How Many Obstacles Does It Take to Stop NYPD Sidewalk Parking?

This is the generous new sidewalk extension at the five-way intersection of Washington Avenue, Park Place, and Grand Avenue in Brooklyn. Here you can see bell bollards protecting the added pedestrian space between Washington, on the left, and Grand on the right.

I live around the corner, and I can’t say enough about how much this addition has improved the walking experience. Before DOT put this in as part of a broader safety project, the area between Grand and Washington felt like a grey zone were pedestrians weren’t supposed to tread. Walking on the east side of Washington usually entailed weaving between a combination of parked police vehicles and metal barricades:

Image: Google Street View

The cops who operate out of the building at the corner of Grand and Park have staked claim to the sidewalks here, and they seem to consider any pedestrian space within a 200-foot radius of their workplace to be fair game for parking. Here are their vehicles hogging the sidewalk on Park:

At first, when the city poured concrete earlier this year, the cops parked all over the new sidewalk extension too. But that has subsided over the past several weeks as more obstacles have popped up. Many more obstacles. First there were the bell bollards, a standard part of DOT’s toolkit for pedestrian safety projects. Then came several skinnier, red bollards. Now there are huge granite slabs sitting on the sidewalk.

I wish I had taken pictures the whole time to document the sequence, but here’s where things stand right now. Including the traffic signal pole, there are now 13 obstacles in the way of police who want to park on this sidewalk extension:

The total could rise to 15 if the new tree pits get planted as one would expect. This is apparently what it takes to keep the cops from appropriating space from people on foot in order to store their personal vehicles.

  • I came to realize recently that NYPD is more like the Automobile Mafia than actual peace and safety keepers.  They do what ever they want with their cars, break what ever laws they want and shake down anyone else who tries to use public space.

  • I came to realize recently that NYPD is more like the Automobile Mafia than actual peace and safety keepers.  They do what ever they want with their cars, break what ever laws they want and shake down anyone else who tries to use public space.

  • Rob

    This is a marvelous addition to a hostile corner. 

    And yet….and yet….just yesterday I saw a car parked on just about the only unblocked portion of this lovely island – it must have driven up from Washington Avenue, over the curbcut, between #5 and #10….

  • Andy

    @ebb2534f988e25e08c18977fb1b3ed88:disqus Some call it a curbcut, others call it a driveway

  • J

    This needs to be done around EVERY single police station and fire house. The NYPD and FDNY park all over the sidewalk, wherever it is physically possible. Since NYPD and FDNY have systematically refused to police themselves on this, the only solution is to make breaking the law physically impossible.

  • Bklyn

    This is a direct consequence of officers not living in the communities they serve.  If someone is commuting by car into a neighborhood like this every day for work — and then cruising around all day in a car for work — how much can they really understand the concerns of area residents, especially when it comes to quality of life issues like pedestrian safety?

    Given how expensive it is to live in the city, I’m not sure what the solution is, but police officers need to feel more invested in local communities and need to experience as locals do.  Perhaps putting more beat cops on foot and on bikes would go a long way towards fixing this experience gap.

  • The Magnificent Tron

    Amazed they still don’t have a car parked in front of the crosswalk by #13.  Guess this was a lucky day for them taking photos.

  • MRB

    In a vast majority of cases, do the police have better parking options?

  • @6cc8759e54e85e42c5d105f58bc31365:disqus They could walk an extra block and find a parking spot like any one else.

  • @Rob Yes, it’s not quite a secure perimeter. The cops can also mount the curb and squeeze in between the two bell bollards.

  • J

    @6cc8759e54e85e42c5d105f58bc31365:disqus In many cases there is even a parking lot specifically for police officers. This was the case for the 30th precinct near my old place in West Harlem. The parking lot was lightly used and the entire sidewalk on both sides of the street was occupied by parked cars, typically with all four wheels on the sidewalk, completely closing it to pedestrians. 

    Aerial View:

    Street View:

    The prudent solution would be to have each precinct to actually survey their parking needs, and then designate the required amount of street space for legal police parking. However, NYPD is too lazy, and politicians are too chicken-shit to even consider anything that reduces street parking for residents. Instead, they are both comfortable with the status quo where pedestrians are the ones that suffer.

  • Ian Dutton

    Oh, please, DOT… take a look at the corner of Sixth Ave. and W. Broadway and consider a similar treatment! The police parking there (Second Transit District as well as spillover from 1st Pct.) makes crossings a risky proposition!

  • Anonymous

    We should have police that live in the neighborhoods they work in or even within the city so they could take public transit.  Right now it seems like the dashboard perspective is costing lives.

    Unfortunately these obstacles are just that.  they are also obstacles to pedestrian travel.

  • carma

    its all great to have officers living in the neighborhood they work, but lets face it, how many jobs actually are like that.  most ppl commute on average of 40 minutes within this city.  we are such a big city, its hard to say that police should only live in the nabe they work in. 

    btw; the nypd force consists of officers living in the 5 surrounding counties of NYC.

  • Driver

     It’s funny how most everyone in this city seems to walk wherever they want, whenever they want, yet somehow if the sidewalk is partially blocked this is some sort of major catastrophe that forces pedestrians to “suffer”. 
     Maybe some outrage would seem justified if we saw pictures of scores of pedestrians trying to squeeze through a narrow passing or walking in the street.  Something tells me that particular triangle doesn’t get a whole lot of pedestrian traffic. 

    Is it really fair to expect the cops to police the same neighborhood they live in?  It seems this could adversely impact their personal lives or their ability to police.  Would you want to have to lock up your own neighbor and then live near them?  Police also work odd shifts, which can make public transit a lousy option.

  • Anonymous

    I am all for installing obstacles to prevent sidewalk parking, but why isn’t there a more consistent design vision at work here? This mishmash of elements looks like a giant forgot to clean up his toys at the end of the day.

  • @mistermarkdavis:disqus well to be fair, the granite slabs also look like great places to sit (and if trees really do get put in, it might even be kinda nice)…
    It looks like some more skinny bollards on either side of the bike cut are needed though… even in less douchey neighborhoods, many drivers seem to interpret sidewalk cuts as “ooh a nice way to get my car on the sidewalk.”

  • brigade car

    Car Parking to the side or under ground or road-side park or service road. There are park on many consider to charge car model. One more point to the take parking number and coupon keep still not outside the parking.

  • Anonymous

    The high use of personal cars by NYPD is a direct consequence of the fact that most of them live quite far from where they work, and in places with few or no transit options for commuting.  This, in turn, is largely a result of the very low pay for NYPD officers relative to police forces in the surrounding region.

    I’m pretty sure that a in a prior negotiation with the union, the city agreed to provide parking for the officers’ personal vehicles.  The city has provided very little of the promised parking, due to the expense of off-street parking and the lack of political will to take on-street parking away from residents.  This leads to many situations where police park their cars illegally on the sidewalks around the precinct because they believe they are entitled to the parking.

    None of this is meant to justify the behavior of the NYPD, but simply to speculate as to why there is such blanket tolerance for this illegal activity at the department.  I would speculate that the city has too many low-paid officers and would be better served by a smaller force where each officer is more highly paid and better trained.  But that is a debate for another time.

    No one block being overrun by officers parking illegally is a major threat, but this is going on across the city at the majority of precincts.  These areas are more dangerous for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike due to the reduced space and visibility.  Perhaps most importantly, this behavior strongly reinforces the message that, for the typical New Yorker, the NYPD doesn’t care about you or your safety and exists only to harass and issue tickets, or worse.

  • _hc

    Even after all that, they are still very much completely blocking at least two hydrants, parking on the sidewalk, blocking the crosswalk, etc. These are personal cars of the NYPD detectives who work at the Robbery and SVU unit at Grand Ave and Park Pl in Brooklyn.  They have blue NYPD permits and are completely surrounding two separate fire hydrants, parking on the sidewalk, including the two who drive up the crosswalk as if it was their own personal parking lot.

  • Ron Kavanaugh

    I live in the Bronx, and these bell bollards seem to be doing as much harm as good. In the couple of years since they were installed atop a new street divider I’ve personally seen 4 car bottom out and become stranded (Sedgwick Ave & Van Cortlandt Ave West). I’m wondering if the idea needs to be rethought for certain traffic patterns

  • Ian Turner

    From my perspective, incidents like that are good evidence that the bollards are working as expected. What if a pedestrian had been there instead?

  • Ron Kavanaugh

    True but I’ve never heard of anyone being hit in this intersection. And this street is so narrow there wasn’t a need for the “island,” which was only recently installed. Sometimes I think the city over thinks things.

    That said, thanks for your answer.

  • devonbanks

    I’m seeing this comment a few years later– wanted to add that this is a very wide intersection where drivers used to make wide turns and a big public elementary school is right here. If you hit a bollard in such a wide intersection, you are either making the turn too wide or too fast.

  • Reina Benoir

    They don’t have to live in the neighborhood they work in but they don’t have to live all the way in Staten Island either or Long Island either. Let’s be real, most of these cops are coming in from Long Island which is not nor has it ever been one of the five boroughs. Additionally, the NYPD residency requirement which allows people to live in or establish residency in one of the 5 boroughs of NYC, one of the two counties in long Island, Westchester, Orange, or Putnam counties within 30 days, is a lot looser than that for other city workers who have to actually live in one of the five boroughs for two years of city employment before they can even consider Long Island, Westchester, Rockland, Orange or Putnam counties.

    With such loose standards for residency I can see why cops are so eager to bring their cars into the city to do their work as so many of them do not live in the 5 boroughs at all but there is no reason why the people who actually live in the neighborhoods these cops patrol should suffer for the cops wanting to bring their personal vehicles into work. They can take mass transit like the rest of us.

  • 1soReal

    In a sense that means that means they are working. That could be a person they hit instead. Remember vehicles should be yielding to pedestrians when turning. They should be turning slowly enough and at an angle to be able to respond to pedestrians without having to slam on the brakes. If a car runs into those islands they were probably turning too fast and/or too sharp an angle. Cars do that a lot when turning left trying to beat on coming traffic, as opposed to waiting until it is safe to turn without having speed through the turn and crosswalk. Forcing cars to turn more slowly and deliberate is one of the main points of their existence.


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