MARCH (PARKING) MADNESS 2022: Boogie Down Brawl Pits the Filthy 48th vs. the Fortress 50th

This is the latest first-round battle in our annual contest. One prior first-round contest, Tuesday’s battle between two Brooklyn precincts has been settled, as has Wednesday’s intra-Queens contest (see brackets below). And for a reminder on why we do this contest, click here.

Click to enlarge and monitor our progress.
Click to enlarge and monitor our progress.

In the first four decades of the last century, New Yorkers who lived crammed into steaming tenements of Manhattan streamed in droves to the lovely, verdant borough directly to the north — with its large parks, stunning Art Deco apartment houses and main boulevard that rivaled the Champs-Élysées. Where was that? The Bronx! So why did they flee this garden spot of America en masse starting a mere two decades later?

Well, a big reason was that, beginning in 1930, the state’s “master builder” Robert Moses began carving up The Bronx with expressways — isolating neighborhoods from one another and injecting reams of cars onto streets that were not built for automobiles. If many New Yorkers still say “No Thonx!” to the borough, it might owe in part to the bristling hostility with which car culture ruined The Bronx — a contempt which, unfortunately, its cops display, too.

Behold:

48th Precinct (Central Bronx)

The Moses-built Cross Bronx Expressway — which tore out the heart of the Bronx and ruined its southern neighborhoods — has richly earned its reputation as a pollution-spewing, community-destroying highway. And, imagine that, there’s a city installation with the same evil, car-choked soul!

It’s the 48th Precinct stationhouse at 450 Cross Bronx Expressway in East Tremont, which once was a residential neighborhood, but in the decades since the construction of the highway has devolved into a much tougher place with some of the city’s worst asthma and crime statistics.

The 48th, as forbidding a station house as we have in this town, sits under the elevated highway in a mostly industrial area along its service road, and serves Belmont, East Tremont, and West Farms. It’s at the far bottom corner of its patrol area, which lies across the highway to the north, following Third Avenue up to the Fordham University campus, and east to West Farms. The 48th appears for all the world to be the antithesis of community policing. Even in a neighborhood where only about a quarter of households have access to a car, the stationhouse seems isolated by design and built for cops who travel by car to work: It’s fair to say that not too many residents would be brave enough to cross under the highway on foot to visit it. No civilians were on the street the day Streetsblog visited, and two officers accosted us to question our motive for being in the area.

The 48th, which is served by several bus routes and a large Citi Bike dock but is not close to any subway, is surrounded by parking — two large parking lots under the highway, a parking lot to its side and a commercial lot a block away, all of which had open spaces when Streetsblog visited last week. So why were so many cars parked on the sidewalks adjacent to the precinct? Surely the brave officers of the 48th aren’t too scared to walk out from the parking lot to their digs?

Plenty of room in one of the lots the 48th keeps under the highway. Photo: Eve Kessler
Plenty of room in one of the lots the 48th keeps under the highway. Why so many cars on the sidewalks around the stationhouse?

To be fair, the campus at 450-460 Cross Bronx Expressway hosts three uniformed installations — the 48th, Patrol Boro Bronx, and FDNY’s Engine 46 Ladder 27 — but, certainly, officers from all three are parking on the sidewalks of the surrounding streets, making them nearly impassable for pedestrians, especially those with disabilities.

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The front door of the 48th, like that of many precincts, is painted with the word “Welcome!” On a recent weekday, however, the stationhouse entrance was so bollixed by parked personal cars, patrol cars, unmarked cars and barricades that it was difficult to approach it, as if the commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Joseph Tompkins, and the rest of the brass were actively discouraging the community from entering.

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And perhaps they are! Judging by the violations racked up by cops in their private vehicles, many of the officers probably don’t want to have to explain themselves to the members of the public they have sworn to protect and serve.

Among a random sampling of 23 cops’ private cars parked on the sidewalks or in the parking lots of the 48th, fully 18, or almost two-thirds, had violations, including:

  • One with 32 violations, including 16 school-zone speed camera tickets since 2017.
  • One with 15 violations, including 11 school-zone speed camera tickets since 2020.
  • One with 26 violations, including five school-zone speed camera tickets since 2018.

In total, we counted 57 school-zone speed camera tickets in the 102 violations among the 18 cars with violations, or more than half — the vast majority for speeding around Bronx schools. As opposed to modeling the law-abiding behavior we have a right to expect from “New York’s Finest,” the 48th’s cops are adding to the mayhem: The precinct has had 15 traffic fatalities since February 2017 (two cyclists, seven pedestrians, and six motorists) and 2,850 injuries, on a total of 9,015 reported crashes, according to city data. That’s almost five crashes a day.

The 48th also has barricaded the Cross Bronx Expressway service road in front of it to the west side, choking off a truck route to the highway.

The cops of the 48th have erected barricades to block off the Cross Bronx Expressway service road to other vehicles. It's a truck route to the highway. Photo: Eve Kessler
The cops of the 48th have erected barricades to block off the Cross Bronx Expressway service road to other vehicles. It’s a truck route to the highway.

Altogether, a wonderful addition to the neighborhood — keeping it real (real lousy, that is).

50th Precinct (Northwest Bronx)

The 50th Precinct stationhouse, tucked into the northwest corner of the borough at 3450 Kingsbridge Ave. and amply served by public transit, sits at the nexus of the Kingsbridge commercial district on Broadway under the elevated No. 1 train and the quiet streets of rowhouses that abut the step streets up to Riverdale and Fieldston.

It’s nowhere near as gritty as over by the 48th — with some grand homes up the hill. Still, the cops of the 50th have the same entitled attitude about parking on the sidewalk as those of the 48th. Plus, they do very little to tame all the traffic lawbreaking along Broadway and the car-choked numbered thoroughfares — which shows in traffic stats that are nearly as bad as those of the 48th: Since 2017, a total of 8,302 crashes, or about 4.5 a day, have claimed 17 people (eight pedestrians, nine motorists) and injured 2,612.

At almost any hour on 231st Street west of Broadway, the two-way main shopping drag a mere five blocks from the station house, vehicles can be seen parked at the bus stop (at which four routes converge) or making “K’ or “U” turns in the middle of the street. Of course! Why would the cops bother to bust these lawbreakers, when they themselves are some of the worse VTL offenders?

The 50th was among the first precincts to barricade itself off from the public when the pandemic hit; it erected metal barriers at both sides of its block of  West 236th Street in March 2020, telling us that officers needed to keep away ordinary motorists’ cars from emergency response vehicles. The 50th has plenty of dedicated parking in the vicinity: There’s a big lot behind it, what seems to be a commercial lot across the street on Kingsbridge Avenue, and another long but sparsely used dedicated lot at a dead end of 236th on Putnam Avenue West. Still, cops here turned 236th Street into a parking lot, they park all over the adjacent sidewalks, they double park on Kingsbridge Avenue and they clutter Broadway for blocks with their cars.

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How can we tell it’s their cars? On one morning last week, we counted five (count ’em five!) hydrants blocked by parked vehicles on the streets surrounding the stationhouse. Whose vehicles would that be?

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Just as at the 48th, there are many VTL scofflaws at the 50th: we spotted one cop’s car with 42 violations, including 21 school-zone speed camera tickets since 2019; and another with 52 violations, including 29 school-zone speed camera violations (and 17 bus-lane violations) since 2020, which would qualify it for booting or impoundment under the Lander “reckless driver” law. We also spotted:

  • One car with 16 violations since 2019, including 14 school-zone speed camera tickets and two bus-lane violations.
  • One with 18 violations since 2018, including 12 school-zone speed camera tickets (two already this year!) and five bus-lane violations.
  • One with 20 violations since 2018, including six school-zone speed camera tickets, six no-parking tickets, three for missing registration/inspection stickers, and one each for failing to stop at a red light and blocking a crosswalk and a hydrant.

The many school-zone tickets indicate an especially egregious disregard for street safety among these officers; city data demonstrate that getting such a ticket deters the vast majority of motorists from re-infracting.

So which precinct is the worst neighbor? Please vote. Polls will remain open until Sunday at 11:59 p.m.

So Which Precinct is Worse?

  • The 48th (Central Bronx) (64%, 36 Votes)
  • The 50th (Northwest Bronx) (36%, 20 Votes)

Total Voters: 56

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