Mayor Won’t Stop Teachers From Parking on School Playgrounds

'It really depends on the school,' he tells NY1.

Here's Williamsburg Prep High School in a Google street view image. Cars cars cars.
Here's Williamsburg Prep High School in a Google street view image. Cars cars cars.

Trust Mayor de Blasio to take the side of car drivers over that of kids. 

Even as city schools are scrambling to use outdoor space for instruction and activities during the pandemic, the mayor is refusing to stop teachers from parking their cars on school playgrounds.

Hours after Streetsblog published an investigation on Monday revealing how many play areas are filled with teachers’ cars, NY1’s Errol Louis asked Hizzoner whether the city was formulating “some kind of directive…to change or end” the practice

The answer? Uh, no.

It really depends on the school,” said de Blasio, showing a characteristic lack of leadership and throwing the task back on educators, as he done for many decisions surrounding schools’ opening. “I mean, obviously we want the maximum for our kids. That’s what this is all about, and we’re going to work with every school community to figure out the best way to do it. There are some places where, you know, teachers do come from long distances and don’t have many options where to park – that has to be considered too. But the goal here is to maximize the space the kids need. That’s how we’ll approach it.”

Louis’s question was also timed to the mayor’s announcement on Monday that schools could apply to use outdoor space — perhaps including streets — if they registered their plans with the city by Friday, a period that the president of the principals union criticized as far too short. As of Tuesday, 243 city schools had done so, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said during the mayor’s daily press briefing. There are 1,866 schools in the public-school system.

Streetsblog's school yard coverage
How Streetsblog covered the story this week.

“The mayor’s normalization of cars taking over the mere slivers of playground space afforded our kids constitutes another low in what should be an all-hands-on-deck fight for less driving of multi-ton cars,” said Marco Conner DiAquoi, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives. “These cars clog our limited street space, pollute our air and harm New Yorkers of all ages, including children who are killed every year. Instead of making excuses, the mayor and city must develop a plan to incentivize and encourage non-car commuting and provide more, not less, space for people, particularly kids. Less driving overall also means more dedicated space for the few who feel they must drive.”

The issue of car-ridden city schoolyards gained salience after the environmental-education nonprofit NYC H2O revealed via Streetsblog that about one in 12 city primary schools allow staff members to park their cars on school playgrounds — limiting their space for holding outdoor classes and activities to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The investigation, which looked at 110 public elementary and middle schools in Brooklyn and Queens, found that nine (8 percent) of them had cars parked in their yards during school hours — which would translate to about 100 schools across the city if it held true systemwide. A number of high schools also had turned their yards into parking lots, NYC H2O found.

 

The remarks are not the first time that de Blasio has supported or bolstered teachers’ driving. In 2017, under pressure of a lawsuit, he reversed the policy of Mayor Bloomberg that had limited the number of parking placards that the city handed out to teachers. The reversal resulted in tens of thousands more placard holders with vehicles on city streets. Car drivers often use city-issued placards to park illegally in crosswalks, at bus stops, and by fire hydrants, thereby damaging street safety — knowing that displaying a placard usually will prompt a traffic-enforcement agent to overlook the infraction. 

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