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.
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.”
“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.