What a Surprise: NYPD Breaks Law By Not Investigating Placard Abuse

Placard abuse. Photo: David Meyer
Placard abuse. Photo: David Meyer

NYPD: Not Your Placard Division.

The city’s latest failure to crack down on illegal placard parking can be fully laid on the NYPD, which has broken the law by not evaluating placard abuse hotspots and turning the evidence over to the Department of Investigation, as required by Local Law 6, which passed last year.

The law mandated that the NYPD would submit monthly reports to the DOI, starting on Jan. 1, 2020, with the results of its investigation of at least 25 locations per week “that are experiencing a prevalence of improper use of parking permits” plus at least 25 blocks or intersections “that are experiencing obstruction of bicycle lanes, bus lanes, sidewalks, crosswalks, and fire hydrants by vehicles.”

The same law required the Department of Investigation to compile the NYPD evidence into a single report that was due on Sept. 30. We contacted the DOI on Sept. 30 to find out what happened to the report, and the next day, spokeswoman Nicole Turso told us the following:

Under Local Law 6, DOI was to prepare a report based on data [from] the NYPD from January to June. Due to various circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the data on which DOI’s report would be based has not been collected by the NYPD. We are currently working with NYPD to propose a new timeline to the Council that would align with the spirit and intent of the law.

Blaming the COVID pandemic did not ring true to people who follow the city’s inability to crack down on city employees who abuse their parking privileges.

The person or people who run the Placard Abuse Twitter account started demanding to see the NYPD reports as early as March 2 — before the pandemic struck. But neither the January nor February report was provided. The Freedom of Information Law request made by Placard Abuse was put off twice during COVID-19, but was finally denied in July, with a hint that NYPD was not doing its job:

“A diligent search for records responsive to your request did not locate any such records,” the agency said in its denial.

The keepers of the Placard Abuse Twitter account, who require anonymity because of prior harassment by the NYPD in 2017, said they were not surprised that DOI was not able to submit its report on time because it was clear the NYPD wasn’t doing its job (despite claiming it was back in January).

“The NYPD did not submit the report for January, when there was absolutely no impact at all from the pandemic, but DOI did not address the NYPD’s refusal to comply with the law — and now they are trying to use the pandemic as an excuse,” the account overseers said in an email to Streetsblog. “If they were trying to ‘align with the spirit and intent of the law,’ they would have been up front with the public about this before now, instead of hoping nobody would notice that they missed the deadline required by law.

“A more honest approach would be to file a preliminary report documenting the NYPD’s initial failure to comply with the law and some initial findings based on ample evidence available to them, and then follow up at such time as the NYPD fulfilled its obligations,” the overseers added, “We would love to know if the City Council was notified that DOI would miss the deadline, and if there is any plan on when they will complete the report now.”

We asked the Council, but it was unclear if Speaker Corey Johnson was surprised at the news that the NYPD was not doing its job — or if he was just weary of losing the fight against placard abuse on so many fronts.

“Placard abuse is corruption, and police must help end this practice by collecting examples of this abuse and providing them to DOI, as they are required to do by law,” Johnson said through a spokesman. “The longer they fail to do this, the longer it will take to tackle this corruption, which hurts all New Yorkers.”

Neither the NYPD nor City Hall responded to requests for comment by Streetsblog.

Sidebar: A timeline of placard abuse reform efforts

The city has failed to tackle placard abuse, which journalist Errol Louis once called the gateway drug of city corruption. Here’s a brief history of that failure:

  • The de Blasio era of placard abuse began in earnest in 2017, when the mayor greatly expanded the number of city-issued parking passes, a perk to encourage driving.
  • By May of that year, the mayor promised to crack down on illegal parking by placard holders.
  • Yeah, well, a year went by, and the NYPD admitted there was no crackdown — and fought all efforts by the Council to begin one.
  • In February, 2019, the mayor promised another crackdown.
  • In November, 2019, the City Council passed a slate of bills that, Johnson said, would really begin the process of starting to begin to crack down on placard abuse.
  • In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the de Blasio administration actually gave out more placards.
  • In July, the Mayor de Blasio eliminated two units that allegedly investigated illegal placard parking — one in the DOT and one in the NYPD. But it’s not clear if either office did anything because …
  • …In August, Streetsblog reported that the NYPD had written virtually no summonses for illegal placard parking between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020.
  • Well, one city employee was finally busted in March and arraigned this week for using a photocopy of a placard to park illegally in Lower Manhattan.

New York City Local Law 6 by Gersh Kuntzman on Scribd

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