NYPD Still Resisting Attempts to Reform Parking Placard Abuse

Fraudulent parking placards are rampant in NYC, but NYPD remains opposed to a bill that would require the city to include a barcode on placards to ensure proper enforcement.

It may look official, but this “Amtrak police surgeon” placard was not issued by the city. Still, NYPD is in no hurry to cut down on placard fraud. Photo: Noah Kazis

Testifying before the City Council transportation committee today, NYPD Assistant Commissioner Richard Schroeder cited “significant fiscal, operational, and technological issues that… cannot be resolved within the one year effective date of the legislation” as one reason why the department opposes Intro 326, sponsored by Council Member Dan Garodnick. When Garodnick introduced a similar bill in 2011, it also met resistance from NYPD.

Schroeder said the legislation doesn’t give NYPD enough time to build a secure database of placards issued to city agencies by DOT and NYPD. He also noted that barcodes would not be able to completely prevent the fraudulent reproduction of placards, since they can be easily scanned and copied. He said NYPD was open to other strategies to improve enforcement, and expressed hope that DOT’s adoption of pay-by-phone parking technology could help mitigate the problem.

DOT Assistant Commissioner for Parking Operations Mike Marisco later testified that pay-by-phone “will also provide opportunities for much more efficient ways of managing permits.” While that’s intriguing, it’s not at all clear how placard management will be improved by a better parking meter payment system. Fake placards, after all, let people park without paying a cent.

There are approximately 104,000 valid NYC parking placards in circulation, with the largest chunk distributed to members of NYPD. They entitle the placard holder to park for free in any legal parking spot.

The placard system is problematic for several reasons, including the fact that it creates a huge incentive to drive for tens of thousands of public employees in some of the most transit-rich parts of the city. Legitimate placards are often abused as entitlements to park illegally in bus stops, crosswalks, or no-standing zones. Fake placards are shockingly easy to produce and work as well as the real thing. The mere sight of something vaguely official-looking on a dashboard is enough to intimidate enforcement agents.

In some neighborhoods, particularly those with high concentrations of police and other government offices, placard-holders often claim much of the available curb space.

Council Member Margaret Chin, who represents Chinatown and Lower Manhattan, said that vehicles with parking placards are hogging curb space all over her district. “The Chinatown BID did a survey and found that almost one-quarter of the available on street parking were taken over by placard parking,” she said. “Walk up and down the street on 7th Avenue and look at some of these placards. They don’t look real — but, you know, you never see a ticket on these cars.”

Schroeder played down the scale of abuse and fraud by citing the rate of complaints filed with NYPD. Between 2013 and 2015, NYPD received 480 placard abuse complaints and 68 complaints of fraudulent use, 56 of which were substantiated. Approximately 100 placards are reported stolen or missing each year.

Tracking only complaints seems to severely understate the scale of the problem. A 2011 study by Transportation Alternatives found that 57 percent of permits in the city were either misused or completely fraudulent.

TA Policy and Research Manager Julia Kite testified that placard fraud is so rampant that it can only be addressed by reducing the number of permits and eventually eliminating the placard system. In the absence of thorough placard reform, Kite suggested other ways the city could better manage on-street parking, including the expansion of DOT’s PARK Smart program, which adjusts meter prices in response to demand, cutting down on cruising for parking spots.

DOT’s Marisco didn’t bring up PARK Smart at all.

DOT is working on a new pay-by-phone system, and the convenience of mobile payment has greased the way for more sophisticated parking pricing in other cities. Another bill, Intro 966, would require the city to deploy mobile parking payment by this April, but Marisco had no timetable for pay-by-phone in NYC.

A mobile payment system was piloted around Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, he noted, but that ended nearly two years ago. Marisco said some of the technology still needs to be fine-tuned.

City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez said he called the hearing to draw attention to “new ways of thinking when it comes to parking.”

“Our city’s policy should reflect a goal of moving people away from single-occupancy vehicles and more towards mass transit,” Rodriguez said in his opening statement. “Parking can play a key role in this vision.”

Based on the city’s testimony, however, parking policy is changing at a glacial pace, if at all.

  • Zero Vision

    It’s to see NYPD’s opposition to this as anything other than an endorsement of continued corruption.

    And it’s truly too bad that the mayor isn’t interested in telling his police department to get behind this. Once again, Vision Zero dies a little bit.

  • Zero Vision

    Hard to see, that is!

  • Jesse

    I would say this is the classic NYPD trinity of corruption + despotism + incompetence. Given how easy it is to counterfeit these things I would think that the fakes out there would undermine the value of the real ones that are given out as favors legitimate entitlements to connected nobles important citizens. It’s like the NYPD is too stupid to know how to do corruption right but they’ll be damned if they’re gonna hand that over to someone else.

  • AMH

    “The mere sight of something vaguely official-looking on a dashboard is enough to intimidate enforcement agents.”

    That’s exactly right, and it doesn’t even have to resemble a placard. An orange safety vest will do just fine. Vehicles park all over the sidewalk at the 125th Street Metro-North station, and whenever I report them, nothing happens. If I get a response, it’s “official vehicle” or “police action not needed”.

    https://www.google.com/maps/@40.8055186,-73.9384904,3a,75y,254.95h,69.62t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sGky3mI2DwL-8uxi-71689w!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1

  • BBnet3000

    Note that the placards let them park in any legal parking space, but they’re widely used to park in bus stops and bike lanes as well as on sidewalks and other pedestrian spaces. The NYPD could start enforcement tomorrow, it does not rely on this bill or on the establishment of any new system at all.

  • AlexWithAK

    Wait, you mean they don’t have an existing database of placards? That’s asinine and demonstrates the NYPD’s attitude toward the whole issue. They don’t enforce it because THEY want to continue to abuse the system, plain and simple.

    Forget the bar codes. Step one should be ensuring traffic enforcement agents to ticket vehicles parked in bus stops, crosswalks, sidewalks, etc regardless of whether they have a placard.

  • AnoNYC
  • Eric McClure

    True story: I once saw a crushed paper coffee cup with some agency logo on a dashboard on Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn. No ticket.

  • Michael

    This morning…

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Gov’t employees should have parking rights no different than any other New Yorker. Eliminate all parking placards – problem solved

  • Larry Littlefield

    The administration is in enough conflict with the police that it probably doesn’t want this fight.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/doi-opens-probe-disability-pension-system-article-1.2495151

  • Miles Bader

    Why not have a completely separate agency doing parking enforcement? There seems no particular reason to have the police do it, and given that the police are one of the main abusers, separation would remove a clear conflict of interest….

  • ahwr

    What will that do to overcome ‘professional courtesy’?

  • walks bikes drives

    This issue is rediculous. There was a doctor constantly parking his Hummer in front of the school where I work, in a zoned spot for DOE placards only. It drove me insane, because I called the precinct, and they did nothing. I called parking, and they did nothing. I even got the parking tow truck dispatcher to send a tow truck to the car, and they came, leaving it in place. Spoken with an officer I and the school staff have a strong relationship with, as he is our assigned youth officer, and he did nothing. Why? Because the doctor had an “Amtrak Police Surgeon” placard in the windshield.

  • Miles Bader

    Of course there will always still be problems (the cozy DA-police relationship being another example), but still it seems like it would help a lot to at least increase the distance between them…

  • Vernon6

    #NYPDValues

  • neroden

    The placards should simply be REVOKED ENTIRELY.

    * Government officials can pay for their parking just like anyone else.
    * Police who are in actual police cars on actual police business can leave their flashers on to get free parking.
    * Ambulances can likewise leave their flashers on to get free parking.

    Problem solved.

  • neroden

    Honestly, it’s enough to make one want to set up a privately operated tow company to haul these cars away to the impound lot. All of them.

  • neroden

    Time for citizens to start towing these criminals themselves. How much does a tow truck cost anyway?

  • neroden

    NYPD is a criminal organization and needs to be shut down using RICO.

  • neroden

    That’s a mistaken and stupid attitude by de Blasio. De Blasio personally has power of arrest. He should haul Bratton off to prison — set the proper tone for the relationship between police and the mayor.

    The NYPD is a criminal gang and needs to be shut down with extreme prejudice. This is just one more proof that they’re a Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization.

  • neroden

    The main problem is that the NYPD is a completely corrupt organization and most of the upper brass belong in state prison.

    How to arrest them? I think you need to start a “police department” (call it PDNY, perhaps).

  • AMH

    They make bus stops unusable. Love how Google protects the guilty by blurring their licence plates.

  • cjstephens

    Neroden is on the right track: eliminate all placards. If it turns out you’re on official business and/or there was an emergency, then you can get the ensuing parking ticket dismissed. Otherwise, no favors for government officials and their friends. No database needed, no potential for counterfeiting. Also, this way the traffic enforcement agents will not face the dilemma of risking their jobs by issuing tickets to illegally parked cars sporting placards (or “placard” safety vests, photocopies, etc.).

  • Alicia

    To be fair, Google always blurs license plates, period.

  • 1ifbyrain2ifbytrain

    Exactly! No placards at all. Anyone who had a legitimate (very few emergency situations) reason can have the ticket dismissed after the fact.

  • c2check

    I’ve been leaving notes on their windshields, in big letters so passers-by can see: “STOP NYPD PARKING ABUSE” or the like

    There were a couple cars that park near work that used to use NYPD placards for police surgeons, until I left notes a few times…
    and now they have handicapped placards.
    (I can only assume they got them for themselves, being in the medical field and all)

  • Mathew Smithburger

    This issue needs study. Obviously the simple solutions proposed by others in the comments here do not take into account the subtle complexities of the parking placards. I would urge Mayor De Blasio and his aids to commission McKinsey & Company to study this issue for nine months and then issue a report (at an estimated cost of $10,000) and to solicit donations for Campaign for One New York from union membership who benefit from using such placards.

  • Philip McManus

    We need more faster and safer transportation options. People drive because it’s faster and convenient. Expand railways and bus, train and ferry frequency. Don’t lower speed limits. Enforce the law equally for all commuters emphasing education and safety. Jaywalking, reckless driving and cycling kills people.

    “One for all, and all for one.”

    Philip McManus
    PhilAMcManus@gmail.com
    718-679-5309

    Queens Public Transit Committee
    Faster and safer transportation will create more social, economic, recreational, and environmental opportunities.

    Facebook:
    Rockaway Beach Rail Line
    Queens Public Transit
    Rockaway Beach Branch

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    Websites:
    Rockaway Branch Line blog
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    Queens Public Transit

  • Tom

    Cops are special. Blacks are special. Muslims are special. It’s to the point where I’m the only one left who’s not special – and I’m PISSED!

  • Hollywood

    It’s good to be king

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