Street Cheats: The Public Space Theft We Take for Granted


Public space theft in NYC is so pervasive that sometimes it barely registers, even when it should.

A tipster sent this photo of a Department of Homeless Services Police van hogging the crosswalk at 14th Street and Eighth Avenue in Brooklyn. I write about placard culture for a living, and I have to admit that when I saw the pic above, my first thought was something along the lines of, “Yeah, and… ?”

This isn’t the worst example of parking malfeasance we’ve seen, but it does matter. Not only is the van in the way of the crosswalk, it’s also blocking sightlines at the intersection, making it harder for motorists and pedestrians to see each other.

It’s also emblematic of how we’ve let motor vehicles saturate the curb until they encroach on spaces where they’re not allowed. And most of the time we don’t give it a second thought.

In fact, crosswalk parking is so common that DOT crews often memorialize it in paint…

It may seem like a small thing, but crosswalk parking degrades the pedestrian environment, makes intersections more dangerous, and increases maintenance costs since striping crews can’t finish the job in one go. We shouldn’t accept that as an immutable fact of life.


  • 1ifbyrain2ifbytrain

    The unwillingness of an employee to do their job but for the police there are no negative consequences.

  • Reader

    DOT’s reluctance to use design solutions is so frustrating. Daylight every intersection. Even if it was just with paint, it might reduce this kind of crosswalk encroachment at least a little. They are so terrified of touching even a single parking space!

  • d?

    How about a little professional courtesy toward the men and women in blue, who every day are ready to lay their lives on the line for you?! How about that? Most dangerous job in the city, never knowing if they’re coming home in a box. Why are you siding with thugs and lowlifes against NYC’s Finest! You’d probably be the first to complain when you need help from the Boys in Blue and they don’t get there fast enough. Sheesh. Give them some courtesy and respect.

  • JarekFA

    It’s not even close to being the most dangerous job in the city. Not even close.

    The greatest risk to NYPD is from traffic crashes followed by heart disease from sitting in their cars all day.

    They get more than enough courtesy. For example, if I sneeze on a cop, I’m facing a felony. When you permit anyone to be unaccountable from the law — as a rule — they will violate it.

    You can be holier than the pope but human nature cannot be changed. People who are not held accountable will abuse that privilege. It’s a law of nature.

    And who the fuck are you to call me a thug or lowlife? Because I worry about my son getting run over by a truck at an intersection because the cars can’t see him because there’s a big truck illegally parked in the crosswalk or a no standing zone. Or because my mother in law can’t get her scooter past a NYPD car parked on the sidewalk.

    I’m honestly sick of the boys in blue who think just because their job is to uphold the law, that they’re permitted to break it, and if you complain about it, you’re on the side of gang bangers or whatever.

  • Joe R.

    Respect must be earned, not given. When one group violates laws with impunity it’s hard to give that group much respect. If the police are on call with sirens blaring, they can already legally park wherever they need to. No need for parking placards. And if they’re not on call, why do they need to park illegally? The answer is they don’t. If they can’t find legal spots for their personal vehicles then take the subway to work like everyone else. Or get another job. The entire parking placard system exists solely for the convenience of the union/civil servant class. The operative word is convenience. The problem is that convenience comes at the expense of everyone else. This is why the placard system needs to be abolished. And also why any place you’re not allowed to park should be physically barricaded off with steel and concrete. Since we can’t trust the police to obey the same parking laws as the rest of us, the only answer is to make it physically impossible for them to park where they’re not allowed.

  • Joe R.

    It’s worth a mention that you don’t even need illegal parking to make an intersection more dangerous. Good example is this intersection by me:,-73.8053694,3a,75y,32.98h,87.07t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sKldBReu1VUratqiSmjTQrw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    Look at the white SUV parked right next to the crosswalk across 164th Street. Perfectly legal, but a vehicle parked there blocks pedestrian’s view of oncoming traffic (making it impossible to safely cross 164th Street), and also blocks turning driver’s views of pedestrians crossing 71st Avenue. As a matter of course parking shouldn’t be allowed within 15 or 20 feet of a crosswalk. To do otherwise is to value car storage over people’s lives.

  • AlexWithAK

    This is further enshrined in NYC law. Most cities prohibit parking within a certain distance of a stop sign to allow sight lives. But here you can park right up to the sign. It’s more dangerous for everyone and forces drivers to nudge out to be able to see cross traffic.

  • Scroller

    If you’re going to troll, at least get creative. I’m getting bored of seeing this same copy and pasted response each time there’s an article referencing the NYPD. Can’t you change it up a little? Maybe throw in a terrorism reference, or talk about how they’re the finest or whatever non-sense. Copy and paste is so lazy and unimaginative…but I guess apt for the NYPD.

  • AlexWithAK

    This seems like snarky satire but it’s hard to tell. There are people who think cops are above the law and should be allowed to do whatever the hell they want. It’s mind boggling.

  • d?

    Laying their lives on the line in emergencies, rushing into collapsing buildings on 9/11 to save you and your loved ones. New York City’s Finest. Now having to deal with constant sniping from hippies and liberals and troublemakers on bikes, in between cleaning up the streets from thugs and gangbangers so you can walk around sipping your lattes not even looking where you’re going. Sheesh. Show a little courtesy and respect for the Boys and Girls in Blue, the real professionals making the city the great city it is. Our last line of defense against the criminals and terrorists every day of the week. Give ’em a break for once.

  • AlexWithAK

    ??? Perfectly stated.

  • Scroller

    There we go! Finally! Some original trolling is the least you can do for the NYPD.


Pedestrian Mall Revolution

The other day, the NYC Department of Transportation unveiled a proposal to build a new pedestrian-only plaza with tables, benches, greenery and bike racks in Downtown Brooklyn along two blocks where Willoughby and Adams Streets intersect. According to a New York 1 report, the bottom two floors of the city-owned building at 345 Adams will […]