Placard Abuse? Fernando Cabrera Wants to Issue More Free Parking!

The Bronx council member wants to give parking placards to the city's 59 community board chairs.

Council Member Fernando Cabrera. Photo: John McCarten/NYC Council
Council Member Fernando Cabrera. Photo: John McCarten/NYC Council

SB Donation NYC header 2A Bronx Council Member wants the city to issue even more free parking in the form of placards for the city’s 59 community board chairs — a move that will further isolate them from their transit-riding constituents and make traffic even worse at the same time, critics say.

Despite a crisis of placard abuse by thousands of city and state employees who hog curb space meant for the general public, Fernando Cabrera’s bill could be seen as a reasonable perk for volunteer community stalwarts. But opponents say it is built on the flawed logic that public officials need cars to serve the public — and fails to curtail the “windshield perspective” that convinces many would-be community leaders that congestion and loss parking spaces are major quality-of-life issues.

“Elected officials, appointed officials, people who are charged with governing and improving the daily lives of regular New Yorkers need to come to that with the viewpoint of regular New Yorkers,” said Transportation Alternatives campaigns manager Jack Davies. “There absolutely needs to be fewer parking placards issued across the city, not more.”

The power of the placarded class already weighs on city transportation policymaking — consider MTA board member Larry Schwartz admitting he doesn’t ride MTA busses or Council Member Chaim Deutsch bragging about taking the subway twice last week.

Cabrera’s bill does offer some built-in precautions: the placards could only be used while the permit-holders were “acting within the scope of their duties as chairperson,” and the bill says misusing a placard would be “sufficient cause” for its “revocation.”

But such rules are rarely enforced in New York City, thanks to a culture of placard abuse. Nearly everywhere you look in this city, placard-holders park illegally and dangerously with impunity.

For most placard holders, the cost of paying occasional fines for illegal parking is far less than what they would pay to park legally. As a result, the city’s 160,000 official placard-holders routinely park in bus stops, no standing zones, crosswalks, and bike lanes.

There’s little reason to believe that community board chairs will behave any differently — or be penalized for violating the terms of their parking permit.

Practically, Cabrera’s bill would also be impossible to enforce. Traffic enforcement agents patrolling the curb have no way to prove whether a placard-holder is on official business or not. (Complicating matters even more, the bill prohibits the city from towing vehicles being used for official business.)

The council member declined to comment.

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  • Albert

    It would be a nice gesture if the 59 community board chairs would publicly turn down any placards to demonstrate their understanding of the issues involved and how negatively such a “benefit” can be perceived.

  • AMH

    We need a widespread public campaign to raise awareness that a lot of the chaos on our streets results from placard corruption (rather than from, say, a lack of parking). Despite the valiant efforts of @placardabuse, most people have no clue.

  • Nice. These Community Board goofballs don’t do enough harm by obstructing the installation of new bike lanes. They should be able to directly harm the functioning of existing bike lanes, as well.

  • Rider

    This proposal could not be more out of line with the speaker’s commitment to break car culture. It should be emphatically turned down.

  • Joe R.

    Right. It’s not so much that another 59 placards will make any meaningful difference one way or another in terms of safer streets. It’s that the optics are just horrible. These people aren’t involved in the kinds of life or death urgent situations where they don’t have the time to park legally. At best a placard is a convenience for them but convenience shouldn’t be a reason to issue placards, only necessity. If we go by that criterium, placards should be issued only to city vehicles, never to private ones, and only to those whose job functions would be severely compromised if they had to take time to park legally. That doesn’t include community board chairs.

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