Queens Pol: Let’s Stop ‘Incentivizing’ Unsafe Parking By Delivery Companies

CM Costa Constantinides's bill would eliminate a city program that lets big companies avoid parking fines.

Free parking or fee parking Right now, under a city program, this trucking company would pay $0 for a double-parking summons. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Free parking or fee parking Right now, under a city program, this trucking company would pay $0 for a double-parking summons. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Rogue delivery companies would no longer be able to avoid millions of dollars in parking tickets under a proposed City Council bill that would end a controversial program that allows the firms to get automatic reductions in fines.

Queens Council Member Costa Constantinides said on Tuesday that his bill would completely eliminate the Department of Finance’s Stipulated Fine Program, which was created 15 years ago under Mayor Bloomberg to give FedEx, UPS, Fresh Direct and other large companies reduced parking fines in exchange for not fighting the tickets in court.

As a result, delivery companies illegally park with near impunity, dinged only for minor fees that are a tiny part of the normal cost of doing business.

“This legislation is in the spirit of Vision Zero,” Constantinides said, citing a litany of complaints made by cyclists and pedestrians every day, some using the hashtag #loadingloser on Twitter: “trucks parked in bike lanes, trucks parked in crosswalks, double-parked trucks everywhere.”

Costa Constantinides
Costa Constantinides

“We’ve all seen it: a UPS or FedEx truck with 10 tickets on it, all meaningless and not worth the paper it’s printed on,” added the bill’s co-sponsor Antonio Reynoso (D-Bushwick). “Those fines mean nothing to them. But those trucks are putting everyone in danger, as vehicle veer into traffic to get around these trucks and our bike lanes become the pseudo loading dock for UPS and FedEx. This is incentivizing criminal behavior in the name of commerce. Why are we encouraging these companies to do this?”

The call to end the program comes as the city is already trying to reform it. Earlier this year, the Department of Finance said it would increase the agreed-upon fines — which currently reduce a double-parking ticket, for example, from $115 to $0, one of 19 fines that are reduced to zero.

The Department of Finance’s initial proposal would have raised many fines, but the agency went back to the drawing board after the industry complained that the increases were too high, as Streetsblog reported. The final version of the reform does increase some fines, but still offers large discounts.

An agency spokesperson did not get back to Streetsblog on Tuesday, but told the Daily News that the program was working because the fees are pegged to what companies would likely end up paying overall if they fought every ticket. Delivery firms would win many such court battles because city law allows for double-parking and other violations if a driver is making an “expeditious” delivery.

“If the program did not exist, companies would contest their parking tickets individually and would end up paying roughly the same amount,” said Finance spokeswoman Aziza Taylor. “Whether businesses pay the parking tickets they accrue in bulk or individually is not going to change their behavior.”

Advocates said changing the companies’ behavior is exactly the point.

“The Stipulated Fine Program is rotten,” said Paul Steely White, outgoing head of Transportation Alternatives. “It gives the worst offenders a multi-million-dollar discount on their parking offenses. And this is not harmless parking offenses. These are trucks parked in crosswalks, in bike lanes, on the sidewalk and in front of fire hydrants. Yet the city is institutionalizing this practice. This has to end. There is a human cost.”

It’s also a fairness issue, added one delivery company lobbyist who supports ending the program.

“Before this Bloomberg-era program was in effect, companies had to handle their parking tickets just like every other citizen in New York City — by having a hearing and pleading their case,” said Nicole Epstein of Gotham government relations, which represents a small trucking company that does not participate in the program. “If everyday people don’t get a break on their parking tickets, multi-million-dollar companies shouldn’t either. … If the city wants to be serious about vision zero, the program must be completely terminated due to congestion and blatant safety issues due to the program.”

Constantinides’s bill would also require all deliveries to city buildings to be done at night or in the early morning to reduce congestion. He also said the bill had a global warming imperative.

“Twenty-five percent of our emissions come from the transportation sector,” he added. “Idling traffic is a huge part of that. To encourage bicycling by keeping our bike lanes clear, we are not only making our city safer, but cleaner.”

Neither FedEx nor UPS responded to a Streetsblog request for comment. Fresh Direct has not returned repeated calls.

  • ortcutt

    Why doesn’t this city have commercial loading zones like every other city I’ve ever been to? We prioritize parking by private vehicles and leave commercial delivery vehicles to fend for themsevles by double parking.

  • JarekFA

    Most city agencies with placards are legally permitted to park in commercial loading zones. The failure of city agencies to try to conduct their business (including if not especially the NYPD) without cars is particularly galling. You see this first hand if you work in the Financial District like I do.

  • JarekFA

    It’s not uncommon to see multiple UPS trucks on the sidewalk on a single block. [See this tweet where I capture 3 UPS trucks in one picture] https://twitter.com/JarekFA/status/1039613321811582983

    And from a business perspective, it 100% makes perfect sense for them to do so. The tickets are a cost of doing business and getting them all wiped out for a set fee, from a business perspective, is cheaper than it would be for them to modify their fleet or adopt a different model.

    What I find most insulting is that, you see them adopting cargo ebikes for other cities but not where it’d make perfect sense like NYC. FiDi as a hub/push cart model would make perfect sense if we were to pedestrianize it. Cargo ebikes would also work well too. But so long as the cost to just parking illegally wherever the fuck they want is a fixed discounted cost, then why should they honestly give a fuck about no stopping zones, bus lanes, bike lanes, sidewalks etc . . . . Their job is to deliver packages. Their job isn’t to assist bus riders, bike commuters, firemen etc . . . . It’s the City’s job to make them care. We are the biggest city in the US. We’re the #1 destination. Amazon deliveries are through the roof. We have all the leverage in the world. We could have them agree to any fucking pilot program we want and they’d jump at it immediately. Maybe, instead of discounting the money they owe, we instead allow them to apply such funds to invest in an electric cargo bike fleet. We have so much leverage here and it’s pathetic to see us bend over backwards to see these guys abuse our streets. Maybe, UPS could get their lobbyists to focus on removing the ability for any city agency to legally take up commercial loading zones.

  • Jacob

    This is missing the forest for the trees. Most delivery vehicles simply can’t find legal places to park on most blocks in NYC. There are many solutions to this (namely loading zones & higher curbside parking prices). So, I don’t feel strongly about a solution that doesn’t address the problem. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/56122814a6b8873af1a1f9e7f196ee851cf9826282f493ac258c25d9344602bd.jpg

  • David M

    NYC actually does have commercial loading zones. Just not nearly enough of them.

  • Joe R.

    The problem is no matter what parking regulations we have, such as loading zones, in the end all available parking will be taken by people with placards. The first order of business is abolishing the placard system. That means only giving placards in cases where a person can’t reasonably do their job without one, and then only for the city-owned vehicle they’re using. No placards whatsoever for personal vehicles. Once that’s done, you can add the loading zones (which wouldn’t allow placard parking under any circumstances).

  • ortcutt

    Placards really aren’t that much of an issue where I live, but double parking by delivery vehicles is. On residential streets, UPS and Fresh Direct sometimes block the street entirely. On commercial streets, it’s an absolute free for all with commercial deliveries.

  • Joe R.

    Obviously you need to look individually at each situation. For residential streets, I tend to think making a few general parking spots on each block loading zones where parking is prohibited would make sense. And of course you need enforcement. I’ve seen delivery trucks double park next to open spots. If there was a high chance of getting fined for double-parking the practice would quickly end.

  • Bryan K.

    Hey, if they are giving away the PBR’s, I can’t be too mad 🙂

  • BubbaJoe123

    “On residential streets, UPS and Fresh Direct sometimes block the street entirely.”

    Put in meters, and all of a sudden, parking will magically appear.

  • It does address the problem.

    If we required delivery companies to find legal spots, they would find that prohibitively difficult. They would then apply their considerable combined lobbying muscle to force the City to provide loading zones.