Streetsies 2018: Placard Abuse of the Year

placard abuse montage
The coveted Streetsie.
The coveted Streetsie.

Ah, placard abuse. Someday we’ll be rid of you.

Across the city, placard corruption comes in two forms: drivers who illegally use their placards to park in prohibited areas and drivers who use fraudulent placards —  often to park in prohibited areas. Those prohibited areas include bus stops, sidewalks, bike lanes, and fire hydrants.

In other words, places where open curb space is fundamental to the safety and flow of people.

The sad reality: Placard abuse remains pretty widespread. Placards may only be intended for use during official business, but traffic enforcement agents rarely check that. Ticket agents tend to cut slack to other city employees. And no one wants to risk potentially ticketing a superior who could retaliate.

Halfway through 2017, Mayor de Blasio pledged to “crack down” on placard corruption after the @placardabuse Twitter account went viral.

A real crackdown has yet to arrive. Yes, NYPD is giving out twice as many tickets for illegal placard use. But one can walk down any street in the city and see that the problem persists.

Testifying at city council in June, police officials offered no evidence that their efforts were having any effect, and they resisted all of the council’s proposed reforms. The NYPD’s Director of Legislative Affairs Oleg Chernyavsky showed no real willingness to work with council members on a solution. Since then, Mayor de Blasio has repeatedly said that a “report” is forthcoming.

Ultimately, the only way to truly rid the city of placard abuse is to overhaul the placard system completely — creating more effective enforcement tools and reducing their numbers — not increasing their numbers, as de Blasio has done! — with the ultimate goal of eliminating them altogether.

For now, here are the nominees for worst placard abuse of the year.

State Senator Kevin Parker’s Bike Lane Blockage

Kevin Parker (left) and his parking placard.
Kevin Parker (left) and his parking placard.

Ousted State Senator Marty Golden was dogged all year by his use a placard to illegally impersonate a police officer, but placard abuse is a bipartisan affair, as Golden’s Democratic colleague Senator Kevin Parker reminded us earlier this month.

Parker, who has a history of dangerous driving and behavior, parked his car in the middle of the Second Avenue bike lane in Manhattan — near an intersections, where cyclist safety is most precarious.

Parker’s disregard for New Yorkers’ safety was overshadowed after he subsequently tweeted “Kill yourself!” to GOP spokesperson Candice Giove, but the original sin shouldn’t go unnoticed — and speaks to the potentially catastrophic consequences of the city’s placard regime.

Parker is just one of thousands of placard holders who put their own convenience above others’ safety.

Basically All of Downtown Brooklyn

The B41 in downtown Brooklyn can't use the bus lane thanks to chronic placard abuse, so riders sit in traffic instead. Photo: Ben Fried
The B41 in downtown Brooklyn can’t use the bus lane thanks to chronic placard abuse, so riders sit in traffic instead. Photo: Ben Fried

Downtown Brooklyn is the nexus of the collapse in bus ridership in the borough, which is second only to that of subway-rich Manhattan. Buses that start, end and pass through downtown Brooklyn travel to all corners of the borough — but not before getting jammed on some of the city’s most placard-ridden streets.

Take Livingston Street between Smith Street and Boerum Place, for example. The bus lane on that block should be in effect from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. — if it were actually enforced.

Another hotspot in the area: Cadman Plaza outside Borough Hall. In 2015, city paid $11 million to renovate the space, which had endured years of wear and tear from misuse as a parking lot. But instead of giving the renovated plaza back to the people, Borough President Eric Adams has turned it back into a parking lot.

The 110th Precinct’s DIY Double Parking Spots

Seeing is believing.
Seeing is believing.

Across the city, the areas surrounding police buildings are hotbeds of placard abuse. Officers basically do whatever they wish with their cars: double-park, park on sidewalks — you name it.

But you know placards have gotten out of hand in this city when police precincts feel so entitled to the curb that they start vandalizing street markings to ensure themselves parking spots.

That’s exactly what the NYPD’s 110th Precinct did on 43rd Avenue between Junction Boulevard and 94th Street in Elmhurst when officers painted lines to denote space for their double-parked vehicles.

A video by Rebranding Driving shows the full extent of the problem.

Central Park’s Bridle Path

Is this a park path or a parking lot? NYPD seems to have decided for us. Photo: David Meyer
Is this a park path or a parking lot? NYPD seems to have decided for us. Photo: David Meyer

Central Park’s bridle path is meant for riding horses. Along the 86th Street Transverse, it’s a parking lot filled with squad cars and private cars belonging to officers from the 22nd Precinct, which serves the park.

Parks, like precincts, are hotbeds of placard-ful parking lots. But the bridle path is particular egregious for two reasons: first, it’s right in the middle of the park. Second, the park is supposed to be car-free.

The mayor’s announcement earlier this year that Central Park would be rid of private automobiles culminated a 50-year advocacy campaign, but NYPD apparently didn’t get the message.

“The officers need to get work. Obviously, they need to use the park to get to work,” Detective Ahmed Nasser, an NYPD spokesperson, told Streetsblog in October. “They need police cars to patrol.”

One of the contributors to @placardabuse captured this perfectly just this week.

West 55th Street’s Placard Abuse Exhibition

Sometimes you don't even need a placard! Photo: @placardabuse
Sometimes you don’t even need a placard! Photo: @placardabuse

Some blocks in the city almost feel like galleries of placard abuse. One can stroll from car to car and see dozens of different ways people take advantage of lax placard rules to steal parking spots.

You don’t always need a placard, as West 55th Street by the Midtown North precinct shows.

The block filled with placard-less cars, whose drivers managed to steal themselves curbside space brandishing an array of official-adjacent dashboard swag: a wallet that says “NYPD family member,” NYPD business cars, and even police union surgeon identification.

But the people who are supposed to be writing the tickets never seem to crack down on their colleagues in blue — or friends of New York’s Finest who just know what to put in their windshield.

M10 Bus Stop on Frederick Douglass Blvd.

Personal police vehicles line the length of this M10 bus stop on Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Photo: Max Krauss
Personal police vehicles line the length of this M10 bus stop on Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Photo: Max Krauss

This block in Harlem between 147th and 148th streets near NYPD Service Area 6 has been filled with illegally parked cars for years, despite being designated a “no standing zone.”

In March, Streetsblog readers shared photos of the block. They showed cars parked along the entire length of a bus stop and cars straddling both sides of a crosswalk. Most, but not all, of those cars belong to NYPD police officers — one vehicle had only a pass to play ice hockey at Riverbank State Park, about a mile away.

Finally, in July, the MTA sent staff onto the scene to address the accessibility concern at the bus stop. The cars were cleared, but a source in the neighborhood says illegal parking remains rampant at the location to this day.

And the winner is…

Downtown Brooklyn — for its decades-long status as the ultimate sewer of placard abuse, the place where urbanist dreams go to die. New York City is growing, Brooklyn is especially growing. To move all those people requires functioning buses, safe sidewalks, and effective bike infrastructure. The scourge of government employees parked all over downtown Brooklyn makes that impossible.

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