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Car Culture

Brooklyn Beep Favors Women Employees Over Men in Illegal Parking

Ryan Frank before the meeting at Borough Hall. Photo: Julianne Cuba.

Brooklyn Borough President Adams has a justification for letting some of his employees park illegally around Borough Hall — they're women, and so obviously they need protection from the big, bad, outside world by means of an illegal parking spot.

The Beep says he's worried about his female employees' safety when they come to the office late at night for work — and so he grants just "three or four" of them a coveted illegal parking spot feet from the front door of Borough Hall.

“The only individuals allowed to park around the building are my women employees that I have told they have to respond late at night,” Adams said during his Tuesday night forum on placard abuse. “My male staff, we don't drive in at all.”

But one woman at the meeting, who said she uses public transportation late at night, said the excuse is "nonsense" and completely ignores the root of the problem, especially because about 15 cars can be seen parked on the plaza at all hours of the day, despite the fact that there is a subway station literally underneath Borough Hall.

"If it is true that these illegal spots are reserved for women for these reasons, this is an alarming and out of touch response. Women and men should not be treated differently in the workplace. There are millions of women in this city and they take public transportation and walk on the streets at all hours of the day," said Armenoush Aslanian-Persico in a statement to Streetsblog after the meeting. "It is strange that he repeatedly brings up gender and race in these conversations. Placard abuse is not about gender or race. We know it happens all over the city and the perpetrators of these crimes are all genders, races and ages."

Another woman at the meeting agreed that she has no issue walking around Downtown Brooklyn, especially Borough Hall, late at night, and that shifting the narrative to a conversation on gender issues was just a way for Adams to avoid taking responsibility for ending placard abuse in his own front yard. No one would have a problem if a staffer parked illegally one night in an emergency, like during the blackout last month, but it's not just one night — it's everyday.

"This was a distraction," said Blythe Austin, a member of Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives. "Don’t let him reframe this discussion. This isn’t about a couple of staffers parking illegally in the middle of the night during a blackout. This is about corruption day after day."

But Adams insisted that any government worker, no matter their gender, could park on the plaza because his predecessors allowed it.

“When I came here, this is what the former borough president was doing. We’re not breaking the law; we inherited the same system that was in place when we came here,” he said.

The beep hosted Tuesday night’s “town hall” on placard abuse after he got lured into a Twitter feud last week with @CorruptBrooklyn over the cop- and court-adjacent mess at Jay and Tillary streets. The event brought an intimate crowd of a few dozen frustrated people to Borough Hall. Before the meeting kicked off, Streetsblog counted at least six cars parked illegally on the sidewalk — including one in a spot designated for the "B P Car" with a traffic cone and piece of paper.

bh placard
Cars parked on the sidewalk at Borough Hall. Photo: Julianne Cuba.
Pols may no longer park their cars on the Brooklyn Borough Hall plaza, as these cars were in 2019. A new movement aims to defeat the Brooklyn machine and the car culture it fosters. Photo: Julianne Cuba
bp car
Car spot for the Borough President on the sidewalk. Photo: Julianne Cuba.
Car spot for the Borough President on the sidewalk. Photo: Julianne Cuba.

The likely 2021 mayoral candidate said he’s willing to put an end to placard abuse starting at home in his own Borough Hall plaza —but only if others do it first.

“Let’s do this in a uniform fashion. I’m a break-the-car culture elected official, but I’m clear on one thing, we’re not going to have two standards, folks. I’m not going to be treated differently. I fought my entire life to make sure men that look like me don't have different rules than everyone else,” said Adams, who blasted the city’s four other borough presidents, noting he’s the only one who rides a bike or hops on the subway to get to work.

“I never see them on the train with me," he continued. "We’ve heard this before, ‘We don't want cars at Borough Hall.’ I don't want cars period. I take the train, I’m the only borough president in the history of Brooklyn that does that.”

Critics fired back at Adams's notion of a double standard, charging that every day is yet another battle in yet another neighborhood to stop placard abuse throughout all five boroughs — it’s just that no one is listening and no one one else holds similar town halls, said Austin.

“It frankly hurts when you say you feel like there's a double standard happening. We have been fighting placard abuse across the city. That said, I’m your constituent, I’m not the Manhattan Borough President’s constituent so I’m coming to you, asking for your help,” said Austin, who noted she had counted at least 40 cars abusing placards on her 15-minute walk to Borough Hall that evening. “I’m sick of the finger pointing from our elected officials and police, who are supposed to be protecting us but are actually putting our lives in danger because they’re not enforcing the law because they think they should be above the law.”

The roughly two-hour forum was mostly tame but also chockablock with misinformation. At one point, Adams told an elderly woman who complained about cars parked in the bus stop, preventing her from getting on the bus, that it was okay for cars with placards to park on the sidewalk — specifically, at the 84th Precinct. The room erupted into shouts of “that’s not allowed.” 

“I stand corrected,” said Adams. 

The crowd mostly scoffed at the suggestions Adams offered, including holding similar meetings every three months, getting the "Integrity Control Officers" at local precincts to stop placard abuse, creating a pool of shared vehicles for city employees  (some agencies already have them, for the peons), and creating a map of placard-abuse "problem areas. "

But critics charged that locals who walk and ride through the streets of New York City every day document enough — no more data is needed, enforcement is. 

“Let’s stop gathering data,” said Austin. “We know where problem spots are. We need enforcement, and we need it now.”

And the so-called Integrity Control Officers are only part of the problem.

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