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Eyes on the Street

Parking Placards: The Public Safety Risk

2:31 PM EDT on May 4, 2010

This reader account of a run-in with a Traffic Enforcement Agent on Douglass Street in Park Slope is another example of how official privilege often trumps public safety.

IMG_1113.JPGnys_van.jpgGet your hands on a parking placard, and the city is yours.

She was not checking the hydrants; she was
on her Bluetooth, gossiping. I watched her walk right by the State of
New York van that is perpetually parked in front of the fire hydrant
across the street from my place. As we crossed paths, the following
exchange began:

Me: "Why didn't you give that van a ticket?"

TEA: "For what?"

Me: " Because it's parked in front of a hydrant."

TEA: (A little belligerently) "I didn't see it."

Me: "It is. Go look. In fact, it's always there and no one ever tickets it."

TEA: (To the person on the Bluetooth:) "Hold on, Hold on."

We walk back to the van. She sees it's a state van and reacts like her safety is being threatened.

TEA: "OH! State of New York!!! I can't give it a ticket."

Me: "Why not?"

TEA: "It's State of NY! I'm not allowed to give it a ticket."

Me: "You're not allowed? Who says?"

TEA: "I'm just not allowed!" (She starts backing away.)

Me: "Well if you won't give it a ticket, I'd like your badge number please."

Then she ran away yelling "I can't give it a ticket! I can't give it a ticket!!!" I didn't get her badge number.

Can a comparison be drawn between this incident and last weekend's failed attack in Manhattan? It's not as tenuous a connection as you might think.

The rolling bomb parked in Times Square Saturday night didn't have a placard, but a van left there for two days last December did. NYPD acknowledged that the van, which, fortunately, contained only tables and scarves, had probably been ignored by Traffic Enforcement Agents because of the counterfeit parking pass.

Stick a made-up placard under the windshield and you are practically guaranteed to get away with things that are off-limits to ordinary New Yorkers. There are a lot of ideas floating around for how to respond to Saturday's attempted attack. One idea that should be in the mix is the elimination of parking placards.

Our tipster is sending a letter to Governor Paterson and local electeds about the hydrant-blocking state van. It will be interesting to see if he gets results.

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