, though maybe less so nowadays, as they became felonies maybe 15 or 20 years ago.

    Who’s going to research this one?

  • JF

    The second Times article is much better than the first. Yesterday I wrote, “Michael Wilson, get off your ass and ask some real Park Slopers what they think about having dirtier streets all summer.” Maybe he read that? Or maybe Elizabeth Stanton is just less prone to unfounded generalizations?

    On the other hand, Wilson did write about a candidate for the only pedicab in Brooklyn last fall:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/29/nyregion/29journal.html

  • UL

    Hitting people is not right, no matter you are a cop or not. The cop’s girlfriend did park illegally, so she should get a ticket. People kept saying that cops shouldn’t get tickets, but the one that is getting the ticket is NOT the cop but HIS girlfriend. And why is only the agent gets arrested when he was the one gotten beaten by the cop. What was the charged? For getting beaten? When there is a fight, both side should get arrested, not only one side, because that’s just not fair. I kept reading about how the people hates the agents. But they have to understand that, they are giving tickets, not because they wanted to, but it’s their job to do so. They are just like any of us, trying hard to make a living for their families. I believe that are good cops and also bad cops. Same with the agents, there’s good one and there’s bad ones. So I don’t think it’s right to call them names and insult them. They are just doing their job like any hard working people. Ask yourself, if the person that gets beaten is not an agent, but someone else, would you still see this case the same way?

  • Dave

    Cops are out of control with their holier-than-thou attitude and feeling they are above the law when it comes to tickets, assault and intimidation.

    IAD needs to take over ticketing the illegal use of placards with SERIOUS punishment for those who abuse the system.

    Mike where are you on this? Come on, the Sean Bell travesty is tough to fight with the criminal but influential Al Sharpton involved.

    Send a message to the corrupt NYPD that times are changing by addressing their blatant abuse of parking rights. From there we can hopefully move to more substantive issues…

  • Mike H

    Cops asking for professional courtsey to park illegally. Please. It is not professional to break the law.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Yeah! Particularly when its your job to enforce the law.

  • Spud Spudly

    I really can’t picture an average, civilian, non-cop car owner (my father, say, who LOVES his car, or anyone else I know) beating up a traffic agent who’s writing him a ticket. Outside of the movie “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” I can’t think of any other time I’ve heard of someone beating up a traffic agent.

    Happens all the time. That’s why there’s a special law to protect traffic enforcement agents. Read this:

    http://www.queenscourier.com/articles/2008/05/05/news/police/news02.txt

  • why do traffic agents be treated like this traffic agents are nice people and they give summonses to cars that are parked wrong cause its tha law and they put money into city revenue without traffic agents nyc will be in a chaos full of cars going no where thank you traffic agents for your good job

  • The good 95% of the comments in here are by individuals who more than likely have DUI’s, speeding tickets, leaving the scene of an accident, and by arrogant yuppies like the “Glenn” character from a year ago.
    This job requires first and foremost character, one that is a must in dealing with deviant sons of bitches who think their occupation has to be top priority in order for them not to get ticketed.
    I dont like getting a damn ticket, but calling an assault on them will get you jailed for 7 years!
    And this “Josh” idiot who is allegedly a Police officer should have an expedited Psychiatric review, right away!
    My brother works as a Traffic Agent and he has told me stories of nincompoops with vehicles who leave it unattended double parked with the blinkers on, as if that makes it legit to leave it there?
    People learn and stop fucking around because this will not go away, it is up to us real civilized citizens to make the Traffic Agents “go away” by OBEYING the traffic laws.

  • Good thing UL ain’t in charge:

    > People kept saying that cops shouldn’t get tickets, but the one that is getting the ticket is NOT the cop but HIS girlfriend.

    So we’ll accept specious premises for arugment’s sake? Cool, ok, what about this:

    > And why is only the agent gets arrested when he was the one gotten beaten by the cop. What was the charged? For getting beaten? When there is a fight, both side should get arrested, not only one side, because that’s just not fair.

    So the agent _should_ have been arrested?

    UL, don’t make these absurdist excuses; don’t avoid saying what you want to say: The wrong man got arrested; cops systematically consider themselves above the law.