MARCH (PARKING) MADNESS: A Manhattan Battle of Two Notorious Precincts

This battle defines the NYPD.
This battle defines the NYPD.

This is the eighth and final first-round battle in our annual March (Parking) Madness contest. Previously in the first round, Brooklyn Heights’s 84th Precinct, the 110th Precinct in Elmhurstthe 48th in the Bronx, last year’s champs, the 114th PrecinctManhattan’s 24th PrecinctBrooklyn’s 69th Precinct and Bronx’s 41st Precinct moved onto their disrespective borough finals. For a reminder on why we do this contest, click here.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

This first-round battle between two Manhattan precincts may just feature an eventual loser winner of this contest, as both the 28th Precinct and the 33rd Precinct outdo themselves for how they slap the face of their respective communities. So let’s get right to it:

The 28th Precinct (Harlem)

It’s sort of fitting that this precinct sits just across the street from a monument to Civil War-era general Winfield Scott Hancock because that military giant’s career was marked almost entirely by occupation (in the south and in the Dakotas, especially). The 28th Precinct is no less of an occupier, treating its central Harlem neighbors like residents to be subdued.

Among the officers’ greatest transgressions are:

  • Constantly blocking both the northbound and southbound bike lane on St. Nicholas Avenue (a key route that is otherwise a joy except for the block between 122nd and 123rd streets).
  • blocking fire hydrants — most notably, parking a giant Cadillac Escalade with a gold PBA shield on the windshield in such an illegal spot on W. 123rd St.
  • seizing curbside lanes no three road segments for combat parking.
  • leaving junked cars in multiple spots
  • disrespecting Alison Saar’s Harriet Tubman monument by parking on the sidewalk next to it.
  • driving recklessly.

Here’s a nifty overview of what all that looks like:

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That massive Cadillac Escalade with the PBA shield is hardly the worst offender among the cop-owned cars in this precinct. Around the stationhouse, we found that 88 percent of cops who left their personal vehicles in NYPD-only parking, or illegally with a placard had some sort of violation against them.

And 40 percent (a comparatively high number, based on our extensive reporting on police recklessness) had gotten multiple camera-issued summonses for speeding in school zones or running red lights — the most extreme reckless driving. That included:

  • A Dodge Charger with two speeding tickets since Oct. 25.
  • Another Charger with four speeding tickets.
  • One with six and another with five.
  • Two cops’ cars with 11 speeding tickets, one since October, 2020, the other since March, 2020.
  • Two cars with five speeding tickets since May.
  • One cop whose car has been nabbed for seven speeding tickets and two red-light tickets.
  • One with nine speeding tickets.
  • One with eight of the reckless moving violations.
This was on a cop's car with Pennsylvania plates.
This was on a cop’s car with Pennsylvania plates.

But one of our favorite least-favorite scofflaws was the cop with the Pennsylvania-plated car (wait, wut?!) with the one red-light ticket and the hand-written note claiming that he is a police officer named “Garcia.” The back of his car did seem to confirm his status as an NYPD officer, thanks to the novelty sticker reading, “Federal terrorist hunting license” (right).

Is it the worst precinct we’ve ever seen in the course of this contest? No (we still think the 110th in Queens is the most egregious offender we’ve ever seen), but it’s pretty awful.

Here’s one statistic that should give everyone pause before voting for today’s challenger to the 28th: Since 2014, there have been 56 reported crashes on the block of St. Nicholas Avenue between 122nd and 123rd streets, the result of the chaos of all this cop parking and the fact that both bike lanes are consistently blocked. Twenty-two people were injured in those crashes.

By comparison, the block of St. Nicholas one block directly to the north had just 21 crashes over the same period, injuring just six people. That’s 62 percent fewer crashes and 72 percent fewer injuries.

All because those residents and travelers weren’t on the precinct block.

The 33rd Precinct (Washington Heights)

Despite having an ample parking lot out back, cops under the command of Captain Bryan Natale don’t seem to care where they leave their cars — in bike lanes, destroying Department of Transportation flexiposts, in “No stopping” zones, in “No standing” zones, in “No parking” zones, in front of hydrants blah

And you don’t even have to be a cop to get away with it!

What the hell, sergeant?
What the hell, sergeant?

Directly in front of the precinct’s stationhouse, which occupies a prime spot where Edgecombe and Amsterdam Avenue meet next to gorgeous Highbridge Park, a Hyundai with a Fraternal Order of Police vanity plate and a Sergeants Benevolent Association courtesy card was parked in a “No Parking” zone. A hand-written note proclaimed, “This car belongs to a retired Sgt. from the 33rd. Sgt. Gautreau.” (See note, right, and click to enlarge.)

The note, the courtesy card and the vanity plate must be working: Sgt. Gautreau hasn’t gotten so much as a parking ticket since 2015. (The “sergeant” did not respond to a text message.)

Other cops and area workers have their own novel approaches to securing their illegal parking spaces:

  • One cop left his huge SUV in a “No parking” zone with his own personal placard reading, “Detective Baboolal.” It bore no NYPD insignia.
  • Another cop nearby left his huge Dodge Ram pickup truck (with its one camera-issued speeding ticket) in a “No stopping” zone with a fake “U.S. federal police officer placard” that claimed in small type, that “the owner of this vehicle is a federal, city or state law enforcement officer.” Yet it is issued by no actual agency.
  • One cop put his “Street Narcotics Unit Operations” handbook on the dash of his SUV, which had defaced license plates both front and back (yet he still managed to rack up four camera-issued speeding tickets).
  • An MTA worker put a vest on the dashboard — and cops let him get away with it.
  • Another driver, parked in a “No standing” zone in front of the precinct (just sayin’), had a fake placard from a fictitious city/state agency.
  • One cop had a gold “Port Authority Police family member” card to illegally park (but it doesn’t save that officer from enforcement cameras, which have caught the car seven times for speeding.
  • Several cops with long-expired placards.

Here’s what some of that looks like:

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But the real disgrace of the 33rd Precinct is how disgracefully cops treat the bike lane on Edgecombe Avenue. Not only do they park in it, they park on top of the Department of Transportation’s expensive flexiposts, destroying them. Here’s a slideshow of some of that madness:

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The disrespect for DOT’s efforts extend to officers on duty as well. As our reporter snapped pictures of illegally parked cop cars, an officer in a squad car SUV honked at the reporter, did an illegal U-turn, knocked over some flexiposts and then backed into his spot in the stationhouse’s official combat parking zone.

The other day, the four cars illegally parked in the bike lane included one car with three red-light tickets, another with three speeding tickets and one with one red-light ticket. It’s outrageous.

Gross.
Gross.

Meanwhile, the combat parking zone rings the precinct on two sides, which is increasingly normal at NYPD stationhouses. But it shouldn’t be. And you know what also shouldn’t be normal? A cop parked directly in front of a precinct house with 20 speeding tickets and two red-light tickets since 2019.

Also of note: The precinct is simply filthy, which is what happens when cops are allowed to park wherever they want and not move their cars. It’s just gross (photo, right).

The result of all this mess and lawlessness is that area workers and residents are emboldened to do whatever they want.

Many of the local school teachers park on the sidewalk (who can blame them? Cops do it, too, as the photo below shows:

cop car on sidewalk

And two cops blocked a crosswalk, including one in front of a hydrant:

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It’s all so appalling given how large the precinct’s parking lot is on Jumel Place.

But which precinct belongs in the Manhattan borough final? We’ll keep the polls open until noon on Saturday. Vote below!

So Which Precinct is Worse?

  • The 33rd (Washington Heights)? (60%, 67 Votes)
  • The 28th (Harlem)? (40%, 44 Votes)

Total Voters: 111

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