NYPD Bombshell: New ‘All Agency’ Policy on Placard Abuse Coming Soon

Mayor de Blasio's efforts to curtail placard corruption all have failed ignominiously.
Mayor de Blasio's efforts to curtail placard corruption all have failed ignominiously.
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Meet the new placard policy — same as the old placard policy?

The dying de Blasio administration is set to promulgate a new policy to stop the rampant abuse of much-abused parking passes — but with the clock running out on an administration that has failed to stop the existing problem, couple with an incoming mayor who has stated that he doesn’t consider said problem a problem, advocates are not optimistic.

For now, details are sparse.

Transportation Bureau Chief Kim Royster. Photo: NYPD
Transportation Bureau Chief Kim Royster. Photo: NYPD

“In the next couple of days, you will see a policy that comes down that deals with placards,” NYPD Transportation Chief Kim Royster said at Thursday night’s Hunter College Theodore W. Kheel Lecture. Royster quickly added that she was “not at liberty” to elaborate beyond saying the new policy would involve “all agencies,” including FDNY, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Education, to name a few.

“We’re working behind the scenes on it,” she said.

Royster’s teaser comes at virtually the very end of eight years of failed mayoral efforts to curtail the illegal use of both real and fake placards have failed — largely because of pushback from the NYPD, which is among the worst abusers of placards citywide. Placard abuse is not a simple matter of administrative rule-breaking but rampant corruption that hurts public safety, with city vehicles and private automobiles operated by city workers promoting crashes by blocking bike lanes, sidewalks, fire hydrants, bus lanes, crosswalks and other vital infrastructure.

In December 2019, in the face of vociferous police resistance, the City Council enacted a law that prohibited “official city vehicles from blocking a bike lane, bus lane, crosswalk, sidewalk, or fire hydrant.” The law changed little because it was widely ignored by all agencies, especially the NYPD, which is charged with enforcing it.

And last year de Blasio disbanded an NYPD placard-enforcement unit, enfeebling the effort. A so-called Three Strikes policy also tanked. Several feeds fill Twitter all day long with photos and notices of placard abuse, which would be an amusing parlor game except for the dangers placard abuse creates.

In the absence of details about the new policy itself, advocates and experts didn’t know what to think.

Charles Komanoff, the Kheel fellow who led the lecture, evoked Ronald Reagan’s approach to nuclear weapons negotiations with the Soviets, calling for the “trust but verify” approach.

“We have been to this rodeo before,” he said. “All of us hope that this time will be different.”

But advocates remain united on the danger — both symbolic and actual — of placard abuse.

“People do what they can get away with,” Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Nicole Gelinas said at the forum, adding that placard abuse stokes public mistrust of the police and can lead to more corruption among officers.

Streetsblog investigations, such as our annual March “Parking Madness” tournament that pits precincts against each other for the title of the worst parking offender, shows that the problem persists unabated — not only for official vehicles, but for officers’ personal cars as well. The problem is so bad that at least one candidate for Council successfully ran on a platform of abolishing placards. Incoming Mayor Eric Adams, the current Brooklyn borough president and a former police captain, is himself a placard abuser, for years parking and allowing other officials to park their SUVs on the sidewalk of Borough Hall. Adams also complained to Streetsblog that he was unfairly targeted for criticism by street-safety activists for his illegal parking — and at one point, called placard abuse a “New Paltz problem” to deride its importance. Crackdowns in the area tend to be dog-and-pony shows with Potemkin results.

Royster told the forum that, since she acceded as chief in October 2020, she has taken “measures” such as requiring each precinct’s integrity control officer to do site surveys of placard-abusing vehicles, doing “internal investigations” of the offenders and referring them for administrative “discipline.” She said that 43,000 summonses had been issued to date this year to illegally parked placarded cars — though that’s actually down from the 54,608 tickets cops wrote for placard abuse in 2018.

Royster’s pronouncement was greeted with a certain cynicism by the holders of the Placard Corruption Twitter account, who speak anonymously because its members have been subjected to police harassment. “We have heard about ‘new policies’ for years,” the group said. “We have also heard about crackdowns for years, and have gradually learned how the NYPD engineers these to maximize publicity while insulating their own lawbreakers from anything bu the most minor, superficial consequences. Even those minimal gestures rarely affect regular placard perps.

“Leadership at the NYPD has had no real messaging campaign and done nothing to set an example,” they continued. “There has been no progressive discipline for the perps. What we have seen since is an increase in defaced and illegally covered license plates and an even more aggressive attitude by dirty cops on the street. Chief Royster is like Lucy holding the football, and New York City shouldn’t keep falling for it every time, like Charlie Brown. ”

Gelinas, a New York Post columnist and frequent NYPD defender, told Streetsblog that an aggressive Adams push on placard corruption across all departments, but especially the police department, “would be a great early sign” that the new mayor means what he says about police reform. She recommends that placards be policed by a team of civilian enforcers in the transportation or investigation departments. Ticket disputes should be settled in court “in a transparent public setting.”

“If the city wants to designate legal parking for city workers, this should be part of the collective bargaining process, and the benefit should be itemized and taxed,” she added. Then again, 50,000 teachers got placards that way.

The deputy director of street-safety group Transportation Alternatives, Marco Conner DiAquoi, who also participated in the forum with Royster, said, however, that the group is “pleased to hear of a renewed enforcement effort” and encouraged by “the pledge by Mayor-elect Adams to reclaim street space for better uses,” such as more bike lanes, bike parking and open streets.

“The new policy must also create reduction goals that draw down the number of placards to reduce car usage — overhauling the current program, as we’ve outlined in our Seven Steps agenda,” Conner DiAquoi added. “The city, including the NYPD and DOI, must also finally implement and expand upon the slate of laws passed by the Council in late 2019 to address this urgent problem. Prior efforts failed because accountability and political will were missing.”

Mayor de Blasio’s two terms end on Dec. 31.

City Hall did not immediately return a request for comment. We will update this story if we hear back. 

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