Who Rules the Roost on Jay Street? Placard Abusers, That’s Who

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Most of Jay Street is a “no standing zone” where placard holders both real and fake park without consequence. Photo: David Meyer

Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn is one of the most important segments in the city’s bike network, the key passage to and from the Manhattan Bridge. It’s also a huge impediment to biking in the city — the street is rife with double-parking, illegal U-turns, and the unnerving threat of a car door suddenly opening and throwing you into the path of a passing bus. An upcoming redesign of Jay Street should improve the situation, but it too will be hampered by the culture of parking placard abuse that pervades downtown Brooklyn streets.

The chaos on Jay Street emanates from placard holders and fake placard holders who park all over the place. Even legit placards aren’t a valid license to park in bus stops or crosswalks, but NYPD doesn’t enforce the rules. Soon after the 84th Precinct cracked down on Jay Street placard abuse in 2014, the commanding officer was reassigned.

Advocates campaigned long and hard to get the city to redesign Jay Street, and this summer, DOT plans to flip the bike lane with the parking lane to provide some physical protection. It should be a less stressful experience, but there’s a catch: The proposed bike lane is a sub-standard width on a street that typically already sees 2,400 cyclists in the peak 12-hour period. The National Association of City Transportation Officials advises that protected lanes should be at least five feet wide with a three-foot buffer from parked cars to keep cyclists clear of the door zone, but the Jay Street design calls for five-foot lanes with two-foot buffers.

The bike lane could be wider if it weren’t for all the placard parking on Jay Street. Take out the parking, and there’s a lot more room to work with. If the city was willing to make placard holders park a little further from their destinations — like in one of the many nearby garages with a glut of parking, thanks to downtown Brooklyn’s parking requirements — the options for good street design open up.

So who is parking on Jay Street? Whose entitlement to convenient personal parking trumps street safety and good bus service for everyone? I made a few trips in the past week to document the placard abuse up close.

The root of the placard problem lies with the courts in downtown Brooklyn and the law enforcement agencies with business there. Most of the placards belonged to New York State court officers and employees of the Brooklyn District Attorney, whose offices are on Jay Street. Like placard abuse throughout NYC, the problem speaks to the inability and unwillingness of the law enforcement establishment to police itself for the public’s benefit.

Illegally parked vehicles, including a DOT car, in a Jay Street bus stop. Photo: David Meyer
Illegally parked vehicles, including a DOT car, in a Jay Street bus stop. Photo: David Meyer

All sorts of other cars are, of course, also parked illegally or idling all along Jay Street, and anyone with some sort of government identification can get away with it. There are police officers idling in bike lanes and agency vehicles parked in bus stops all along Jay between Fulton Mall and Tillary Street. Illegal placard abuse gives cover to yet more law-breaking: A lot of idling drivers lined up in the bike lane behind police cars didn’t even have placards or placard-type devices.

Here’s a visual survey of the world of petty corruption on Jay Street — who’s parking with impunity and the tools they use to get away with it.

The most common parking placards on Jay Street belong to court officers and employees of Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson’s office…

Photo: David Meyer
Photo: David Meyer
Photo: David Meyer
Photo: David Meyer

Any sort of NYPD paraphernalia is good as gold on Jay Street…

Photo: David Meyer
Photo: David Meyer
Photo: David Meyer
Photo: David Meyer
Photo: David Meyer
Photo: David Meyer

Then there are various other government agency placards and markers of public employment that ward off any parking enforcement officers who might walk by…

Photo: David Meyer
Photo: David Meyer
finance placard
Photo: David Meyer
I guess this is what a legitimate MTA NYC Transit parking placard looks like (police solidarity sticker optional). Photo: David Meyer
Photo: David Meyer

Not affiliated with NYC government in any way? Not a problem…

Photo: David Meyer
Photo: David Meyer
Your credentials apparently don't even have to be from New York City to get away with parking on Jay Street. Photo: David Meyer
Photo: David Meyer

Despite all that, someone must be patrolling Jay Street and keeping an eye out for naked dashboards, because I did find one car with a ticket:

This poor guy. Photo: David Meyer
Schlubs who have no placard, vest, or other marker of agency privilege have to make room for people who do. Photo: David Meyer
  • walknseason

    Great little ethnographic study! Proves what see all the time – nobody is a bigger criminal gang in new york than the NYPD.

  • Reader

    “A lot of idling drivers lined up in the bike lane behind police cars didn’t even have placards or placard-type-devices.”

    When will Bratton connect the dots? He subscribes to Broken Windows, but doesn’t see that law-breaking by his own officers leads to law-breaking by everyone else.

    I doubt de Blasio will do anything about this, but he should. The cops aren’t voting for him anyway.

  • JudenChino

    That entire section is just so depressing. Honestly, it’s a huge fuck you to the residents of this city by NYC government.

    It’s not just that it’s a total clusterfuck. It’s the total disregard for maintaining it as a viable route for just normal residents. In my opinion, the issues have very little to do with the volume of motor vehicle traffic. Rather, it’s the abject lack of and/or selective enforcement of the law.

    Because, I get it, people double-park. It happens. But, when they stand in the bike lane, when there are actual parking spots they could stand in nearby, like WTF. Drivers so do not fear a ticket for standing in a bike lane that they won’t even move to where it would be legal. It just makes me think the city couldn’t give a flying fuck about this. That this critical node in our transportation network just doesn’t need to be maintained because “privliges” for the government insiders and connected. This is supposed to be a progressive city. God I feel for the people who must rely on the bus.

    Honestly, there should be no parking on this stretch at all. Why the fuck are we screwing ourselves over for the least beneficial and societal benefiting purpose. Oh, but there should be loading zones. Even drop off/pick-up zones for the hospital too. But if City employees need to park near the courthouse, then they should park in the garage. And if necessary, they could be given this “perk” from the City (yes, I’d gladly pay slightly more in taxes so the ADA parks in a fucking garage and not in bus lane), which, as we all know, is tax deductible perk (maybe unnecessary if employer is gov’t?).

    But yah, I’ve become less and less enthused of this redesign the more i think of it. Being able to “take the lane” and/or go around the bottlenecks of cars blocking the bike lane is clutch. Whereas now, the “new” bike lane will have us trapped between the doorzone and the curb, in an area where peds (understandbly) step and wait in the roadbed.

    Oh, and one more thing. It’s harrying enough taking the BK Bridge everyday. That’s a fun little obstacle course of bell ringing, whistling, shouting “watch out” and wondering if that tourist is gonna do the “step into your path, then look.” So for most of that stretch, you’re “on your guard.” So it’d be nice, for when you get back to BK, to just, ya know, not have to be crazily on your guard and stressed out.

  • mrtuffguy

    Or to look at another way: Law-breaking placard abuse by his officers on Jay Street, by the Broken Windows theory, should give license to those officers to commit other, larger crimes.

  • Reader

    Like running people over without consequence, for example.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    it’s time we recognize placard corruption will never be reformed. The only solution is to eliminate all placards. Gov’t employees will simply have to park like everyone else

  • Danny G

    Technically, I don’t think Broken Windows applies here, since the placards are placed on the dashboard. I think reining in placard abuse would fall under the Broken Dashboards policy.

  • BBnet3000

    Widening the new design wouldn’t solve the horrible conflict with buses built in. Why is TA willing to watch the better design they came up with go on the junk heap?
    http://www.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Screen-Shot-2014-11-20-at-12.45.37-PM.png

  • mattkime

    broken windows doesn’t apply to officers

  • AlexWithAK

    When I first started biking to work I used Jay St because, of course, it was the most direct route to the bridges. I think I used it three whole times before I said f$%k this and started going a bit out of my way by using Clinton in the morning and Henry in the afternoon. It probably adds 5-10 minutes to my ride, but it’s a testament to how bad Jay St is. Once these improvements are done, I’ll give it a try. But I’m not confident it will be good enough to get me to give up my current route.

  • rao

    Placards will never go either. The solution is for DOT to eliminate the parking.

  • rao

    It’s a perk of the job, a little slice of petty corruption.

  • mattkime

    I’m not sure why we need to put up with this…and i really don’t think we do. citizens have had leverage before – https://medium.com/@naparstek/a-brief-history-of-uncivilservants-org-6f452f492444#.qtc5r7d4w

    we shouldn’t need to negotiate with the nypd or anyone else about basic application of the law. full stop.

    find leverage.

  • AlexWithAK

    In Bratton’s mind, there are no dots to connect. He publicly dismisses Vision Zero and, like most of his officers, views traffic enforcement through the “we have more important things to do” lens. Never mind that traffic deaths kill nearly as many New Yorkers as guns each year. Also never mind that low-level “professional courtesies” like this underpin a larger culture of police corruption and abuse.

    Any progress with this issue needs to come from the top down but it’s clear Bratton isn’t interested. As for de Blasio, he’s too weak to make much of anything happen, especially when it comes to the NYPD who he’s rolled over for over and over again.

  • JamesR

    As all of the stories coming getting press within the last few days have show, the NYPD is public enemy #1 when it comes to moving a livable streets and vision zero agenda forward. I’m actually kind of losing faith that we can make this city the place that we want it to be, that we may have hit a high point during the Bloomberg/JSK years and are starting to roll backward.

  • 10 years later….will it ever end anywhere in the city?

  • Peter

    Either that, or get all drivers to use placards (real or fake). Push it to the point that the entire system breaks down and they have to make changes.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    the real tragedy is this petty corruption discredits NYPD in the eyes of ordinary New Yorkers and erodes confidence in the system. It’s behaviour one expects in a banana republic.

  • Anonymous

    The trick is for every city-issued placard to have a barcode. No barcode – get a ticket. Traffic agents would scan all barcodes for reporting purposes but not issue tickets. The agencies issuing barcodes would then be toldto reduce total use by a percentage every year. The NYPD is well versed in dealing with quotas…

  • Canonchet

    Under the old a-fish-rots-from-the-head principle, take a look at the ignored or abandoned bike lanes around City Hall, where parking placard-abuse has long been similarly rampant, but with a somewhat different distribution of credentials: fewer Courts-related passes, but many more NYC agency IDs and (often dubious) press passes. Even in the Bloomberg bike-lane halcyon days official parking abuse was the norm on Park Row and Centre Street and Chambers Street, making safe biking onto and off the Brooklyn Bridge almost impossible.

  • Kevin Love

    Or beating bloody an 80-year-old man.

  • BBnet3000

    I saw a great one today: a private car with blatantly illegal window tint parked in a median right next near Police Plaza (right in front of 100 Gold). It had an NYPD metrocard on the dashboard, which I assume the owner rarely uses otherwise.

  • neroden

    Anyone own a tow truck? Tow. Them. All. Placards don’t allow illegal parking.

    If they complain about their cars being towed? Citizen’s arrest.

    The only other alternative is to elect a non-corrupt DA (Ken Thompson is clearly corrupt) who will start by prosecuting the criminals in the DA’s office, and then move on to prosecuting the criminals in the NYPD crime gang.

  • neroden

    It’s enough to indicate that the city needs a revolution.

  • neroden

    Agreed. Find leverage. Use it. Destroy the crime gang.

  • neroden

    Bratton needs to be executed for his corruption. Since we repealed the death penality, we’ll probably have to settle for throwing him in prison for a large number of consecutive sentences. Given Bratton’s record of official corruption, all we really have to do to get him in prison is to get a DA who isn’t a corrupt NYPD-crime-gang member.

    But that sounds pretty hard, doesn’t it?

  • stairbob

    What are the odds that the one car with the ticket was an old ticket placed there by the driver to ward off a new ticket?