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Coronavirus Crisis

Amid Virus Crisis, Mayor de Blasio Announces New Placard Perk for City Workers

Placard abuse is not going away any time soon, Mayor de Blasio said.

Mayor de Blasio will issue 10,000 parking placards to emergency health care workers during the coronavirus crisis — a non-controversial temporary perk that reveals the main problem with the other 150,000 parking placards issued to city workers: they're not necessary.

The mayor made the announcement during his daily COVID-19 press conference on Sunday, saying the new parking privileges were necessary because health care workers are being asked to perform Herculean duties. Here's how the mayor put it:

For our health care workers, these are the people are, there are so many heroes in this city, and so many people are depending on, I think we can all agree there is no group of New Yorkers we are depending on more right now than our doctors, our nurses, our lab techs, every human being who works in our health care system is precious right now. These folks are doing heroic work. They're working exceedingly long hours. They are putting themselves at risk. We must support them in every way we can. A small but helpful thing we can do right now in light of the profound changes in this city, the fact that so much of the city is not operating the way it normally does, and the idea of commuting has been fundamentally changed and so many parts of our city are not seeing the kind of traffic, etc., that we're used to. We're going to do something temporarily in this crisis and grant parking permits to health care workers who we need to serve this city in this crisis. So, there'll be a process to determine who qualifies and we will begin with 10,000 permits for these heroic workers that we will start to distribute as early as tomorrow.

The announcement went unquestioned by other reporters until Streetsblog suggested that giving parking permits to workers who need it is a no-brainer — but it suggests that all the other workers who get placards don't, how you say, actually need them. Streetsblog has long documented how free parking encourages city employees like teachers, firefighters, cops and court workers to drive to work, many from the suburbs. We've also documented that cops who park near station houses have much worse driving records than the general population.

But on Sunday, de Blasio had no intention of playing along.

Question: So, you mentioned 10,000 new placards for health care workers. Most New Yorkers will completely agree on the need to help essential health care workers do their jobs. But doesn't this emergency order actually reveal how completely unnecessary the vast majority of the city's other 150,000 placards are? Because those, are after all, in most cases, just a job perk.

Mayor: Gersh, that's a fair question, but, honestly, not a question for today. We've talked plenty of times about the need to change the approach to placards. I believe that it not only needs to be fundamentally changed, it will be as we bring on automated enforcement systems and we're going to be very quick to take placards away from those who abuse. And I think we're going to have the greatest ability to know that next year or so that we've ever had in the history of city. But, right now, that's, bluntly, a secondary issue. This is about making sure that people who are desperately needed can get where they need to go. They're working very long hours. This is an emergency measure that we need to do. We'll deal with the rest of that when we get back to normalcy.

City Hall declined to answer follow-up questions.

Even activists who supported the mayor's decision saw the flaws in his promise to eventually fix the years-long crisis of placard abuse.

Others saw an easier solution:

Take everyone else’s away then. This isn’t hard, DeBlasio

— CJ_Wojo ? (@Tellythecairn) March 22, 2020

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