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CYCLE OF RAGE: The Streetsblog Hot Take on Steve Bannon’s Surrender

10:51 AM EDT on September 8, 2022

Steve Bannon’s surrender made Centre Street a very dangerous place on Thursday morning. Photos: Gersh Kuntzman and Michael Vadon (inset)

Danger follows Steve Bannon wherever he goes, apparently.

The surrender of former President Trump's former adviser and political strategist turned the new bike lanes in Lower Manhattan into gridlocked danger zones of illegally parked press-plated cars and trucks on Thursday morning, raising anew the issue of whether the mainstream media has any self awareness of its coverage law enforcement issues. (Yes, here it comes: The Streetsblog take on Thursday's huge international story!)

Of the 22 cars and trucks that were illegally parked on the sidewalks around Manhattan Supreme Court or in the newly built protected bike lanes on Centre and Lafayette streets, 18 of them had records with serious moving violations. In total, those 22 cars and trucks have racked up 144 camera-issued tickets for speeding or for running red lights, an average of 6.5 per car.

Only four vehicles had spotless driving and parking records.

Here's what the scrum looked like:

Parts of the protected bike lanes on Centre and Lafayette streets remain unfinished, which caused part of the problem on Thursday. But DOT officials confirmed that NYP plates do not confer immunity from summonses for parking in bike lanes and sidewalks (and state DMV confirmed that there are 1,254 NYP plates on file right now).

So, bottom line: freedom of the press doesn't give you unfettered power to park illegally. And I'm not the only irascible gadfly who raises alarms about this kind (or also the more usual kind) of abuse of NYPD-issued credentials.

"New York City's driving class has long felt itself above the law, and today they're in fact right on that score thanks to city government's ongoing abdication regarding parking and dangerous driving enforcement," said Jon Orcutt, a former DOT official now advocating for Bike New York, which recently called out the usual illegal parkers:

And downtown resident Joseph Tedeschi added his own outrage.

"It’s madness that we turn over our sidewalks and bike lanes to cover Bannon’s perp walk," he said.

And the keeper of the Placard Abuse Twitter feed got philosophical.

"Acting as professionals, NYPD and DOT could plan for a safer and legal way to manage the media during high-profile courthouse events," said the account holder (who demands anonymity because he or she has been the subject of police harassment). "These are not sudden emergencies that happen with no warning, but rather recurring events with advance notice.

"Unfortunately, it serves the interests of the placard class to encourage reporters to improvise with illegal parking. It makes the media complicit in their own misconduct. The journalists who park illegally loose moral authority to report on the placard corruption of others, and if they do cross that line, the police can retaliate and make their job difficult by cutting off the illicit privileges they come to depend on."

Of the 22 illegally parked vehicles, the worst offenders included:

The winner loser: A media van with 22 speeding tickets and six red-light tickets (11 of those reckless driving infractions since Feb. 17, 2021.

    • One van with 20 speeding tickets total, but a whopping 11 since March 4, 2021.
    • Another with 13 speeding tickets since May 5, 2020.
    • Another with 10 speeding tickets since April 17, 2020 and another with the same amount since May 6, 2020.
    • One with eight speeding tickets and four red-light tickets.
    • One with seven speeding tickets and one red-light ticket since June 30, 2020.
    • One with six speeding tickets since Nov. 2, 2020.

And here's a funny thing about many of those tickets: they get fixed in court, likely owing to the sacred place that illegally parked reporters have in our society.

That car with the 22 speeding tickets and six red light tickets? Its many many non-reckless-driving violations added up to $3,370 in fines, but hearing officers eliminated $806 of them, or roughly 24 percent of the fine amounts.

And that car with the 20 speeding tickets? It was slapped with $2,340 in tickets, which was reduced by $440.13 or roughly 19 percent.

In fact, the nearly 20,000 parking and camera-issued reckless driving tickets issued by the NYPD and DOT in the last decade added up to $1,246,760 in fines racked up by media companies. Those fines were reduced by $98,953.33 or 8 percent.

Maybe judges like good press coverage.

Gersh Kuntzman is editor of Streetsblog. His Cycle of Rage columns are archived here.

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