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

FedEx, UPS, Fresh Direct and others lobby Department of Finance to let them double-park and not pay tickets.

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
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.

  • So we’re rewarding these scumbags for breaking the law instead of cracking down on them. Outrageous.

    Traffic violations should be enforcement priority number one for the police. If it had the proper focus, the police department could virtually wipe out double parking — not to mention speeding, stopping ahead of the stopping line, turning without signalling, and the many other dangerous illegal acts that drivers have come to feel entitled to commit.

    And, as Adams said, if this highlights the need for more delivery zones, then those zones should be created.

  • Andrew

    It would be the first increase in fines in the 15-year history of the program.

    Wait, the program is that new? I always assumed it dated back multiple decades. No wonder the problem’s gotten so much worse in recent memory.

    Not that the details of the program even matter, given that the NYPD virtually never issues parking tickets to trucks in the first place.

    A spokesman for UPS told Streetsblog that the company trains its drivers to always legally park,

    I see UPS trucks parked on sidewalks every day.

    I’d have no objection to a stipulated fine program that also raises fines for parking on sidewalks, in crosswalks, in bike lanes, and in bus lanes and bus stops to $1,000.

    though he admitted the company pays hundreds of millions of dollars in fines because they don’t.

    Imagine how much they’d pay if the NYPD didn’t typically turn a blind eye!

  • Andrew

    And, as Adams said, if this highlights the need for more delivery zones, then those zones should be created.

    But that would cut down on free and underpriced curb parking, so expect dozens of pandering elected officials and community boards to put up a big fight. (Even though this would help motorists in the long run by reducing congestion.)

  • djx

    ” 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.”

    If they are really doing this, this is cool.

  • Have mixed feelings on this. I use shipping services as much as the next guy. They are not going anywhere anytime soon. We might as well capitulate to the essentiality of these things. As a biker I don’t like double-parkers any more than the next guy but I do think these shipping services warrant some sort of accommodation. But something will have to give in this scenario and the way I see it, that something is the copious amounts of free street parking for private cars.

  • William Lawson

    The essentiality of having a small set of screwdrivers driven directly to your door in packaging that is at least 20x too large for it?

  • William Lawson

    “A spokesman for UPS told Streetsblog that the company trains its drivers to always legally park”

    UPS does nothing of the sort, and they never enforce the rules with their drivers. Any corporate spokesman is going to spew whatever tissue of lies is required to make their company look good in any given situation.

  • BruceWillisThrowsACar@You

    Even if any of those bozos even acknowledges that it would reduce congestion, they’ll be like “buuuttt I can’t park anywhere I want anymore…whhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa”

  • JarekFA

    I’m surprised Gersh didn’t address the real problem here. It’s placard corruption! Most city placards are valid for commercial loading zones. So, not only do we not have enough commercial loading zones, the ones we have, are constantly full of city vehicles just parking.

    Remove the immunity for city placards in commercial loading zones + expand commercial loading zones and this problem goes away. I work in FiDi where it’s FedEx/UPS parked all over the narrow sidewalks and in no stopping zones because the legal loading zones are all full. However, they contribute to this problem by failing, in areas where it’d work, such as in FiDi, to embrace a Hub and pushcart model. You don’t need giant trucks parked all over the sidewalks in such dense areas.

  • Joe R.

    This behavior persists because NYC doesn’t have enough loading zones to start with AND those it does have are often compromised by placard holders. Until we fix the placard problem, we’ll never solve any other problem. Parking rules are meaningless if people with placards can just ignore them with impunity.

    Some ideas to fix the problem:

    1) Eliminate the placard system altogether. There’s no justification for something with encourages auto use in a place like NYC. Emergency vehicles on call can already park wherever they need to. Any other vehicle should have to obey the same parking rules as everyone else. I don’t care if someone supposedly has to drive in from Long Island to their job as a teacher. Let them find a legal parking spot like everyone else. If they can’t, then either take public transit, or find a job closer to home.

    2) Replace free or metered curbside parking with loading zones. Yes, there will be pushback from car owners but it’s time to start telling these people the curbside space doesn’t belong to them. NYC can do whatever it wants with that space whenever it wants.

    3) Require any prospective car owners to show they have an off-street spot before being allowed to purchase a car. Tokyo does this. It’s very effective reducing car ownership.

    4) Once #3 is done, there is little need to use curbside space for private car storage. It can be readily apportioned for other things. If there happens to be space left over, then and only then should you use it for metered parking. There should be absolutely no free curbside parking anywhere in the 5 boroughs.

    Obviously implementing these things will result in a lot of resistance from those who benefit from the status quo. However, we must realize car owners are a minority in this city. It’s time to start making car ownership in this city much more burdensome and much more expensive. DeBlasio ran on the idea that New York was a tale of two cities. It is—the rich and upper middle class who can afford to drive everywhere, and the lower classes who bear the brunt of the negative effects of rich people driving around. It’s time to stop catering to people who drive, especially placard holders. The streets are a public good which needs to be reapportioned more fairly. Essential vehicles need to have priority moving and parking over private automobiles.

  • Joe R.

    While people who use stuff like Fresh Direct incur my wrath, the fact is you can get things online which you just can’t get in local brick-and-mortar stores. Even for those things you can get locally, sometimes having them delivered avoids a big hassle. As an example, I needed a new bedroom A/C this year. Sure, I could have went to PC Richard but I had no way to get it home unless my brother could find the time to drive me there. So in the end it would have been delivered by truck anyway. I just ordered one online and saved the bother of even going to the store.

    Then of course there’s eBay. I get things that local stores either don’t sell at all, or if they do sell them it’s at much higher prices. And again, I avoid the hassle of physically going to the store.

    I do agree however that packaging needs to be dealt with. It’s almost hilarious how large the boxes are that some smaller items ship in. Amazon and Newegg are two of the worst offenders. At least most eBay sellers match the package to the item.

    As far as packaging, local grocery stores are no saints, either. I don’t know why they double bag everything and put 2 or 3 items in each bag. The bags should be filled to capacity. You should only double bag if a bag contains heavy items.

  • kevd

    Don’t even need placards. A yellow vest with “MTA” on the dash does the trick by me.

  • kevd

    Delivery helps people live car free.
    we just need to make a space on every single block for the trucks.

  • Joe R.

    I once recall getting a pair of USB drives from Amazon in a box big enough to fit a cat carrier inside. They easily could have sent them in a padded envelope.

  • djx

    “While people who use stuff like Fresh Direct incur my wrath,”

    Are you so awesome that you feel you can run around judging people like that?

  • Joe R.

    Yes, I feel I can judge people that add to already ridiculous levels of traffic by having overpriced food delivered when they can often walk to their local grocery store. At some point you have to accept that individual decisions, no matter if they may seem rational to the person making them, can sometimes have a overall negative effect on society. Do you think we shouldn’t judge people who decide to smoke in public places as well? What’s the difference between that, and adding unnecessary truck traffic which has the same effects on people as second-hand smoke? Not to mention the trucks themselves can directly cause harm.

    Overall delivery is probably a good thing when it keeps people from making car trips to go shopping. It’s not a good thing if you have stores within walking distance selling the same things at the same or lower prices.

  • Menachem Goldshteyn

    Trying to enforce double parking is a game of whack a mole. The underlying problem, underpriced or completely free parking, is what’s driving double parking. The price needs to be raised high enough that there’s always a few spaces open on every block at all times.

    Also, I read that in Tokyo the parking enforcement is outsources to private companies. Privatizing government enforcement may be too capitalist/libertarian for your taste, but there’s a famous quote that says the automobile is the epitome of capitalism yet it expects to park for free (anyone know the source?).

    Just try and propose these ideas and watch how conservatives suddenly turn into rabid socialists crying it’s unfair.

  • Daphna

    This is another article from Gersh Kuntzman focusing on a result of the problem instead of focusing on the problem. The problem is a broken policy of curbside use in NYC. That leaves commercial vehicles, and the local businesses that need their goods delivered, no option but to illegally double-park in order to conduct business. The focus needs to be on the problem, not on a visible symptom of the problem.
    1) metering many more streets and section of streets
    2) charging higher prices for streets that are metered
    3) creating more commercial vehicle only zones and loading/unloading zones
    4) ending use (and abuse) of all parking placards (real and fake)
    5) ending the expectation that any government employee, or government affiliated employee, can park for free and or can park illegally with impunity

  • While it’s true that the underlying problem is too much parking and not enough loading zones, it is ridiculous to suggest that there is “no option” but to break the law. I am not allowed to break the law in the performance of my job; and I suspect that you are not allowed to do so, either. All of us have to do our jobs within the confines of the law. These commercial operations should be no different.

    An appropriate level of enforcement that forced commercial delivery vehicles to follow the law would add significant cost to the system of deliveries. This would inevitably lead to manufacturers and retailers banding together to demand that cities provide adequate loading zones. So we need enforcement in order to highlight the inadequacy of the status quo.

    I am sure that this site will do plenty of stories about the various policy errors in the management of curbside space. But that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t also do stories about arrogant scumbags who believe that they get to unilaterally decide that they are above the law,

  • cjstephens

    Add this to the list of reasons why placard culture is so toxic. Two minor quibbles: Some metered zones are designed to be loading zones. If I recall correctly, many muni-meter zones in midtown are designated for commercial deliveries (i.e., you can park a commercial vehicle there if you pay at the muni-meter). I’m guessing you would like to see more of this? Other quibble: the divide isn’t rich and upper middle class vs. poor. I’d like to think I’ve reached the upper-middle class, and I know I can’t afford a car. I would say the division is between the rich and the placarded classes vs. everyone else.

    And for anyone who thinks point # 3 is horribly unrealistic, you should know that within living memory, overnight parking of personal vehicles on the street was illegal. Still is for commercial vehicles outside industrial/manufacturing zoned blocks.

  • Joe R.

    I agree about where the divide is. Fairly recently I had a few years where my income went into what might be considered “upper middle class”. I even broke 6 figures twice. I still wasn’t seeing any scenario where I could have afforded to own a car, not that I want or need one.

    I believe it was illegal to store vehicles on the street overnight in the borough of Manhattan until the 1950s. Even in the outer boroughs where it was legal, I recall during my childhood in the 1960s that there weren’t enough cars to fill every inch of curbside space. My mother remembers when people parked a car on her block in the 1940s it was almost a novelty.

  • Daphna

    I agree with your assessment: it would be great if manufacturers and retailers banded together to demand that NYC provide adequate loading zones.