It's the Final Four — which means anything can happen ... and usually does.
In this case, we got lucky at both ends of our competition, which was on Wednesday March 30: at the Brooklyn champion precinct — the 67th in Flatbush — just as we were doing our reporting on egregious parking of the area cops, the local do-nothing council member showed up and said ... nothing!
And at the 114th Precinct in Astoria, a very chatty officer came over, first to intimidate us, only to engage in a pleasant, half-hour conversation about the state of the city.
As they say in Flushing, that's why you play the ballgames!
So here's our Eastern Regional matchup. The winner goes to the championship round this weekend! Please remember to vote at the bottom of this story.
67th Precinct (Flatbush)
If there is any precinct that is the Cinderella of this competition, it's the 67th. But like most Cinderella teams that go deep into a bracket, there's often a crashing fall. Is it today? Let's see.
To get here, the Finaglers of Flatbush have beaten much more egregious offenders: a first-round victory over the 70th in Midwood (where cops even steal space from a school and a center for the disabled!), and then the borough final over the 88th Precinct (which commandeered an entire playground for cop parking!). That's a good run for Deputy Inspector Gaby Celiba’s squad.
But on Wednesday, the cops just didn't bring their A game.
Sure, all the problems at the Snyder Avenue station house were on display: garbage, junked cars, illegally parked cops at bus stops, and obstructed sidewalks.
Let's break that down:
Here's the illegally parked cars all over the place:
Here are the cops leaving too little room for people in wheelchairs:
And here are two more spots that the precinct has stolen a block away:
But when we showed up for the finals, we couldn't help but notice that the 67th cops didn't leave their squad cars in crosswalks or blocking handicapped ramps. Something was ... different. For the most part, there was order.
And then Council Member Mathieu Eugene showed up! Pulling up in his Mercedes, the councilman was stunned to get out of the car and be accosted by our reporter (we weren't stalking the veteran lawmaker — he literally pulled up as we were taking pictures of illegally parked cop cars).
We asked Eugene why he tolerates all the cops' cars being parked illegally all of his district — especially since his office is across the street from the station house. (We also asked him why he never returns our calls, but that's not important now.)
Eugene said he didn't think the officers' parking was a big deal and deflected our central question, "What are your constituents to think when they look at the police station house and see illegal parking, garbage and disrespect for your community."
"I have to know more about why they do it," was all he'd say. "They're the ones in charge of the traffic, so you would have to ask them."
But then he made huge news: He claimed that the precinct reached out to his office last year to ask if he would support them taking the entire sidewalk in front of his office on Rogers Avenue for perpendicular combat parking. Eugene's office (being Eugene's office) didn't get back to the cops, and the issue was basically dropped (and the cops took the bus stop instead).
But will that ballsy effort by Celiba be rewarded by our voters in the contest with the 114th Precinct? Let's see.
114th Precinct (Astoria)
The runaway favorite in this tournament at this point is Capt. Ray Jenkins’s cops at the Astoria Boulevard station house. You got to hand it to this command: Jenkins's cops always bring their A game.
When we showed up, the sidewalk on the 35th Street side of the station house was completely blocked for people with disabilities or shopping carts — and we even watched an old lady struggle to get through. Here's a slideshow of that:
The sidewalk is blocked on the 34th Street side of the station house, too:
Also, in our two previous trips to the 114th — to document its wins over the 110th Precinct and the 108th Precinct — the 35th Street bridge was chaotic, but not nearly as bad as we found it this week. Check out how the cops behaved for the regional final:
Here's all you need to know about the cops at this command in one picture:
Police here have also commandeered combat-parking zones on Astoria Boulevard for two blocks to the east of the station house, too, including a zone that's designated as a truck loading zone all day long.
But as we were doing our reporting, Officer Chohan came over to see what we were up to. In fact, that's how he started, "What are you up to?" he asked. Our reporter said he was merely doing his job — in this case, "covering all the illegal parking you do because you all drive in from the suburbs."
Chohan volunteered that he's one of the officers who live outside the city and drive in every day. But he responded with the classic complaint of car drivers, "Well, the city should give us more parking." That started a lengthy debate about the best way to incorporate police into the city fabric (Chohan supports higher pay; Streetsblog generally supports a residency requirement coupled with housing vouchers, plus an elimination of the rule barring cops from living in the neighborhoods where they work).
As we talked, this is what the roadway in front of the precinct house looked like, thanks to all the illegal parking:
Nonetheless, it ended up being a pleasant conversation that reminded us again that most cops are probably trying to do the right thing most of the time. But as we all know, they are often badly trained ("the cyclist has the right of way? Who says?"), suffer from implicit bias like all of us (though often with deadly ramifications) and, worse, are part of a culture that disregards any opinion held by non-cops. And it starts with this parking entitlement, which is at the root of many other forms of corruption and disrespect for anyone who lives near an NYPD precinct.
That's what our March (Parking) Madness series is all about: Calling out the precincts that simply do not show courtesy, do not exhibit professionalism and do not respect the people they serve.
But which one of these commands will move onto the finals? It's up to you. Polls are open until 6 p.m. on Friday.
Here's the current bracket if you're playing at home:
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