PARKING MADNESS 2021: A Manhattan Final for the Ages!
12:01 AM EDT on March 23, 2021
This is the third of four matchups in the "borough finals" round of our annual March (Parking) Madness competition, which started with 16 of the most unneighborly precincts in town and will continue until you, our readers, select the most discourteous, most unprofessional, and most disrespectful command in the city. Last week, the 114th Precinct in Queens and the 67th Precinct in Brooklyn made it to the Final Four. Later this week, we'll post The Bronx final. Please remember to vote on today's Manhattan borough final; polls will remain open until Thursday at 4 p.m.
Maybe the pressure is getting to them!
Readers have long noted the complete disregard that Manhattan's Fifth and 34th precincts have for their neighbors in Chinatown and Washington Heights, respectively, but who knew that the station houses themselves were taking the competition so seriously?
At the 34th Precinct on Upper Broadway, Streetsblog's reporter was shadowed by an officer who repeatedly asked us to "get away" from the illegally parked cars that ring the station house — some with nothing more than a vest, a hand-written note or even a fake badge from "Securidad Nacional" on the dash.
When our reporter told the cop that the cars are parked in public and are, therefore, subject to public scrutiny, the uniformed officer mostly backed off, contenting himself with merely following our reporter around until he had done his job (the gumshoe did not follow the reporter to La Casa del Mofongo, where he grabbed a takeout order that, inexplicably, neglected to include the all-important pernil gravy).
Meanwhile, in Chinatown, an officer in his personal car kept watch as our reporter mosied down Elizabeth Street writing down plate numbers and taking pictures of all the egregiously parked cars. But that officer didn't give chase. Overconfidence? We'll see in today's Manhattan borough final matchup:
Fifth Precinct (Chinatown)
The Fifth Precinct limped into the borough final after a less-than-one-percent victory over the First Precinct in Tribeca, but Capt. Paul Zangrilli’s officers have brought their A game to today's contest. Even before visitors to Chinatown get close to the Elizabeth Street station house, they are greeted by the sight of officers' cars filling every available illegal space on Canal Street and the Bowery (see slideshow below):
The problem with this illegal parking is that many of the spaces around the Fifth Precinct station house are set aside by the DOT for truck loading and unloading, meaning that illegally parked officers' cars end up contributing to the congestion that makes Canal so unsafe and such a drain on trucker productivity (which indirectly raises prices for New York City consumers). Other cops filled a bus stop with their private vehicles.
In a commercial loading zone on Canal west of Elizabeth Street, one officer even used a 10-year-old union portfolio as a placard (photo above). It works most of the time — he has only 22 parking tickets since 2017.
One of the ways in which the Fifth Precinct distinguishes itself is with officers who park on the sidewalk. On Canal Street between Elizabeth and Bowery, and on the precinct block itself, cops not only park illegally, but do so in a way that cuts off access for pedestrians.
A brand-new Mercedes with temporary plates from Virginia was particularly offensive, declaring itself legit to park thanks to a handwritten note on the dash with "5th Pct." scrawled on it.
The precinct also doesn't seem to know what to do with all the barricades it used last year to allegedly protect itself from the supposed threat of protesters decrying police brutality. As of this week, the barricades sit in ugly clumps at both ends of the precinct block, just taking up space in a neighborhood with very little of it. Here's a slideshow of what that looks like:
The cops whom we spotted illegally parked on Monday have terrible driving records, including:
- one with 15 speeding tickets (five last year) and one red light ticket (also last year).
- one with eight speeding tickets (seven last year) and one red light ticket (also last year).
- one with eight speeding tickets (all last year) and one red-light ticket.
- one with seven speeding tickets (four last year) and one red light ticket.
- one with seven speeding tickets (three last year) and six red-light tickets.
- one with five speeding tickets (three last year) and two red-light tickets (one last year).
- one with four speeding tickets (three last year).
- one with three red light tickets and one speeding ticket.
- one with three speeding tickets (all last year).
- one with two speeding tickets since November.
- one with two speeding tickets and two red-light tickets since 2019.
- one with two speeding tickets and one red light ticket.
The fact that Zangrilli and his superiors allow these officers to drive into a densely populated neighborhood where they endanger area residents while also adding to the neighborhood's legendary congestion is an outrage that may earn the Fifth a trip to the Final Four of this competition.
And here's a sweetener: Possibly the most offensive thing about all the egregious parking at the Fifth Precinct is that it is occurring in our very civic center, mere feet from city, state and federal courthouses. It's sort of horrifying to see so much base-level corruption occurring mere blocks from the very institutions that are supposed to be arresting it.
34th Precinct (Washington Heights)
Seriously, we were shadowed by a police officer (whom we finally shook when we clearly were headed out of the neighborhood). Here's a picture of him finally heading back to the Broadway station house:
So here was a guy who followed us around as we documented all the illegal parking by his colleagues, told us we shouldn't be hovering near the cars (how else are you going to document all the fake placards?) and then didn't write any tickets when we told him the cars were illegally parked.
But what can you expect at the 34th Precinct (which earned its spot in the borough finals after just squeezing past the 30th Precinct just to the south)? You just gotta hand it to Deputy Inspector Peter Andrea — in a neighborhood that is defined by the best mofongo in town (at Elsa La Reina del Chicharron, not Casa del Mofongo) and the most chaotic, car-choked streets in town, he does nothing to stop his officers from contributing to the latter.
Illegal combat parking is as much a part of life at the 3-4 as the morning roll call: The precinct block — on Broadway between 182nd and 183rd streets — is lined on both sides with perpendicularly parked officers' cars. It's one thing to have them completely fill the sidewalk in front of the precinct — after all, that's how Dermot Shea likes his officers to park at every precinct in the city (except the Fifth, by the way) — but it's another to have them completely fill the sidewalk on the other side of the block, where they obstruct a Social Security Administration office.
Here's what that looks like:
And both side streets are filled with combat-parked officers' cars — including a Mercedes with five speeding tickets in a year (plus two more from 2019) and a guy parked at a hydrant with two speeding tickets last year (gee, we hope the precinct doesn't burn down!).
Here's what the side streets look like:
It's not entirely clear that every car belongs to an officer, but most are at least cop adjacent. We saw that aforementioned fake badge on one dashboard, we saw vests, we saw log books, we saw completely fake placards (really? "Recovery Service Agent"?) and we even saw a sticker reading, “Supporter: New York Police Chiefs Foundation," which apparently is a fake charity.
What is going on at this disrespectful, unprofessional frat house?
Has it earned a spot in the Final Four? Or will you send Chinatown's Fifth Precinct onto glory? It's up to you! Polls are open until Thursday at 4 p.m.
And for those of you playing along at home, here's where our bracket stands now:
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