Eyes on the Street: Madison Square Ped Space Invaded


"Have placard-bearing drivers begun their own reclaiming of reclaimed public space?"

That is the question posed by Streetsblogger ddartley, who last week snapped these photos of a city government vehicle parked in the new Madison Square pedestrian plaza. He got just close enough to spot the placard behind the windshield when:

This guy wearing some sort of NYPD uniform showed up and got in and
drove off. Okay, it’s not like he was committing murder or anything,
but every time a cop breaks a law for all to see, it’s just a little
more poison in the world. This suggests that even after these fancy new
pedestrian-only plazas have been built, they are under threat from
being parked on by placard-bearing NYC employees who remain, at least
as far as parking, 100% completely above the law. Well, for now!

It’s surprising, really, that it’s taken this long for such behavior to come to light. What can, or what should, DOT do to nip it in the bud?

  • anonymous

    Bicycle cop.

  • David

    Easy: More planters! Well spaced planters along the perimeter would also add some additional greenery, which is always welcome.

  • Provided he was responding to a serious matter, I don’t think this is such a big problem – provided it remains a highly isolated incident. Sometimes the police actually have to do stuff like this. If this was an issue of his own personal convenience, then yeah, it’s shitty on his part.

  • > Provided he was responding to a serious matter

    That’s either a personal vehicle or an unmarked car. Covert police officers are a wholly separate problem (most of the benefit of policing comes from deterrance, and covert cops don’t deter anything at all, rather that’s their point, to avoid deterrance so they can ticket folks).

    Also note that were it a marked police car, the concerned citizen here wouldn’t have been (nearly so) concerned.

  • I don’t know if DOT can do much about this. What we need is a shift in attitude regarding city employees’ privileges (going to the root of that word: “private law”): the police have got to be made to follow the law.

    Should transgressors be forced to wear humiliating armbands while on duty?

    I think Jello Biafra proposed (when running for mayor of SF) to dress cops in clown suits. Maybe we could put the clown suits on police scoflaws….

  • The circumstances made me think he probably was not on emergency business, and it’s conceivable he was. That’s one reason I had second thoughts after I sent these pics to Streetsblog.

    But parking on sidewalks and other pedestrian spaces is such a destructive–and still quite widespread–problem, and the steps taken against it took a long time to win, and were met with such anger, so I think it’s worth it for even this relatively small apparent infraction to get some press, so that that would-be abusers know that the public is still watching, and will continue to. The problem of government cars parking all over pedestrian space shouldn’t be forgotten about and therefore allowed to return.

  • Kaja – I think you’re right. I guess my overall point is it’s hard to know in a situation like this what kind of reason he had for parking there.

  • Ian Turner


  • I’m with Ian: Bollards.

  • W. K. Lis

    Don’t you know that while everyone is equal, some people are more equal than others.

  • chriswnw

    You can’t nip it in the bud. New Yorkers go where they want. Haven’t you seen the videos of pedestrians using your beloved cycle track as a sidewalk extension?

  • J-Uptown


    Why is urgent police business a perfectly legitimate reason to block ped space but not a legitimate reason to block vehicle travel lanes? Just double-park in the travel lane, same as any other street.

  • mjr

    Seems that in other cities, individual instances of fake parking placard use(and perhaps related types of official-abuse parking violations, like sidewalk parking) are rare enough to merit an article in the city paper:


    Wouldn’t it be remarkable if the Times published a Metro article every time a fake placard was used? (Granted, this article was about a local political hack, rather than a civil-service-protected employee, but it’s a start).

    This was on the Reuters “Oddly Enough” feed – a surprising number of local transportation issues end up there.

  • D.W. Northmore

    I support them parking on pedestrian space, as long as they don’t stay for too long. If you want more pedestrian spaces, you better provide for public officials.

  • Madison square is really a good place. Well, i think Citibank is everywhere. LOL!

  • zach

    Assume the placard is probably fake, and that most placards are probably fake.

    If the issue is fake placards a wider audience gets behind it.

  • Ray

    Send this photo to Edward Skyler, Deputy Mayor for Operations.

  • Glenn

    Just another reason I haven’t seen a Zozo yet.

  • D.W. Northmore: “If you want more pedestrian spaces, you better provide for public officials.”

    We’ve provided them with the best public transit system in the country. The logical next step would be to provide them with a residency requirement.

  • Planters, bollards, decoys, moats, tires impaled on spikes as a warning for those foolish enough…

  • How about two competing police departments, so that they can police each other as well as the general public? Current police ethos says that cops don’t mess with each other, but with two unrelated departments as well as well-chosen incentives that may change.

  • Won’t we then need a third police department to act as referee?


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