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Placard Perps Busted in Notorious Downtown Brooklyn Stolen Parking Knoll

An NYPD tow truck latches onto an illegal parker on a sidewalk under the BQE at Navy and Tillary streets in Downtown Brooklyn. Photo: Council Member Steve Levin (no, really)

It's a start.

The NYPD towed away seven vehicles, and summonsed 15 more, in a long-overdue operation to evict placard parkers who illegally stored their vehicles on traffic islands under and adjacent to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Downtown Brooklyn — a zone so notorious for placard abuse that it evoked a spirited discussion about the failure of the NYPD at a recent City Council hearing on Vision Zero.

The impromptu parking lots are in the Council district represented by Steve Levin — who famously quipped at the hearing, “You can’t throw a tennis ball in Downtown Brooklyn without hitting an illegally parked car with a placard” — but it was Council Member Bob Holden of distant Queens who also complained of the lawless car storage, which he saw as a symbol of the NYPD's acquiescence to low-level corruption in its (and other agencies') ranks.

"Get off at the BQE at Tillary Street and take a look at Fire and Police parking anywhere they want," Holden said at the hearing. "It’s just a mess down there and everyone’s looking the other way. Don’t say the NYPD is addressing this because they’re not."

Levin added, ""I never see a ticket on those cars, ever." Even the NYPD Chief who testified at the hearing, Isa Abbassi, added, "I know what you’re saying is fact. I’ve driven through the area." He promised to take action.

Well, on Tuesday, the NYPD did. For once.

"This issue arose during a recent City County hearing," said NYPD spokeswoman Sgt. Jessica McRorie. "A joint response was conducted by the NYPD Transportation Bureau and patrol officers in Northern Brooklyn. The NYPD towed seven vehicles. Additionally, 15 summonses were issued. The NYPD will continue the enforcement this month."

McRorie did not address several specific questions from Streetsblog, such as whether NYPD, FDNY or any other agency workers — who have long been identified on social media and in Streetsblog as parking cars there — had their vehicles towed away or merely ticketed.

Levin said he was notified about the operation early on Tuesday and was invited to observe. He did, and snapped the picture at the top of this story. After, he said he was "appreciative."

"I hope people will get the message that you can’t continue to park your car in outrageously flagrant ways and avoid consequences," he said. "I hope the NYPD will keep up this effort to make sure the message is clearly understood."

For now, the keeper of city's seminal placard abuse watchdog account, @placardabuse, said (s)he was cautiously pessimistic:

"This seems like it could finally be the start of the NYPD doing the job they were always supposed to be doing," said the account holder, who requests anonymity because of prior intimidation by the NYPD. "The fact that it took this long after senior NYPD officials were grilled by two different Council Members about this specific spot during an oversight hearing does not bode well.

"If they only ticketed 15 cars, that sounds like more a token effort put on for show, than a rigorous crackdown," the watchdog continued. "They could easily ticket twice that many violations in that area at any particular time. We are very curious if they towed people without real connections while letting actual members of the placard class off light with a ticket, as the photos posted by the 84th Precinct seemed to show." (See tweets below.)

"We will be watching closely to see if this is a sustained effort, or a one-time show to pretend that they are addressing the problem," the watchdog concluded. "We will also be watching for their monthly report required by Local Law 6, which they have delayed implementing," as Streetsblog reported last year. "The fact that this was isolated enforcement only in the one place that the Council Members were most vocal about, while placard corruption continued as usual everywhere else throughout New York City, shows you just how little good faith there is at the NYPD. This was optics and nothing more."

— with Jesse Coburn

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