FOIL’ED AGAIN! DOT Does Not Want the Public to See its Placard Abuse Enforcement Guide
Placard abuse watchdogs are calling out the Department of Transportation for refusing to hand over its patrol guide on parking permits, which would help the public discern fake placards from real ones.
The prolific Twitter account Placard Abuse tried to obtain DOT’s Enforcement Guide on parking permits — which it created collaboratively with the NYPD — through a Freedom of Information Law request back in June. But last week, DOT denied the request, saying that the disclosure would “interfere with law enforcement investigations or judicial proceedings.”
And the watchdogs are now appealing the rejection, calling it a “bogus” obfuscation of public documents that only continues to protect those who abuse their power by parking illegally on city streets, including in crosswalks and bike lanes, on sidewalks, and in front of fire hydrants.
“We believe DOT is illegally withholding information from the public that would allow New Yorkers to help root out the corruption on our streets,” Placard Abuse said in a statement.
Placard Abuse — a group whose members require anonymity because of prior harassment by the NYPD — says an accessible guide would help the public discern whether a permit is real or not, though in many cases, it’s quite obviously fake, like when a city employee merely throws a yellow work vest on the dashboard.
“People are always asking how they can tell if something is a real placard. An easy guide would be helpful for the public,” said the people behind the Twitter account, @placardabuse.
Parked illegally in a No Standing Anytime zone.
— placard corruption (@placardabuse) February 11, 2021
DOT did not respond to a request for comment, but it’s clear that such a guide does exist. DOT’s Deputy Commissioner of Traffic Operations Josh Benson testified at a Council hearing in 2018 that a so-called enforcement guide helps the NYPD’s Traffic Enforcement Agents distinguish between real and fake placards when out on patrol.
“We produced an Enforcement Guide, and this is what it looks like and it goes in the Summons Book of traffic enforcement agent, and it walks them through all of the different placards, which ones are valid, where they’re valid, and it helps them identify fraudulent placards,” said Benson.
And advocates said the rejection of request to release the guide is even more damning after DOT came out swinging against Brooklyn Council Member Stephen Levin and Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s legislation that would allow anyone to report illegal parking, including illegal parking undertaken with a city-issued placard — and in turn take home some cash.
“Taken together with DOT’s recent testimony against [the] bill, there seems to be a clear policy of keeping power in the hands of the placard class, where they can shield themselves from any consequences for their corruption,” said Placard Abuse.
Then-acting DOT Commissioner Margaret Forgione said the de Blasio administration is “opposed” to the citizen enforcement program out of concern that people would beat up neighbors who reported their illegal parking to authorities — even though the public reporting element is modeled on an existing city program to combat idling.
The city even commissioned rock legend Billy Idol to participate in the #BillyNeverIdles campaign and encourage the public to report idling scofflaws.