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Mayor Finally Just Says It: Fighting Placard-Abusing City Employees is ‘Not a Priority Right Now’

8:59 AM EDT on September 15, 2020

A placard.

Mayor de Blasio really must be a Brooklynite — because on Monday night, when he was asked why his administration has done nothing to crack down on rampant placard abuse, his answer was the same cry that Dodgers fans used to give after losing the World Series to the Yankees almost every October: Wait 'til next year!

Confronted with twin stories — first in the City and then in the New York Post — that no city employee has surrendered a placard and almost none has been summonsed for illegal parking with a city-issued permit, the mayor finally admitted that he doesn't consider fighting low-level corruption to be a priority right now.

Indeed, he eliminated the budget for the task force he created only last year to deal with the problem.

"I think we've got to be clear that if you've got to make priorities, you've got to make choices in a very tough budget circumstance," Hizzoner told Errol Louis on NY1 on Monday night. "I keep saying, 'We've had to make a lot of tough cuts that have real impact.' And it's going to keep that way until we get either a stimulus from Washington or the support we need from Albany in the form of long-term borrowing."

The mayor admitted that "placard abuse is a real issue," but said it's low on his list of priorities.

"When you compare it to the things we've been focused on — food, shelter, health care, safety — we couldn't focus on placard abuse," he said.

Louis reminded the mayor that his administration had not been taking placard abuse — which Louis himself once called the "gateway drug" of civic corruption — very seriously before the pandemic, citing without attribution Streetsblog's own story about lax enforcement. But the mayor said he'd fix the problem ... next year.

"Placard abuse has not been on the top of my list," he said. "And next year, when we're going to have the technology in place to basically have our agents go down a street and be able to instantly, you know, in a computerized fashion, know who's violating the placard rules and penalize them instantly, that's going to be the big step forward we've been looking for. So that is still coming. We want to stop placard abuse, and I think that's when we're going to see the breakthrough we've been waiting for."

The mayor has done the "Wait 'til next year" thing before, in reference to a new, automated Pay by Plate system, which will apparently allow traffic enforcement agents to quickly scan a plate with a hand-held device that will automatically determine if it’s the placard is valid for the parking spot. Earlier this summer, the mayor said that the system made it possible for him to eliminate his dedicated placard enforcement team.

“A dedicated unit is no longer needed because we are enhancing enforcement coverage by introducing new technology and other advancements that allow any TEA to do this work more seamlessly,” mayoral spokeswoman Laura Feyer said at the time, adding that Pay-by-Plate would roll out after June, 2021.

That’s a long time to wait to stop placard abuse, said Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

“We can’t send the message that placard abuse will be tolerated," he said through Council spokeswoman Jennifer Fermino. "A concerted effort directed at stopping this behavior must continue. We have more traffic enforcement agents focused on writing tickets now and we expect them to continue this work, particularly with the most egregious abuses like those who park in bike and bus lanes, and sidewalks."

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