Gridlock Sam: Mayor’s Placard Reduction Plan is Step One of Ten

The following was contributed by Samuel I. Schwartz, AKA Gridlock Sam.

Mayor Bloomberg correctly recognizes that reining in city workers’ parking privileges is a pre-requisite to congestion pricing. But his goal of 20 percent is too modest, and he should know it’s easier to do than it looks. Believe me I know; I led the effort to reduce government parking under Mayor Koch in the 1980s, even under threat of arrest. Here’s what Mayor Mike needs to do in 2008 under my ten-step plan:

  1. ucfp2.jpgSet up a triumvirate to review every permit application. Put DOT, NYPD and the Mayor’s Office on the team, an NYC parking version of "checks and balances."
  2. Publish the names and civil service titles of every placard recipient. A small number belonging to undercover officers would not be revealed, but their number would be published to ensure no significant changes without explanation.
  3. Establish just two recognized machine scannable permit types: ‘Law Enforcement’ and ‘Agency.’ Include State and Federal Permits into the mix. Currently, I estimate around 75 different permits, some of which are phonies.
  4. Ticket first, ask questions later. If a car has a permit and is in violation, tag it. Let the recipient pay or argue his or her case before the triumvirate.
  5. No permits given for routine commutation (yes, I know NYPD and FDNY must be treated differently; I’ll get to that). Ostensibly, the reason we give permits to civil servants is because they use their cars to go "into the field." Set a three hour limit on parking at offices. See step four for enforcement and adjudication.
  6. Parking by police stations and firehouses is "out-of-control." First hand, I’ve observed roughly a third of the permits appearing to be "phonies" with some belonging to clerical positions. In my day, we mapped out police and fire department parking with the commanding officer and left it to him or her to get rid of the bogus ones. We also ticketed and towed cars outside the established zones regardless of a permit.
  7. Create a force of about 100 officers who report to the DOT Commissioner and are backed to the hilt when they tag NYPD, FDNY officers’ cars. In my day, parking enforcement was a DOT function, and this was easier to do though several of my officers were handcuffed and I was personally threatened with arrest by the feds (my first meeting with then U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani).
  8. Slash "official plates" by a third. My guess is that much of this can be accomplished by banning cars of assistant, deputy assistant commissioner, and other commissioner titles. If the subway is good enough for Hizzoner, it should be good enough for them. Besides, most commissioners rarely go into the field and they can use a "pool car" when transit’s a hardship.
  9. Get rid of ALL teachers’ parking. Perhaps the most galling image is that of teachers’ parking in school playgrounds. The second most galling is teachers’ parking adjacent to schools. The curbs next to schools are meant to provide emergency access and a space for pick-up and discharge. Teachers’ parking was granted in the 1960s when Title I teachers traveled between schools. That program is long gone. Furthermore, parking next to schools is dangerous. A DOT study found that about 100 children per year are struck by cars after darting out between cars parking by schools during school hours.
  10. "No Permit Zones" were set up in the 1980s to identify areas of abuse and inform the city worker that extra enforcement would be working the area. Ticket defenses were particularly tough in these areas. The city still has some "No Permit Zones" but enforcement is spotty (witness the bike lane on Adams St.). I say expand "No Permit Zones," publicize them and send the DOT Enforcement Squad to patrol (see steps four and seven).

These ten measures would vastly help pave the way for congestion pricing. But let’s make sure government workers don’t get permits for that too.

Samuel I. Schwartz was a civil servant from 1971 to 1990 under four different mayors.

Photo: Uncivil Servants

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