Reversing Bloomberg Reforms, City Will Reissue Tens of Thousands of Teacher Parking Placards

Citing a process of "arbitration and negotiation," the de Blasio administration will return to a system that enables widespread abuse of parking privileges.

Streets around NYC schools are about to get more chaotic.
Streets around NYC schools are about to get more chaotic.

Get ready for a lot more car traffic and illegal parking around New York City schools. Tens of thousands of new parking placards will soon be in circulation.

Under the terms of arbitration between the city and the United Federation of Teachers, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, and DC 37 — unions that represent teachers, administrators, and other school staff — the Department of Education will soon hand out parking placards to any school employee who has a car and requests one, reversing reforms instituted during the Bloomberg administration.

The arbitration stemmed from a 2009 lawsuit filed by CSA, the principals union, a DOE spokesperson told Streetsblog.

The lawsuit was filed after then-mayor Michael Bloomberg reduced placards issued by DOE from 63,000 to around 11,000, aligning the number of placards with the number on-street parking spots reserved for schools.

The DOE cuts were part of a broader effort to reform a placard system plagued by abuse. Placards do not confer the right to park anywhere with impunity, but placard holders tend to treat them as a carte blanche, knowing that enforcement agents will typically avoid ticketing any vehicle that has one.

Like placards issued to NYPD, FDNY, and other city personnel, the DOE’s placards were often used to park illegally — in crosswalks, at bus stops, by fire hydrants — prompting the Bloomberg-era reforms.

UFT eventually accepted the reduction in placards — which, it should be noted, did not affect the 15,000 off-street parking spaces reserved for schools citywide. But the CSA sought and won an arbitration ruling that said the placards should be reinstated to comply with the union’s contract with the city. The Bloomberg administration did not reissue the placards, and the CSA sued the city, the Education Department, and Bloomberg.

“Following litigation and negotiations, we are complying with the decision of the administrative law judge,” said the DOE spokesperson via email. The extent to which the city’s hand was forced is not yet clear. (Streetsblog asked DOE and City Hall for the text of the ruling. We will update the story when we receive a response.)

Now the placard floodgates are about to reopen. Currently, a school with, say, 10 on-street parking spots has 10 placards, which are available to 10 teachers and other staff members on any given day. (The UFT agreement with the city gave school principals and union chapter leaders, who are also teachers, discretion as to how placards are assigned. Schools may, for instance, allocate permits on a rotating basis, or by lottery.) Soon, that same school could have any number of employees competing for those 10 spots, since the number of on-street spaces allocated per school will not increase.

The DOE will be responsible for tens of thousands of placards, as it was when the system was rife with abuse.
The DOE will be responsible for tens of thousands of placards, as it was when the system was rife with abuse.

“I have news that many UFT members will welcome,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew wrote in a May 9 member email. “Every school employee who has a car will receive a Department of Education-issued parking permit, and effective May 18 the school’s on-street parking spots will become available on a first-come, first-served basis.”

Unlike before, new placards will confer parking privileges only at the school a teacher works for. In practice, however, that’s not enough to curb misuse, since government employees with placards tend to use them whether or not they have a legal space to park. Once the designated spots fill up, placard holders can then use their perk to park in nearby no-standing zones, crosswalks, or other turf that should be off-limits, secure in the knowledge they won’t get a ticket.

Tens of thousands of new placards will mean more traffic near schools and incentivize driving over transit. Teachers, administrators, and other school staff who don’t drive to work, meanwhile, will apparently receive no commensurate benefit.

Explaining why the union went along with the Bloomberg cuts, then-UFT president Randi Weingarten told the Times: “Anybody who wanted a parking permit got a parking permit, and it didn’t mean there was a spot to go with it, and there was huge frustration.” This is the system DOE is returning to.

  • Elizabeth F

    > One of those cases where that should be done is in a city, particularly in New York City.

    NYC is big. Parts of it, I agree, there is no point in driving. But other parts, there is. Depends on the trip you need to make.

    >>It is very difficult to build transit systems that provide efficient neighborhood-to-neighborhood transportation.
    > No, it is not. We already have that.

    Then why is the bus incapable of getting me from Fordham to Kingsbridge faster than I can walk? That is not “efficient.”

    > What we need is policies that…

    Easier said than done for crosstown routes in Manhattan and Bronx — which are the ones not already well served by subways. Remember the terrain is hilly and the streets frequently narrow and winding.

    > If the costs of driving were properly internalised so that they were

    > appropriately borne by the driver, many of these people would elect

    > other modes.

    Yea yea… all talk and no numbers. Last time I checked, driving was quite popular in Europe, where gas is $8/gal and public transit is excellent. There must be a reason why…

    In any case, fully internalizing the cost of automobiles requires costs far lower than European-style taxes. Look up the subsidy numbers someday, and then divide by the TRILLIONS of miles driven.

    > An electric e-bike should have the same status as a gas-powered 50cc scooter, which also goes only 20 miles per hour, and which requires a motorcycle licence.

    I believe you’ve also said that e-bikes should be banned from bike paths and trails. Which makes them useless, until/unless you clear the city of cars. Sorry, you are not a friend of e-bikes.

  • Elizabeth F

    BTW… e-bikes have no more than 750W (1hp), and are more typically 250-500W, and weig about 50lb. 50cc scooters produce up to 10x as much power and weigh up to 250lb. Sorry, they are truly different classes of vehicles.

  • Brad Aaron
  • Joe R.

    Instead of taxi reimbursement why not have a van that picks up the teachers from an agreed upon spot (outside city limits) where there is room to park their cars? Or for those teachers in the city, one which picks them up at the few nearest subway stations to the school? As Elizabeth mentioned, the fact we have good coverage with the bus network doesn’t mean it’s a viable means to get around locally. I normally walk three miles each way when I go to downtown Flushing because the local bus isn’t much faster. With 10 or 15 minute headways, and 15 to 25 minute running times, best case it saves me about 10 minutes over walking. Often, it’s actually slower, and I have to waste $2.75 each way for this slower than walking trip. If there were ample, safe bike parking I would bike to downtown Flushing. That takes me only 10 to 12 minutes. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

  • ohnonononono

    It sounds like the city lost the lawsuit with CSA and was only required to give the permits to the principals, administrators, etc — not the UFT teachers — but decided to just open it up to all UFT teachers as well for some reason. How is this consistent with Vision Zero?

  • Joe R.

    Sounds like something me and my group of friends might have done. If indeed teachers start usurping play space for parking there’s going to be lots of parental outrage. That might get the teachers union to reverse course here.

  • We sure could do plenty to get bus speeds up and to thereby make the bus network much more useful. As I indicated in previous comments, any policy that entices people out of their cars and reduces overall automobile congestion would contribute to this worthy goal.

  • Andrew

    Then don’t advocate that teachers should ride them to school until they are faster.

    There are plenty of people for whom driving to work takes significantly less time than riding transit – yet we still expect most of those people, if they choose to drive, to park in legal parking spaces either on the street or in private facilities.

    The status quo already encourages people to drive rather than ride transit. How does it make sense to even further incentivize driving, by providing special privileges to teachers who driver to work while not providing anything of similar value to teachers who use any other mode to get to work?

    You are out to lunch. That level of law enforcement and fines will never last in a democratic society.

    What level of law enforcement do you think he had in mind? What level of law enforcement do you think is appropriate? Do you think the current level of law enforcement is anywhere near enough to persuade motorists to abide by the speed limit, to stop for red lights and stop signs, to yield to pedestrians and cyclists when turning, etc.?