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Eyes on the Street

‘Vicious Cycle of Stupidity’ as Cops Clog Up Frederick Douglass Boulevard

12:01 AM EDT on August 10, 2020

Residents of Harlem have to “hail” a bus on Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Photo: Adam Light

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to .... be cops.

No, Santayana never said that, but he might just have well have been talking about the NYPD when he wrote his most-quoted line about people constantly repeating the mistakes of the past. And the great writer certainly had never been to Frederick Douglass Boulevard between 147th and 148th streets, where he might have honed his famous dictum.

Frederick douglass bus stop
This is not a bus stop. This is cop parking. Photo: Adam Light
This is not a bus stop. This is cop parking. Photo: Adam Light

It is on that block, where the M10 bus picks up and deposits passengers, that officers from the Housing Bureau's Service Area 6 continue – with apparent impunity from their commanders and continued bitterness from their neighbors in Harlem — to illegally park in the bus stop, forcing local residents to walk into the road just to catch a bus.

The police officers' personal vehicles are parked sideways on both sides of the street to cram in more cars — which means that the vehicles stick further into the street. Not only are there cars in front of this bus stop, but multiple fire hydrants are completely blocked as well. A single double-parked car blocks the roadway — which is a bus route — in both directions.

"I need to wait for the bus in the middle of the street," said one resident named Vilma. "The people put their car in the street, and they're police, so nobody say nothing."

how the city covered it
How The City covered the story.
How the city covered the story.

That's not exactly right. People are saying plenty. But no one in city government is listening. Neighborhood resident Wendy Frank frequently calls 311 to report the illegally parked cars, some of which are junked or have flat tires. The 311 calls generate reports — reports that simply get closed with no agency taking action.

She also calls the elected officials who serve the area, but none of them take action, either. (Assembly Member Al Taylor's office is just one block away.)

The local community board has not done a thing, either.

"There's just a vicious circle of stupidity," Frank said. "Even New York City Transit could do something — move the stop or tell the cops to stop doing this — but they don't."

The NYPD certainly doesn't care. In fact, almost exactly one year ago, The City covered this very issue at this very bus stop. That August, 2019 story even quoted an NYPD spokesman saying, "We recognize that our enforcement policy must improve." (We reached out to the NYPD and asked why nothing has changed given the agency's stated intention to "improve." The agency didn't get back to us.)

Neighborhood residents are basically numb.

"It's been like this forever," said Pamela Owens. "The issue I have with it is if you have a handicapped person, or a person in a wheelchair, how are they supposed to get to the bus, if the bus can’t pull up to the curb? Periodically, they'll come through and ticket, but most of these are police cars anyway."

Indeed, very few of the cars parked in the bus stop on a recent visit by Streetsblog had long records of parking tickets. The reason? Traffic Enforcement Agents — including those summoned to the area by Frank and others' 311 calls — don't generally write tickets against their fellow officers.

And of the 37 cars we spotted illegally parked with placards or parked legally in authorized spaces, nine had multiple moving violations on them, an indication that placard abuse leads to much more dangerous violations.

We will update this story if we hear back from the NYPD.

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