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BAD COP, BAD COP: NYPD Threatens Tipster for Filing 311 Complaints About Illegal Parking 

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

Members of the NYPD harassed and threatened a cyclist after he reported the cops for illegally parking along several notoriously lawless stretches in Downtown Brooklyn, including on Schermerhorn Street right outside a transit police station house, according to the complainant — and now the matter is under investigation by the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

The tipster (who asked to remain anonymous for fear of even more retribution) says he started getting calls from members of New York’s Finest after he made dozens of complaints to 311 about officers from the 84th Precinct and Transit Bureau 30 stashing their private cars in the bike lane and on the sidewalk on Schermerhorn Street, and on nearby Smith, Jay, and Hoyt streets — an illegal practice that for years has gone unchecked, endangering cyclists along the vital corridors.

The tipster shared with Streetsblog a log of 49 of his 311 complaints he made via Reported for illegal parking on Schermerhorn, Jay, Hoyt, and Smith streets — all within the 84th Precinct and adjacent to TD30 — on three dates, including Aug. 13, Aug. 26, and Sept. 10. All 49 are marked as "closed," though he says the situation was never actually resolved and the cars were never moved, or just came back again the next day.

And on each of those dates, the tipster says he received a retaliatory phone call. The first came on Aug. 13 at about 9:30 am, when the caller actually identified himself as a member of the NYPD, but refused to give his name. The second was on Aug. 26 at about 11 am when someone who identified themselves as Det. Sturman called the tipster a “dickhead.” And the third was a few weeks later on Sept.10 at about 2:45 pm when someone, who the tipster believes was a cop impersonating a 311 operator, told him he would be barred from filing more complaints.

All three calls were shared with Streetsblog.

“My name is Detective Sturman from the 84th Precinct. I’m calling to see if you want to come into the precinct to meet with our community affairs officers...to address your issues. We want to address all your concerns,” the detective said.

“I don’t need to come in, you can just address them by stop parking in the bike lane,” he responded.

The detective responded by saying she “can’t stop people everyday from parking in the bike lane.”

“That’s your job,” the tipster responded, before things escalated when he told her to “f*** off” and the detective said, “stop calling dickhead.”

In another call, a person claiming to be a 311 operator named Josh Haider (spelling unknown) threatened to block the tipster from filing any more complaints. It does not appear that Josh Haider is a real person.

“You’re speaking to a 311 operator. Why do you keep putting over the same 311 job over and over and over again? You might be barred from the system going forward,” the person said, using vernacular ("the same 311 job") common among cops.

Brooklyn Council Member Steve Levin, who has long complained about personal police vehicles parked illegally with the help of a placard or NYPD logbook on the dash —  was appalled at the abuse of power and harassment of citizens who are just trying to watch the watchers.

“That’s crazy. That’s not legal. The whole situation has been really, really frustrating," said Levin. "Police officers harassing is so illegal, so far beyond retaliatory. It’s a level of misconduct, nobody should be allowing that. Whatever they're doing there is a total breach of their duty.”

A spokesperson for 311 said that 311 operators do not personally reach out to those who file complaints, and that complaints are shared directly with the local precinct.

A spokesperson for the NYPD told Streetsblog that they are investigating the incident, and are working with the local precinct to keep the bike lanes and sidewalks clear.

“We are aware of the allegation regarding the detective and the matter is under internal review,” said Detective Sophia Mason. "Parking in the vicinity of the 84th Precinct is extremely limited. The Commanding Officer is aware of complaints regarding bike lanes surrounding the precinct and is working to address the condition."

And a spokesperson for the Civilian Complaint Review Board told Streetsblog that the case has been assigned to an investigator, who is looking at whether the alleged harassment constitutes "misconduct" that could require a disciplinary recommendation.

The tipster said he started reporting illegal cop parking to 311 after years of growing frustration because no one — including 84th Precinct CO Capt. Adeel Rana, Levin, and Mayor de Blasio — has been able to put an end to the street-level corruption, despite years of broken promises to keep the bike lanes and sidewalks clear.

“The police care more about free parking for their personal vehicles than our personal safety," he said. "Adeel Rana has allowed a culture of corruption to develop...his officers feel empowered to refuse to identify themselves, and even impersonate other city employees to keep their sidewalk and bike lane parking spaces. The city has failed to provide adequate space for bike riders/pedestrians, and the NYPD's dangerous parking exacerbates the problem.”

Levin said he held a meeting earlier this month on Schermerhorn Street with the Department of Transportation, the 84th Precinct, and TD30 — he said he invited Transportation Bureau Chief Kim Royster, but she didn't show. But like all the times before it, there was no solution to fix the longstanding problem, though days later DOT put out a survey soliciting public opinion about the mess.

For now, before a full reconstruction of Schermerhorn Street can happen, Levin said he’s still in favor of giving cops more spots outside the station house if it would stop them from parking in the bike lane, but said that DOT is opposed to it, hypothesizing that more spots would not actually solve anything. He said DOT has no imminent plans for a full reconstruction of Schermerhorn Street.

It's certainly not the first time that Streetsblog has documented egregious car-centric corruption within the police department. Prior stories include the horrendous driving records of officers, the illegal parking documented at station houses all over the city, and the systemic failure to understand basic traffic laws.

Advocates and local pols have indeed tried — and failed — to get cops to stop illegally storing their personal cars in bus lanes, crosswalks, on sidewalks, and in bike lanes, putting cyclists and pedestrians and danger. Last year, Levin and Council Speaker Corey Johnson introduced legislation that would allow anyone to report illegally parked cars, a new citizen enforcement program modeled after an existing city program to combat idling. A person reporting the illegally parked car would take home some cash if a ticket ended up being issued.

But the de Blasio administration has opposed the bill, fearing that some ticketed drivers would assault their neighbors for ratting them out for illegal parking. In this case, that fear apparently is justified: the NYPD is apparently threatening people for reporting their crimes.

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