Do the Math: De Blasio’s “Placard Crackdown” Is Meaningless

Even with a few more fines, placard abuse pays.

The B41 in downtown Brooklyn can't use the bus lane thanks to chronic placard abuse, so riders sit in traffic instead. Photo: Ben Fried
The B41 in downtown Brooklyn can't use the bus lane thanks to chronic placard abuse, so riders sit in traffic instead. Photo: Ben Fried

The de Blasio administration is desperate to prove that the “placard crackdown” announced last spring is a real effort to stop illegal parking by police officers and other city employees, not a pantomime to distract from the mayor adding 50,000 traffic-generating, street-clogging placards to the city’s pool of parking perks.

Pressed by Fox 5 reporter Stacey Delikat earlier this week, de Blasio insisted that “we’re coming for anyone who violates the rules related to a placard.” And City Hall spokesperson Austin Finan told AMNY that placard violation fines increased from about 28,000 in 2016 to about 42,000 in 2017.

The 50 percent increase is meant to impress, but if you run the numbers, it’s clear that de Blasio isn’t doing much to disincentivize placard corruption.

There are now 160,000 official parking placards in circulation, after de Blasio’s giveaway to Department of Education employees last year. Let’s assume, conservatively, that only 4,000 of these placard holders — 2.5 percent — routinely use their parking perks to abuse the system and steal curb space.

Let’s also assume that the 42,000 tickets for placard violations all went to these 4,000 chronic abusers of the system, imposing a $115 parking fine each time. That would mean the placard cheats are paying, on average, $1,200 annually to park illegally. This is still a huge bargain in the NYC parking market.

Placard abuse tends to be concentrated in areas like Downtown Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan. The price of off-street parking in these neighborhoods runs to $300-$500 a month, or $3,600-$6,000 a year. Eating the cost of parking tickets under the purported “crackdown” is a steal compared to playing by the rules and paying for parking. Even with a few more fines, placard abuse pays.

In all likelihood, the placard fines are spread out over a far larger number of abusers, meaning the tickets are sending an even weaker signal.

Counting tickets is NYPD’s default method of measuring enforcement, but it doesn’t convey much. The numbers coming from City Hall tell us nothing about the incidence of illegal placard parking, where it’s a problem, or whether it is more or less prevalent than it was before the “crackdown” began.

That’s one reason why we launched our Street Cheats map. If the de Blasio administration is really getting placard holders to shape up, we should be able to see the difference on streets where placard abuse is a chronic problem.

But the same placard abusers are monopolizing the Livingston Street bus lane, hogging the sidewalks of downtown Brooklyn, double-parking on the streets near the Bronx courthouses, and jamming the narrow streets of Lower Manhattan. There’s just no evidence that anything has changed.

  • In may, de Blasio said, “Before anyone thinks it’s a clever idea to misuse our placards, my advice is: You better get to know where our impound lots are, because you’re going to end up visiting them.”

    Are there any numbers on how many vehicles have been towed? It’s one thing to get a ticket for parking at a hydrant, which could just be seen as the cost of parking, as this post shows. It’s another thing to have to retrieve one’s car at the tow yard.

    Is this another of the mayor’s empty threats?

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    If there has been increased towing, like with the placards, it’s probably entirely the vehicles of people in the trades, etc who don’t actually work for the City and are just trying to glom on to “this thing of ours”. Certainly not on some NYPD Sergeant’s second cousin with a PBA card on the dash.

  • Lord Lucan

    The problem cannot be fixed. With no affordable housing in Manhattan for service and hospital personnel, no affordable parking, and a terrible, third-world transit system, how does the Mayor expect to solve the issue? There ought to have been better planning for parking facilities near precincts, fire-houses and hospitals. Alas, the original parking lots were sold off to developers. Other dense cities that are similar in dynamics to NYC have dedicated housing for nurses and officers to use to commute.

    So, how would the tens of thousands of personnel that we depend upon for our welfare and security get to and from work? Solve that issue with a realistic and sensible solution, and you will see a rapid decline in placard use.

    It strikes me that most of the complainants, including the over-zealous “placard-abuse” Twitter sites and the journalists who obsess about the issue, are probably on flexible hours and take transportation off-peak or ride their bikes. Try getting the police officer to do that to and from an outer-borough when they’ve been doing 12-18 hour shifts! Try running a reliable organization in a city like NYC on the backbone of a broken transit and road system.

    The Mayor loves to use the sort of bovine, binary solutions that score points in the media, but he just isn’t connected in any way to the real issues. What does one say about a white German-American who changed his name to an Italian one, and married a black lesbian activist – all for the optics to gain political points?…

  • Ian Turner

    “Other dense cities that are similar in dynamics to NYC have dedicated housing for nurses and officers to use to commute” This seems wrong to me. Do have any evidence or citations?

  • walks bikes drives

    There also aren’t accurate numbers on the other side, of how many cars are ticketed that have placards. I got out a few minutes late for alternate side parking the other day – totally my fault. My car has a placard, and my ticket said that there was no valid permit. Because my permit wasnt valid for where I was parked. That is accurate, but it is the same ticket another car on the block got. Technically, if the ticket agent ignored my car bc of the placard, I guess that would be placard abuse, even if it was unintentional since I do always park legally and/or do the alternate side shuffle .

  • walks bikes drives

    How do you add to the map?

  • Lord Lucan

    Yes.

  • ganghiscon

    “Try getting the police officer to do that to and from an outer-borough when they’ve been doing 12-18 hour shifts!”

    They’re sleep deprived, so let them take a 70 minute drive to Long Island instead of the train? Even if you can justify this for parts of the outer-boroughs that are far from convenient transit, we all know this behavior is rampant in transit rich places like Midtown Manhattan.

    It’s true that most people can’t afford to live in Manhattan. And yet, somehow millions of us figure out a way to get there without a car. Your assertion that people complaining about placard abuse are on “flexible hours” is baseless. What’s your evidence for that claim? There are plenty of people working regular hours and complaining about placard abuse.

    And what do the ethnicity, race and (alleged) sexuality of the mayor and his wife have anything to do with any of this?

  • Urbanely

    I agree with you that there should be dedicated housing for teachers, nurses, police, etc. But I disagree with your characterization of the complainants.

    I worked for city government for over a decade. I never had a car, and I had a relatively fixed schedule (excluding unpaid overtime). The placard abusers are a scourge. There is a reason that certain areas are designated no standing or no parking or have fire hydrant, etc. It’s not to create dedicated parking for a chosen few. Parking in those spots impedes traffic and in some instances creates dangerous conditions (e.g. Where no standing is to daylight intersections, a parked car means that drivers can’t see pedestrians or other drivers). The laws are for everyone, not just those who lack political connections.

  • Nicholas L

    NYPD should fire abusive cops.

  • Nicholas L

    Should be able to on the web version

  • Lord Lucan

    There is no evidence whatsoever of placards taking existing spaces, or causing hazard to safety or life. And, with all due respect, working for a city government is hardly comparative to risking and saving life and limb with every hour of every shift!
    As for your political connections comment, as the first responders don;t have pay to play cash or don’t suit the mayor’s positive discrimination optics, placard users are hardly part of the problem.
    Forming a long term strategy to deal with the root cause of the problems are what’s necessary, but Wilhelm doesn’t have that capacity. He misrepresents New York City with every short-sighted maneuver, designed by him and his wife to gain political capital.

  • Lord Lucan

    Unless they drive a Tesla, of course, in your view.

  • Lord Lucan

    You, and the millions you speak of, are hardly representative of first responders you so demonize.
    As to the mayor’s follies, they have everything to do with someone who entered into elected public service. Especially so when so much of their very being is a veneer, crafted to fool voters like you. The same voters who, on the one hand, scrutinize every fart that the president has ever expressed, and on the other, fight tooth and nail to defend their fake mayor, with his fake name, fake wife and fake kids.
    Finally, where are your complaints regarding the 50,000 additional placards doled out to teachers, far better equipped to take the broken public transportation you speak so highly of? Why teachers and not first responders? Will a pupil die if the teacher is late for class? This highlights the very hypocrisy the likes of you propagate.

  • Urbanely

    I raised the point about working for the government only to address your point that: most of the complainants, including the over-zealous “placard-abuse” Twitter sites and the journalists who obsess about the issue, are probably on flexible hours and take transportation off-peak or ride their bikes.

    That is simply untrue. Many people care about this issue, including this former city worker.

    Further, I did not say that placard users were taking parking spaces. They are specifically parking in places where NOBODY should park (e.g. No standing and fire hydrants). Parking there, as I stated above, is illegal. It is illegal for a reason. If you can’t see the safety purpose of these areas, I can’t help you.

  • Lord Lucan

    I admit that I was, at best, hypothesizing with my projection of the complainant demographic, and should not have said it.

    Also admittedly, noone should be parking on hydrants, not even the disabled who regularly flout the law in this regard.

    No standing is a variable, and it is even allowed under certain circumstances. For instance:
    4-08 (o)(1)(i) “authorizes an operator of a vehicle bearing a valid New York City Special Parking identification permit” to park:
    In any “No Parking” zone, including those marked “except authorized vehicles”
    At parking meters without using an authorized payment method
    In “No Standing” zones
    In “No Standing Except Trucks Loading and Unloading” zones

    What is your evidence regarding the accidents caused by such parking?

    Can you suggest any long term solution besides the American norm, i.e. to use binary solutions such as outright bans and penalties which only serve as temporary measures at best?

  • For the time being we’re accepting submissions by email at tip@streetsblog.org. We’re working on a way to open it up while still vetting entries.

  • Clara West

    Not only do these selfish people slow down the bus schedules. They make it impossible for drivers to pull to curb to pick up and discharge passengers. Many being seniors or parents/caregivers with young charges. Time to start towing boys!

  • ganghiscon

    You must be joking. Streetsblog has at least a dozen articles complaining about teacher placards.

    And where do the NYPD officers get their sleep deprivation training? Is that after their firearms training that never happens? Being a cop doesn’t make them supermen. Someone on no sleep is dangerous behind a wheel, regardless of their profession.

    And I wasn’t defending de Blasio (can’t stand him), but the race of his wife is none of your business or mine and trying to position his marriage as some long con political maneuver makes you look like a conspiracy theorist.

  • Lord Lucan

    Where does one begin wit the likes of you? I can’t educate a turd, unfortunately.

  • Andrew

    Of course it can be fixed. Like everybody else, we can expect you and your ilk to take responsibility for your own commute. If you choose to commute by car, find a legal place to park it. If that’s too difficult or too expensive, perhaps a different mode would make more sense. It’s up to you. (Perhaps the bus would work for you once your colleagues stop blocking the bus lane. Or maybe you’d ride a bike if the bike lane weren’t blocked by parked cars.)

    It’s not going to happen, though, until we have a mayor who’s willing to stand up for his constituents.

    I am expected to be at work on time, and I commute by subway. In the past six months I’ve been late (by under 20 minutes) once or maybe twice. I don’t expect any special privileges because I don’t live in walking distance of the office. (Few of my coworkers do.) Apologies if I don’t live up to your stereotypes.

  • Andrew

    If you don’t think your compensation package is generous enough for you to afford housing in a location that you consider reasonable, you are welcome to argue for additional compensation.

    You are not, however, welcome to steal public space to store your private vehicle, claiming that you and your colleagues can’t possibly be expected to ride transit.

  • Andrew

    Aside from everything else that Urbanely has correctly pointed out, placards do in fact occupy metered parking spaces without paying the meter, depriving local businesses of the turnover that those spaces are intended to provide and depriving the city of meter revenue.

    Placards also park on sidewalks, in crosswalks, in bus stops and bus lanes, in bike lanes, at hydrants. None of that is acceptable. Ever.

  • Andrew

    You, and the millions you speak of, are hardly representative of first responders you so demonize.

    Telling someone to stop parking illegally is not demonization. Get a grip.

    As to the mayor’s follies, they have everything to do with someone who entered into elected public service. Especially so when so much of their very being is a veneer, crafted to fool voters like you. The same voters who, on the one hand, scrutinize every fart that the president has ever expressed, and on the other, fight tooth and nail to defend their fake mayor, with his fake name, fake wife and fake kids.

    Did you fail to notice that this Streetsblog piece (along with many others) is quite critical of de Blasio?

    Finally, where are your complaints regarding the 50,000 additional placards doled out to teachers, far better equipped to take the broken public transportation you speak so highly of?

    Here are a few Streetsblog pieces on teacher placards:
    https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2017/05/11/reversing-bloomberg-reforms-city-will-reissue-tens-of-thousands-of-teacher-parking-placards/ https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2017/05/12/de-blasio-administration-volunteered-to-issue-tens-of-thousands-of-new-parking-placards/ https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2017/05/16/de-blasios-defense-of-teacher-parking-perks-ignores-everything-we-know-about-placards/ https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2017/05/17/the-high-cost-of-giving-away-more-parking-placards/ https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2017/09/28/the-restoration-of-nyc-principal-parking-perks-reveals-the-warped-priorities-of-placard-culture/ https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2018/01/09/city-hall-redacts-de-blasio-correspondence-about-teacher-placard-giveaway/

  • Andrew

    “Outright bans and penalties” are called laws. They are not temporary measures. Perhaps you think anarchy is a preferable approach, but in that case I’m afraid we don’t need cops anymore.

  • Lord Lucan

    Nothing like group-think to defeat a common sense approach towards a solution. You’ve said nothing new in your numerous attempts at rebuttal on comments I had made to other people. The lack of awareness on your part is exactly why there are so many unresolved issues in a city like NYC. You are so binary that you come across like a puritanical imbecile, rather than someone who knows how to solve a problem.
    Sure, transplant, have at it, hang all of the first responders out to dry, so that you can walk to the subway stop grinning from ear to ear over your victory!

  • Lord Lucan

    Nevertheless, legal under NYC law.

  • Lord Lucan

    None of what you say makes much sense, as it;s far too subjective to provoke any constructive dialogue.
    I see it now. Whereas it was supposed that streetsblog was a venue for discussion, it is clearly a silo for myopic utopians. Good luck with that.

  • Vooch

    Err – the gov’t employees can get to work the same way 2 million NYers do every day. Use the Subway,

  • Vooch

    storing a car on the sidewalk is legal in NYC ?

  • Vooch

    It’s extraordinary to have one of the placard abusers explain why they are so special

  • Vooch

    40% of cop deaths are from crashing their car not on a emergency.

    NYPD records some 40,000 crashes every year.

    they are terrible & dangerous drivers

  • Vooch

    I hear Rikers is being remodeled

  • Lord Lucan

    That’s a pure fabrication by you.

    In this city of 10 million, there are 40,000 sworn NYPD officers handing 25 million interactions per annum – 8 million of those interactions involve the responding officers getting to a call using their lights and sirens.

    The most recent available year of data (2015) quotes 3,852 collisions by NYPD vehicles; this figure includes minor scrapes and damage. I’d say this is not at all a statistic demonstrative of “terrible and dangerous drivers”.

    Bet then you should know your figure was a fabrication, as the data came from a streetsblog FOIL request wherein, when published, you suggested “eliminate 90% of police vehicles in all Manhattan precients [sic] below 72nd”.

  • Vooch

    yup – there is no need for cop cars clogging our streets below 72nd

  • Andrew

    Nevertheless, and as I’d pointed out and you’d failed to mention, most of those cases are, in fact., legal under NYC law.

    Wrong. “Members of the service are reminded that there is no valid verifiable defense for parking their vehicle (with or without a Restricted Parking Permit) under the following conditions: … Fire Hydrant … Bus Stop … Sidewalk … Crosswalks … Obstruct Traffic”
    https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/nypd/downloads/pdf/public_information/public-pguide3.pdf#page=519

    (Also, on the previous page: “Each member will be responsible to secure his/her permit while off duty and NOT display it for any reason other than to park in a designated self-enforcement zone while on duty.”)

    Whereas, your posting of photo’s of private vehicles and registration stickers are borderline stalking.

    I don’t believe I’ve ever posted photo’s [sic] of private vehicles or registration stickers; perhaps you’re thinking of somebody else. In any case, there’s nothing wrong with taking pictures of cars parked on public streets, and in fact collecting documentation of widespread corruption is admirable, so perhaps I’ll start. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Andrew

    Born and bred New Yorker here. (What city do you live in?)

    Asking cops to comply with parking laws is not “hanging all of the first responders out to dry.” Get a grip. You get a generous salary, a generous benefits package, and a generous pension. You don’t also get to park your personal vehicle wherever you please, even to the point of delaying or endangering others.

    I’m not sure what problem you’re trying to solve. The one I’m trying to solve is that police officers and other placard holders continue to show their contempt for pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders, and even other motorists by refusing to park their cars legally.

  • Andrew

    There’s nothing “capricious” about asking you to take responsibility for your own commute.

  • Andrew

    In case anybody was actually wondering: No, it is not, Ever. Even with a placard.

  • Adrian Horczak

    We are just upset that police officers don’t follow the law. I think our expectations aren’t too high if we expect the people who enforce the law to follow it

  • Andrew

    Keep in mind that you’re debating a guy who claims that parking illegally is legal.

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