Streetsies 2019: Placard Abuse of the Year

We live in hope that this scourge, after many reform attempts, will end. But we're not counting on it.

streetsie placard montage
The coveted Streetsie.
The coveted Streetsie.

The City Council last month passed a full slate of laws to crack down on placard abuse, yet count us skeptical that we will see much in the way of progress against this offense that does so much to harm the safety of and free movement in our streets. That’s because placards — there are 150,000 legitimate ones, and many more fake, in circulation — represent the kind of corruption that’s baked into the system.

Moreover, the mere fact that the city has doled out tens of thousands of placards to employees from agencies across the gamut indicates that this government perk (like much of the city fleet itself) long since has jumped from grudging workaround to prized goody. The result is that the city with the most expansive transit system in the nation corruptly encourages its employees to drive to work — flooding our overcrowded streets with their vehicles.

Mayor de Blasio, who has divvied out placards to tens of thousands more employees, pledged to “crack down” on placard corruption, perhaps goaded by the daily exposes at the popular Twitter account @placardabuse, a nominee for our coveted Vision Zero Hero of the Year award. But he has done little (in fact, he even cravenly caved to placard abusers by pledging to dedicate more parking spaces and build more parking lots for them).

A true crackdown on placard abuse may be impossible because it would necessarily be enforced by the biggest beneficiaries of placard abuse: the NYPD, the State Police, the Department of Investigation, the Department of Transportation, and other agencies. So for now, at least we can “celebrate” the worst placard abusers of the year:

DOI’s Lower Manhattan Shenanigans

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

In the miasma of Lower Manhattan — a cesspool of illegally parked and idling city vehicles — this one stood out: an official with the agency in charge of busting illegal placard parkers demanded that other illegally parked officials stop parking in his illegal parking spot.

“THESE SPOTS ARE DESIGNATED FOR DEPT OF INVESTIGATION/NYPD EXECUTIVE PERSONEL [sic] ONLY. PLEASE REFRAIN FROM PARKING HERE IN THE FUTURE,” Department of Investigation Deputy Inspector Raymond Festino wrote in a note slipped on the dashboard of a car illegally parked on Liberty Street near the DOI’s headquarters. He then signed it, “D.I. RAYMOND FESTINO, NYPD/DEPT OF INVESTION [sic] SQUAD.”

After Festino was exposed by @placardabuse and Streetsblog, DOI spokeswoman Dianne Struzzi could only stammer weak excuses. Pointing to a 2017 investigation that arrested 30 individuals (out of thousands of placard abusers, and a public report about that investigation (PDF), Stuzzi acknowledged that placard abuse “continues to be an area of concern.”

Ya think?

Downtown Brooklyn and Beep Adams

There are always Borough President cars parked on the sidewalk at Borough Hall in Brooklyn.
There are always Borough President cars parked on the sidewalk at Borough Hall in Brooklyn.

Downtown Brooklyn is the locus of the placard abuse in the borough, and the illegal parking all over the place makes buses that must go through it crawl. And all Brooklyn Beep Eric Adams can do is make excuses for why he and his minions continue to treat municipal property renovated at great public expense like strip-mall parking fields.

In August, Adams held a “town hall” to discuss why, among other places, such downtown venues as Cadman Plaza West and East, Atlantic Avenue and Hoyt Street, and the Brooklyn entrance ramps to the Manhattan Bridge have become private parking lots for state, federal and municipal employees.

Adams justified some illegal parking around Borough Hall because he’s worried about female employees’ safety when they come to the office late at night for work. And he said he merely “inherited” the system from his predecessor.

Message to Adams: We get that you are trying to lead by example by biking to work. Do it with placard abuse, too.

The NYPD … everywhere

A placard-abusing cop in Brooklyn's 78th precinct parked his personal vehicle on the sidewalk.
A placard-abusing cop in Brooklyn’s 78th Precinct parked his personal vehicle on the sidewalk. This is the car with 53 moving violations on its record, too.

Any day the public wants a panoramic tour of what placard abuse looks like, all it has to do is visit the streets around the city’s many police precincts. Officers basically do whatever they want with their cars: double-park, park on sidewalks — you name it. Streetsblog’s “S-cop-laws” series — which revealed scores of reckless, even sociopathic, drivers — also uncovered ample evidence of placard abuse.

So cops not only drive poorly, they park in a manner that suggests they don’t give a shit about the community outside their precincthouses — ringed, fortress-like, by illegally parked muscle cars.

After the slew of anti-placard-abuse measures passed the Council in November, @placardabuse pointed a finger squarely at the problem in an op-ed in our pages. The vote, he wrote, sent “the clearest possible message to newly minted Police Commissioner Dermot Shea: this corruption will no longer be accepted. From day one, Shea knows that the New Yorkers he serves expect him to ensure that the law is enforced impartially, instead of allowing a privileged placard class to opt out of the rules that govern civil conduct on our streets.”

We live in hope.

And the winner is…

The NYPD — which spent another year parking wherever it wants only to be rewarded by the mayor for that bad behavior by his commitment to building the force even more parking.

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