Brooklyn Candidate One-Ups Boss, Proposes Plan to End Illegal and Placard Parking

Police employee-owned vehicles fill the bike lane on Schermerhorn Street in Downtown Brooklyn. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Police employee-owned vehicles fill the bike lane on Schermerhorn Street in Downtown Brooklyn. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

She’s picking up where he left off.

A City Council candidate vying to replace her boss announced on Thursday that she will end the illegal placard parking that has plagued Downtown Brooklyn for years — something Council Member Stephen Levin has promised, but so far failed, to do during his more than 11 years in office.

Elizabeth Adams, who is running to represent District 33, unveiled her proposal outside the notoriously blocked Schermerhorn Street bike lane, vowing to do more than her boss to end the rampant illegal parking that regularly puts cyclists and pedestrians in danger by forcing them to veer into traffic around blocked bike lanes, bus lanes, and crosswalks.

“The next Council Member needs a real plan to address this corruption that doesn’t rely on the same ineffective systems. We cannot get to the public space future we deserve if we continue to allow bike and bus lanes to be used as parking lots for cars and trucks,” Adams said.

In November, Levin and Council Speaker Corey Johnson introduced legislation that would allow anyone to report illegally parked cars — including those with city-issued placards on the dash — and in turn take home some cash as part of a citizen enforcement program.

But during a Council hearing on the bill in January, then-acting DOT Commissioner Margaret Forgione said the de Blasio administration is “opposed” to the 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 (“Billy Never Idles!”) to combat idling.

Last January, Levin made a bold promise to fix the Schermerhorn Street bike lane — in which cops from nearby Transit Bureau 30 routinely park their private cars. At that time, Levin proposed actually setting aside at least a dozen existing parking spots for those officers if it would mean they finally stopped parking in the bike lane, before coming up with the citizen enforcement program late last year.

But with just a few months left in office, neither have come to fruition.

Adams, who is conducting a phone-banking action to urge more legislators to sign on to the bill in the face of its opposition, backhandedly criticized her boss for not going far enough to rein in placard abuse, telling Streetsblog on Thursday that merely asking cops to move their cars doesn’t cut it.

“It has to go beyond what we kept doing, which was calling the agencies, calling NYPD and saying, ‘Hey can you come out here can you respond?’” said Adams. “But it’s such a short-term reaction. It’s reactionary rather than actually addressing it.”

And beyond the legislation, Adams also said she fully supports cutting back the number of placards in circulation, and creating a car-share system for city employees to reduce the number of private vehicles on the road, especially for cops.

The results after we reviewed more than 1,600 NYPD employees' plates.
The results after we reviewed more than 1,600 NYPD employees’ plates.

“We also need to significantly reduce the number of parking placards that are given out, our system is not a free-for-fall, and we need to disincentives the use of placards and the use of city agency vehicles,” said Adams. “Today, I’m proposing a car-share program for all city agency vehicles, it offers real incentives to not rely on cars anymore, including free Citi Bike membership. We need to get more vehicles off the road, full stop.”

The issue with that, though, is that currently only a majority of cops — who earn $85,000-a-year after five years on the job, before overtime — live outside the five boroughs, and most drive to their precinct. And a months-long Streetsblog series found that many of those cops speed — more than 58 percent of police officers who had parked their personal vehicles in NYPD-only spaces near 33 station houses in all five boroughs had at least one moving violation, and 38 percent had repeated moving violations.

Adams said she fully supports a plan to require cops to live within the five boroughs; and said the city is letting money go to waste by not supporting the bill, when instead it should use the extra change it collects from illegal parking fines to fund building out better safe-streets infrastructure.

Council candidate Elizabeth Adams, flanked by summonses. Photo: Julianne Cuba
Council candidate Elizabeth Adams, flanked by summonses. Photo: Julianne Cuba

“The city can and should use fines from regular offenders, like UPS, who was just out here and put those fines into a fund that builds and maintain protected bike lanes,” she said.

And Bike New York’s Jon Orcutt stood with Adams on Thursday, throwing his support behind the council candidate in the hopes that she could finally do more than her would-be predecessors to make streets safer.

“The city administration just does not care. What you see here in the bike lane is chronic, it’s the tip of the iceberg. Illegal parking is just completely out of control,” he said.

The Schermerhorn Street bike lane in all its glory on Thursday. Photo: Julianne Cuba
The Schermerhorn Street bike lane in all its glory on Thursday. Photo: Julianne Cuba

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