Van Bramer to Car Dealers: Stop Hogging Northern Boulevard Sidewalks

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer isn't shopping for a new car at City Mitsubishi's dealership. He's trying to walk down the sidewalk on Northern Boulevard. Photo:  John McCarten/NYC Council
Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer isn’t shopping for a new car at City Mitsubishi’s dealership. He’s trying to walk down the sidewalk on Northern Boulevard. Photo: John McCarten/NYC Council

Walking the car-clogged sidewalks of Northern Boulevard this morning with street safety advocates and press in tow, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer called on two NYPD precincts to crack down on auto dealerships that treat pedestrian space as car showrooms.

“They have a right to make money,” Van Bramer said of the dealerships. “But they do not have a right to block the sidewalks.”

Northern Boulevard regularly ranks as one of the most dangerous streets in Queens. Van Bramer, standing outside PS 152 at the intersection where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed on his way to school in 2013, said parking cars on the sidewalks doesn’t help the situation. “Northern Boulevard is busy enough, dangerous enough,” he said. “We cannot accept pedestrians’ lives being put in danger in order to sell cars.”

PS 152 principal Vincent Vitolo said he has spoken with dealerships next to the school about keeping the sidewalks clear for students. But after brief bouts of compliance, the dealers put cars back onto the sidewalk, blocking the way for kids going to school. “We’re in touch with all the dealerships around us,” he said. “Nobody’s perfect.”

Cristina Furlong of Make Queens Safer said representatives of a Honda dealership told her there was an exception in state law that allows car dealerships to park on sidewalks. The claim appears to be a complete fiction, and police occasionally do ticket the dealers for appropriating sidewalk space.

Van Bramer said his office has reached out to many of the dealerships, and met with the 108th and 114th precincts yesterday about the issue. While the precincts have done some enforcement blitzes in the past, the dealerships remain defiant. The problem is worse on the weekends, when dealers put out even more display cars on the sidewalks.

“There are some problems, some community issues, that ultimately seem intractable and people come to accept them as ‘that’s just the way it is,'” Van Bramer said. “These businesses cannot accept these tickets as a cost of doing business.”

  • BBnet3000

    The police do nothing if you 311 these also. 4th Ave in Bay Ridge is another hotspot.

  • mattkime

    yes, but its still good to have as a record. then up your game by calling local city council rep / community board.

  • ganghiscon

    I’ve found 311 does nothing in for any matters handled by the police. They either say, “We responded and took proper action,” and I look out the window at the situation and nothing has changed. Or they say, “We showed up and didn’t notice an offense,” which either I can see is still occurring, or is a legit excuse because they showed up five hours later. And most of my complaints are similar to this (blocked bike lanes, blocked crosswalks, blocked sidewalks etc). Shocking, I know!

  • c2check

    Good suggestion!

  • A lot of people think this is harmless – just walk around! – but it’s not. Cars that are parked on sidewalks had to be driven onto them. Far too many people, including children, have been killed by drivers who hop the curb.

    Getting cars off of sidewalks should be easy. It’s not like nailing someone for parking two inches too close to a hydrant, which leads to drivers feeling like losing contestants in a game of gotcha. You’re either parked on the sidewalk or you’re not. There’s no grey area.

    I applaud Jimmy Van Bramer for calling attention to this. The next step is to involve more than action by a local precinct or community stakeholders. If Vision Zero means anything, there has to be a directive from Bratton and de Blasio that sidewalk parking will not be tolerated. If the city doesn’t see sidewalks as sacred pedestrian space, then there’s no hope for crosswalks or anywhere else.

  • This is true. Even when the council member called 311 they did nothing for some cars parked on BRAND NEW CURB EXTENSIONS on Queens Blvd!

  • DRDV

    How about doubling the fine of each successive ticket. The laws of math would take care of the problem pretty quickly.

  • Joe R.

    Maybe the answer here is for pedestrians to return the “favor”. Start setting up tables for vending, chairs/tables for cafes, carriage or bike parking, whatever, right in the travel lanes of Northern Boulevard! See how motorists (including the NYPD) like having their way blocked. That’s exactly what pedestrians must endure when cars are parked in their “travel lanes”, namely the sidewalks. Maybe that will get the police to finally stop turning a blind eye to this egregious practice.

  • ahwr

    Cars that are parked on sidewalks had to be driven onto them. Far too many people, including children, have been killed by drivers who hop the curb.

    Has there been a case of a person killed or seriously injured by a dealership employee moving a car onto the sidewalk that was going to sit there as a show piece for the day? I don’t like when the sidewalk is obstructed by dealerships either, but this really feels more like a nuisance than a safety issue.

  • There have been cases of people pulling into parking spaces and then accelerating up onto the curb and killing people. Seems close enough.

    I’d hate to think that we have to wait for a tragedy involving a driver parking a car on the sidewalk to do something about this problem.

    Sidewalks are either for pedestrians or they’re not. Given how tightly some of these cars get parked and how little space they leave, it’s hardly a nuisance to, say, someone in a wheelchair or with limited mobility. It simply should not be tolerated.

  • Telar

    The dealerships contribute to the dangerous Boulevard. When sidewalks are narrowed, when cars are parked in crosswalks, when dealerships are not paying for storing their cars all days in metered parking spots, these all add up.

    I have seen many people pushing strollers and people in wheelchairs have to go into the street around parked cars. Nuisance? Nope. Real danger.

  • mattkime

    bonus points – sitting outside and waiting to see if the police actually show before closing the ticket.

  • Kevin Love

    “… Honda dealership…City Mitsubishi’s dealership…”

    Needless to say, this kind of nonsense is definitely not tolerated in Japan. If a dealership in Tokyo were to do this, the cars would be promptly towed away. And the publicity would result in the senior executives of these car companies making profound and humiliating public apologies.

    Here’s an idea. Why not contact the Tokyo media. Publicity in Japan of the bad behavior of these Japanese companies would be deeply embarrassing. Japan is such a crowded island nation that hogging space like that is seen as the behavior of rude barbarians. Very un-Japanese.

  • Bolwerk

    Citizen enforcement. Let people write tickets, documenting what they see on camera phones.

  • Simon Phearson

    I don’t see why a distracting debate over whether this constitutes a “danger” or a “nuisance” should change our approach. The dealerships are doing something that is plainly illegal. The police are enforcing the law only sporadically, and their efforts are evidently insufficient to change the behavior. It seems clear that a political solution is required.

  • Simon Phearson

    Well, Black Lives Matter showed us exactly how the NYPD would approach obstructing thoroughfares. They seem quite comfortable with their double standard.

  • AnoNYC

    This problem is found citywide and really needs change. There’s an auto maintainance garage and U-Hual rental facility along Bruckner Blvd which always blocks the narrow sidewalk which connects either side of the Bronx River. The alternative is walking or biking out into the damn Bruckner.

    Another terrible location for this behavior is Jerome Avenue, especially around the 44th Precinct.

    Dealerships, maintainance garages, parking facilities, valet and the NYPD are all guilty of this behavior. It needs to stop.

  • Driver

    Van Bramer is not “trying” to walk down the sidewalk, he IS walking down the sidewalk, along side another pedestrian, with room between them.
    The practice of dealers, repair shops, and other automotive businesses parking vehicles on the sidewalk is an unnecessary and illegal nuisance, and can potentially pose a hazardous situation. Should the issue be addressed? Definitely. Should we pretend that these vehicles are preventing Van Bramer from walking on the sidewalk? I think to do so is a compromise of journalistic integrity.

  • Andrew

    How does this little sliver of sidewalk look in the winter? Does the dealership scrupulously keep it clear of snow and ice, or does the dealership give pedestrians as much consideration in the winter as in the summer?

    This is theft of city property, plain and simple. Tow these cars every day until they go away for good (it won’t take long), and keep on towing if they ever come back in the future. Here and everywhere else that dealerships and other private businesses and individuals park on the sidewalk.

    PS 152 principal Vincent Vitolo said he has spoken with dealerships next to the school about keeping the sidewalks clear for students. But after brief bouts of compliance, the dealers put cars back onto the sidewalk, blocking the way for kids going to school. “We’re in touch with all the dealerships around us,” he said. “Nobody’s perfect.”

    So not parking multiple private vehicles on the sidewalk is a mark of perfection?

    Cristina Furlong of Make Queens Safer said representatives of a Honda dealership told her there was an exception in state law that allows car dealerships to park on sidewalks.

    How can people say these things with a straight face?

  • Simon Phearson

    As long as we’re being pedantic asses for no particular reason, I might point out that “trying” to do something is implicit in one’s actually “doing” something intentionally, so it is perfectly accurate to say that van Bramer is both “trying to walk” and “walking” down the sidewalk.

    Streetsblog is unquestionably biased. That’s why we – the ones who read it – love it. I’d take Streetsblog’s bias over the sheer incompetence displayed by other news organizations when reporting on transportation issues any day.

  • Flakker

    Maybe, for the first time in seemingly forever, someone in NEW YORK should face consequences for their obnoxious, antisocial behavior. Crazy, I know.

  • nanter

    Agreed; why do they stop short at ticketing? Tow them and charge the dealerships the exorbitant fees required to get the car out of impound. This behaviour would come to an end quite fast.

  • BBnet3000

    What about people coming the other way? Your attempt to rationalize this theft of sidewalk space has failed. The city has built a wide sidewalk here and these dealerships have taken it over illegally.

  • Joe R.

    Sure, one can debate whether this is a danger or a nuisance but that’s splitting hairs. The hard fact is other than for the dealership, nobody here benefits if existing laws are not enforced. There are certainly many cases where it’s in the pubic interest to not enforce or only sporadically enforce bad laws. This isn’t one of them. Arguably, NYC would be better off if these car dealerships just left the city altogether. Whatever small dollar amount they may contribute to city tax coffers pales next to the damage the vehicles they sell create.

  • Andrew

    I doubt they ticket with any regularity. Consistent ticketing every single day might just do the trick.

  • Mathew Smithburger

    This is typical City Council of Cowardly Lions. Make a lot of noise, appear to make progress and either give up or back down at the last minute. So voters feel like something it getting done but nothing is really getting done because getting something done would endanger future campaign contributions. That’s how we wake up one morning with legionnaires’ disease or surrounded by Uber cars or our libraries have been sold off, etc..

  • Andrew

    These dealerships – and the city’s implicit acceptance of the situation – send a clear message that pedestrians are subservient to motorists.

    How many pedestrians ultimately decide to buy and use cars after this message is repeatedly drilled in? How many car owners and regular drivers became car owners and regular drivers in part (or in full) in response to this message?

    How many people have been killed and injured by the drivers who wouldn’t be driving if not for the clear message that the city send by condoning this illegal behavior?

  • Next step could be holding weekly protests outside dealerships that refuse to move their cars. Signs could read “(so-so dealer) is being a bad neighbor, please don’t patronize them”

  • Bernard Finucane

    If the city really cared they could set a good example by building corner bulbouts getting the trees off the sidewalks and into bulbouts in the parking lane. Or maybe write a few tickets.

  • Alicia

    Van Bramer is not “trying” to walk down the sidewalk, he IS walking down the sidewalk, along side another pedestrian, with room between them.

    There are a couple inches between him and the woman next to him, and even less space between the two men behind him. You call that “room”?

  • joe shabadoo

    not only is it illegal to park on the sidewalk, and park perpendicular to the curb, it’s also illegal to display cars for sale, if you are in the business of selling cars (so it’s legal for an individual to put a 4 Sale sign on their car when they park but businesses can’t.) It’s the opposite of an exception in the law; it’s a specific prohibition.

  • c2check

    Pretty much every NYPD precinct I have ever passed has cars parked everywhere—halfway on sidewalks, completely on sidewalks, in bike lanes—often leaving less than the 3′ required for a wheelchair user to pass (let alone all the other pedestrians in NYC). Both squad cars and private cars.

    You can practically tell where precinct houses are from space (/Google Earth) by looking for the cars parked head-in on the sidewalk.

  • njudah

    they need the russian “stop a douchebag” movement to show them what is what

  • joe shabadoo

    i love those guys

  • JudenChino

    There’s a very easy solution to this type of nuisance. And fortunately for the dealerships, they’re quite adept at changing flat tires.

  • JoshNY

    If I left my personal property on the sidewalk, it would get removed. I don’t see why these cars should be treated any differently. Tow them.

  • J_12

    It’s less dangerous than speeding on local streets, running red lights, failing to yield, and other moving violations.
    But it’s also much easier to enforce.

    These guys park the same cars on the same sidewalk every day. If the city had any real desire to stop this behavior, a few TEAs could go to a certain hotspot on a given day and ticket every illegally parked car.

    Once again the actions of the city government (or lack of actions) express what their real priorities are.

    Kudos to Van Bramer for at least bringing it up, though.

  • Kevin Love

    Do you believe that the executives at Honda and Mitsubishi who were embarrassed by this bad behavior would be slow to communicate their displeasure?

  • Tyson White

    Or one ticket for each car.

  • Tyson White

    Sidewalk crashes happen almost every day

  • Tyson White

    If everybody thinks 311 complaints don’t work, then police won’t get enough complaints to do something about it. One complaint won’t help, but many complaints add up and can’t be ignored forever.

  • Andrew

    How else would they be issued?

  • running_bond

    Try visiting Inwood, where the used car dealers and autobody shops park on sidewalks with zero enforcement.

  • armyvet00

    Van Bramer is really impressing me.

  • fdtutf

    One ticket for the dealership. I agree that every car should be ticketed, but the police and their windshield perspective might not see it the same way.

  • Ser Ponce

    Suppose I were walking on the sidewalk with my keys in my hand and the painted surface of a car somehow managed to occupy the same point in space-time as said keys… is that vandalism?

  • Andrew

    That makes no sense at all.

    Then again, we’re discussing the NYPD here.

  • fdtutf


  • Joe R.

    I wouldn’t call it vandalism. When a car is parked where it’s not supposed to be as far as I’m concerned it’s fair game. It’s sort of like when a car is double-parked in a bike lane. I don’t intentionally damage it but if I have to squeeze by and my handlebars knock the mirror off (or scratch the paint) that’s par for the course.

    I remember my mom encouraging us to relieve ourselves on cars parked like that back when we were kids. Not sure of her exact reasoning but it went something like “this car is in a great spot so nobody will see you peeing”.

  • Ser Ponce

    How likely is it that there’s some sort of bribery going on here?