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Will DOI Take Placard Abuse Seriously — Or Just Keep Abusing Placards?

1:30 PM EST on January 24, 2019

This is the note that Deputy Inspector Raymond Festino left on an illegally parked state car. Photo: @placardabuse

Hey, those are our illegal parking places, not yours!

Placard abuse is so bad in Lower Manhattan that an official with the agency in charge of busting illegal placard parkers is demanding that other illegally parked officials stop parking in his illegal parking spot.

Deputy Inspector Raymond Festino of the Department of Investigation — the agency that has in the past cracked down on placard abuse — slipped the following letter on a car illegally parked on Liberty Street near the DOI's headquarters: "THESE SPOTS ARE DESIGNATED FOR DEPT OF INVESTIGATION/NYPD EXECUTIVE PERSONEL [sic] ONLY. PLEASE REFRAIN FROM PARKING HERE IN THE FUTURE." He signed it, "D.I. RAYMOND FESTINO, NYPD/DEPT OF INVESTION [sic] SQUAD."

The note was left on a car with an official-looking placard issued by the "New York State Attorney General (Police)," which does exist as part of the office currently overseen by Attorney General Letitia James, the former City Council member, Public Advocate and, yes, placard abusing pol.

The note was first reported on the Twitter account @placardabuse.

The car with the Attorney General placard was parked in a "No stopping" zone. According to section 219-29 of the NYPD patrol guide [PDF], it is never legal for a placard possessor to park in a no-stopping zone. So Festino's note can only be seen as one officer calling on another officer to stop parking illegally so that another officer can illegally park.

Streetsblog has been in touch with the Department of Investigation in hopes of interviewing new Commissioner Margaret Garnett over her plans to crack down on placard abuse in the city. That interview is pending. In the meantime, we reached out to DOI this week to ask Festino's letter and its implications. Here is what DOI spokeswoman Diane Struzzi told us:

DOI has remained committed to rooting out fraudulent parking placards in this city. In 2017, our investigation with NYPD and DOT resulted in the arrest of 30 individuals for placard abuse and a public report about that investigation (PDF). This continues to be an area of concern for DOI and we will have more to say on this issue in the coming months.

Regarding your specific inquiry regarding the tweeted photos that are across the street from DOI headquarters and request that those spots be left for DOI/NYPD personnel: Those spaces are needed by DOI so NYPD detectives, who are working active investigations with DOI, have quick access to their police vehicles in case of emergency and during the times when they are transporting complainants, witnesses, and individuals who are in custody. It is not safe for New Yorkers, nor is it a law enforcement best practice, to escort an in-custody person through the streets.

(The investigation that Struzzi mentioned was covered by Streetsblog in 2017. The 30 arrests were seen as a tiny number given that there are 160,000 city-issued placards, plus unreported tens of thousands of state and federal placards — plus untold numbers of counterfeits. A true crackdown on placard abuse is difficult, given that members of the agencies that would be in charge of the crackdown — the NYPD, the State Police, the DOT, and others — are the biggest beneficiaries of placard parking privileges.)

Streetsblog asked Struzzi why the agency had not asked the Department of Transportation to install signs — as it has at many other agencies and near schools — designating the area as parking for DOI employees only rather than as a no-stopping zone. Struzzi said:

DOI is in the process of moving to another location in the area, so it wouldn’t be cost-effective to change those signs at this time. In the meantime, those spaces are used by DOI or NYPD when safety and law enforcement concerns warrant their use.

Struzzi did not say anything about Festino, but subscribers to the @placardabuse Twitter stream quickly ID'd him as a cop with ties to placard-waving former State Senator Marty Golden.

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