MARCH (PARKING) MADNESS: Welcome to the Finals — the 114th vs. the 34th
12:01 AM EDT on April 5, 2021
Finally, the city's most discourteous, least professional and most disrespectful cops will get their due.
It's the finals of our 2021 March (Parking) Madness tournament!
This contest is motivated by one thing: the outrage we feel at the contempt that NYPD officers show towards their neighbors. Indeed, it's always obvious when you've happened upon a New York City police precinct station house: Junked cars blocking hydrants. Police officers’ personal vehicles scattered wily nily in crosswalks, traffic triangles, pedestrian zones. Garbage piled up in streets and under all the illegally parked vehicles. Cops’ cars double- and triple-parked on side streets in a manner that turns quiet residential blocks into 24-7 parking lots.
Squad cars combat-parked, fortress style, in front of the station house door.
That's what we saw over the course of our three-week competition. And today, we present the final battle to determine the most dishonorable station house in town.
For those of you who are just joining us, let's go over how our two finalists got to this championship battle:
The 34th Precinct ("The Hogs of the Heights") had a surprisingly tough route to the Main Event. In round one, the Washington Heights cops barely eeked out a win over the 30th Precinct, then barely squeaked by the Fifth Precinct of Chinatown to win the Manhattan Borough final.
In the Western Regional, the 34th really showed just how terrible a precinct can be, with a handy victory over The Bronx champions, the 52nd Precinct.
Through it all, one thing stood out with the 3-4: these cops will literally park anywhere, on any road, at any time.
For its part, the 114th ("The Bandits on the Boulevard") had an easier route to the finals: First, the Astoria precinct had a laugher over the 108th in the first round, and then a surprisingly easy victory over the 110th of Elmhurst, despite that precinct's shameful disregard for its neighbors. The 114th capped its magical ride with a triumph over the Cinderella of this tournament, the surprising 67th Precinct of Flatbush, last week to win the Eastern Regional.
In all its wins, the 114th was known for its complete disregard for parking norms and an utter contempt for basic hygiene. So which precinct
wins loses our March (Parking) Madness contest of 2021? As always, it's up to you. Polls are open until Thursday, April 8 at 11 p.m. Vote below — and remember to vote carefully; the precinct that earns the most votes will get a big trophy with an illegally parked car on top, presented to the commanding officer by Streetsblog Editor Gersh Kuntzman (who looks forward to that one phone call).
Here goes — the Finals!:
34th Precinct (Washington Heights)
You have to say this for Deputy Inspector Peter Andrea’s cops — they are very anxious about the results of this contest.
How else can you explain that our reporter — for the second time at the Broadway station house — was questioned by an officer for taking pictures of the officers' illegally, dangerously, double- and aggressively parked cars all around the station house.
"How ya doin', buddy?" an officer said, approaching our reporter as he photographed the chaotic scene on W. 182nd St. on Saturday. Our reporter has become accustomed to this kind of greeting from a gun-toting cop at the 34th Precinct — the same thing happened two rounds ago — so he didn't mind playing along.
"I'm doing great, officer! How are you!" our reporter said, as cheerfully as a Mormon elder.
"Is there any problem?" the officer asked.
"No problem at all, officer! What a beautiful day!" the reporter said.
"It's just that you were taking pictures," the officer said.
"Taking pictures! Yes, officer! That's exactly what I'm doing! Taking pictures on a public street!" the reporter said (he has learned in these instances that it's best to be very clear — and enthusiastic! — about what one is doing).
"Taking pictures of what?" the officer said.
"Taking pictures of the terrible way you guys park all over the neighborhood!"
At this point, the officer apparently noticed the reporter's press badge.
"Maybe you can write about how we should have a parking lot," the cop offered.
"Actually, I'd prefer to write about how you should have a residency requirement, with housing vouchers, if needed, so all cops would be forced to live in the city," the reporter offered.
Neither the cop nor his silent partner wanted to talk more, so they left (photo above right), leaving our reporter to wonder if this encounter would have gone the same if, say, the reporter was a different race or said what the officers considered the "wrong" thing.
But consider what happened (for the second time at this precinct):
- A person on a public street was taking pictures of cops breaking the law.
- The cops attempted to intimidate that person.
- The cops did not address any of the illegal activity that the person on the street was photographing.
If that doesn't make the 34th Precinct the runaway favorites in this competition, maybe the rest of this report will.
Illegal combat parking is so ever-present at the 34th Precinct and on the side streets, that it creates a culture of lawlessness in the area around the precinct house that frankly has no parallel in this year's contest. W. 182nd Street, W. 183rd Street and both sides of Broadway in front of and opposite the precinct are crammed mostly with officers' cars, but also residents' cars and the vehicles of area employees — as if the precinct's egregious disrespect for parking is graciously extended to everyone else as long as they're in on the scam.
Here is an extended slideshow of what all this looks like:
The mess and chaos is not merely disrespectful to Washington Heights, but it's also dangerous. As you can see:
And, of course, it wouldn't be a New York City police precinct if people in wheelchairs or young parents pushing strollers weren't treated like criminals. Every sidewalk is blocked, sometimes in multiple places. Here's what that looks like:
And in the finals, you really have to bring your A game when it comes to contempt for the rules. At the 34th, that means defaced plates, an expired placard, and an NYPD logo and fake badge functioning as permission slips. Come on, guys.
But will it be enough to win it all? Let's see...
114th Precinct (Astoria)
There's no one word that describes the roadways around Capt. Ray Jenkins’s Astoria Boulevard station house because so many come to mind: chaotic, crowded, blocked, constricted, but when the Final contest was waged on Saturday a new adjective jumped into the mix: filthy.
Because cops are always parked in every single space, Sanitation crews rarely if ever are allowed to sweep the streets around this station house, which means neighbors have to deal with all manner of police debris: bacteria-filled masks, garbage, car parts and, on Saturday when we conducted the finals, a smashed up bottle of white wine.
Tough night, boys?
Here's what that mess looks like:
But you have to go home with whatever got you to the dance — and for the 114th, it's illegal and disrespectful parking. And on Saturday, the reign of error continued. First, here's a slideshow of the side streets on either side of the station house, where cops park in a way that rarely leaves room for pedestrians:
But these cops truly make their bones on the 35th Street bridge opposite the station house, where they park on the sidewalks, despite no parking signs and a posted "share route" bike path sign. Here's what that looks like:
And the precinct block itself is a true mess of combat-parked squad cars and double-parked police vehicles, so there's always congestion. Here's what that looks like:
And to add insult to injury, here are cop cars parked at a hydrant (hope the precinct doesn't burn!) and in a crosswalk:
But will it be enough for the 114th to complete its charmed run to the title — or will the 34th Precinct's disgusting abuse of its neighbors win the championship? As we said, it's up to you:
More from Streetsblog New York City
We Have the ‘End of Days’ Flooding Pics You Need Right Now
Friday’s Headlines: Crystal Hudson’s Idea of Leadership Edition
Today's headlines are long, but worth it!