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Delivery Companies Pressure City Hall to Let Them Keep Violating Law Without Penalty

This FedEx driver could have been slapped with a $115 ticket for double parking. But the summons would be reduced to $0 under the Stipulated Fine Program. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

A city plan to make roadways safer by punishing delivery and trucking companies that double-park and violate other rules came under fire from the industry at a raucous closed-door meeting last week — and now, city officials are tweaking the life-saving idea.

The saga began earlier this year, when the Department of Finance revealed it would reform its controversial Stipulated Fine Program, which allows companies like UPS, FedEx, Fresh Direct and others to pay pennies on the dollar on hundreds of millions in parking tickets they accrue every year. The city reduces the fines so that the companies will not fight the tickets and tie up the court system. As a result, there are dozens of summons types, such as double-parking outside of Midtown Manhattan, that are reduced to $0 on what would normally be a $115 ticket.

But in a draft proposal obtained by Streetsblog, the fine for double-parking outside Midtown, for example, would rise to $60 — still far short of the actual ticket, but also far more than $0. One category of no-standing summons, currently billed at $0 instead of the $95 face value, would rise to $25. And blocking a traffic lane, currently negotiated down to $40 from $115, would rise to $100.

It's a modest change — a boost to the city of just $17 million out of the $525 million that the Department of Finance expects to raise via tickets this fiscal year. It would be the first increase in fines in the 15-year history of the program. The goal is to make parking tickets a deterrent again, a City Hall source said.

But the real benefit could come if truck companies actually start reducing their ticket costs by following the law and entirely halt double-parking, which is the cause of most localized congestion and hundreds of injuries to cyclists and pedestrians every year.

"We shouldn't have the Stipulated Fine program at all," said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former police officer and a candidate for mayor. "The top cause of accidents and congestion is double parking. These companies must do business, of course, but they shouldn't get a break when they violate rules that govern traffic safety. If they want more loading zones, we can talk about that. But we can't let up on safety."

But last Thursday, at the City Hall meeting — attended by Deputy Mayor for Operations Laura Anglin; officials from the Department of Transportation and the Department of Finance; lobbyists for Fresh Direct, Fed Ex, United Parcel Service and other big firms; and a coalition of smaller delivery companies — the industry pushed back hard against any increase in fines.

"It was sort of disgusting to hear these multi-million or billion-dollar companies express their concern about their bottom line rather than congestion crisis, safety and city revenue," said one participant at the meeting, who requested anonymity to avoid losing access.

"It was not entirely amicable," added a city official, who also requested anonymity because of ongoing negotiations.

The lobbyists' talking points, also obtained by Streetsblog, refer to delivery companies as the "economic life-blood" of New York City. The document calls the stipulated fine program "exemplary" and says any change will ruin things.

"Today as the parking infrastructure has diminished and daily obstacles exist as never before," the talking points state, "there are those that have targeted this program and our companies unfairly and threaten one of the most successful cooperative agreements in the history of the city between government and private sector."

It is successful — if you define success as companies avoiding parking tickets for egregious driving practices. By other definitions — safety, congestion, revenue — it is not a successful program.

“It’s one of the more egregious examples of how the city not just turns a blind eye to dangerous driving and parking behavior but actually encourages it," Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives told Streetsblog. "The worst offenders are getting the biggest breaks.

“Instead of coddling these big delivery companies and giving them bulk discounts, the city should ... solve these problems of curb saturations and chronically under-priced curbs,” White added.

FedEx, and Fresh Direct declined to comment for this story. A spokesman for UPS told Streetsblog that the company trains its drivers to always legally park, though he admitted the company pays hundreds of millions of dollars in fines because they don't. But the company also said it has been lobbying the city for more loading zones that could solve double-parking without higher fines. UPS also wants to create staging areas so it can send some delivery workers into neighborhoods on cargo bikes from a central location.

But that type of innovation was not at all on display at the meeting last week.

"These companies sat there and said, 'It's a wonderful program and it's not causing any problems,'" said the person who was at the meeting. "They say, 'If you take away our zero dollar violations, why would we stay in the program?'

"But [the Department of Finance] pushed back," the participant said. "I hope City Hall will stand tall, but these big companies don't want their zero to go away. It all comes down to the next two weeks. If they reopen the conversation, anything could happen."

A city official told Streetsblog that City Hall's draft proposal was always expected to change as a result of negotiations. How much it changes, we'll soon know.

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