Mayor Insists Someone is Fighting Placard Abuse, Despite Cutting Two Dedicated Units

Here was Mayor de Blasio in February, 2019 claiming to crack down on placards. Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
Here was Mayor de Blasio in February, 2019 claiming to crack down on placards. Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Fox, meet hen house.

People who reported illegally parked placard-bearing cars to 311 on Sunday were surprised to get this message back: “This complaint does not fall under the police department’s jurisdiction.”

It was the latest evidence that the de Blasio administration has retreated from its self-declared war on placard abuse — a capitulation embodied by City Hall’s decision to eliminate two dedicated units meant to crack down on public employees, especially cops, who park in front of fire hydrants, in crosswalks, bike lanes, and bus lanes, and even on sidewalks, endangering vulnerable road users.

In fact, the mayor said on Monday that the issue — once a top priority for him — is not even on his radar right now.

“There’s still all the other ongoing enforcement that happens separate from that specialized unit,” de Blasio said in response to a question from Streetsblog at his daily press conference. “We have much more profound priorities right now in terms of fighting back the coronavirus, … this recent spate of shootings and dealing with the change in the NYPD budget.”

The mayor’s response was lambasted by political gadflies as more evidence that the mayor can’t fight shootings and do the rest of his job at the same time.

“For almost everything the city does, you can [find] some other issue that is a ‘much more profound priority,'” tweeted the keeper of the @placardabuse account. “You still have to do the job, @nycmayor.”

The “other ongoing enforcement” the mayor was likely referring to includes the NYPD’s Traffic Enforcement Agents, who issue tickets for illegal parking, including those who misuse a city-issued placard. But the agents notoriously don’t ticket their own (in the latest example, as Streetsblog reported last week, one out of every three cars parked on Jay Street near the courthouses in Downtown Brooklyn had fake parking permits on the dashboard — and agents turn a blind eye).

One of the people who got the “Not our job” response from the NYPD after reporting illegal parking on Sunday had spotted an illegally parked car with an orange vest in its dashboard in lieu of a valid permit. The car has racked up 18 parking and camera violations since 2014, including four for speeding, according to How’s My Driving.

Placard abuse watchdogs said the “does not fall under the Police Department’s jurisdiction” response is just further proof that the city has completely given up the fight against placard abuse, which is the gateway drug to larger police corruption.

“As the mayor surely knows, there is no enforcement. There never was from the ‘specialized’ unit, and there certainly is not from the slowed-down rest of the NYPD now,” said one of the people behind the Twitter account Placard Abuse. “It is simply unbelievable that, during this moment of overwhelming demand for police accountability, the mayor says that open police corruption is not a priority. We are not just talking about the officers flouting the law, not just the dangerous parking and illegal equipment to get away with reckless driving, but also bribery and falsifying reports.”

Of course, the units that de Blasio cut from the new budget — a $5.4-million NYPD team and a $1.2-million Placard Abuse Enforcement Team within the Department of Transportation that was never actually created — never actually did anything.

And nothing will be done until next year at the earliest, when de Blasio claims he will bring about the final end of placard abuse with his $52-million fully digitized system, Pay-by-Plate, that he announced 18 months ago.

“That technological support that we’re going to get next year, that new solution based on better technology, I think is really going to be the thing that’s going to change things once and for all,” Hizzoner said.

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