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March (Parking) Madness: Manhattan’s Most Respectful Precincts Still Have Issues

This is the sixth first-round battle in our March (Parking) Madness contest. In our earlier bouts, sidewalk-hogging 71st Precinct in Crown Heights beat its colleagues in Bath Beach, the 43rd Precinct of Soundview advanced in its first-round matchup in the Bronx, the Midtown South Precinct triumphed over its neighbor to the north in our epic Battle of Midtown, and the 47th beat the the 49th in the Bronx. Polls close on Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. in our other Brooklyn battle: last year's champs, the 84th Precinct vs. the repulsive newcomers at the 75th Precinct. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see the bracket as it currently stands. Polls in the contest below will remain open until Thursday night at 11:59 p.m.

Today's competition is between two Manhattan precincts that actually, surprisingly, seem to treat their surrounding neighborhoods with a modicum of respect: the Ninth Precinct in the East Village and the 26th Precinct in Morningside Heights and Manhattanville.

Let's get down to it.

Ninth Precinct (East Village)

The Ninth Precinct's crimes against the neighborhood are not apparent if you just walk down E. Fifth Street. The roadway is orderly. The NYPD-only parking zone is fairly small. There aren't squad cars all over the sidewalk.

But this precinct is still guilty of theft.

Right there across from the precinct is a huge Department of Education parking lot that has been swiped by the NYPD to allow its mostly suburban workforce to drive to work every day. The good news is that it keeps the cops from parking haphazardly and dangerously on the block itself, but the bad news is that it encourages police officers — among the worst drivers in town, as Streetsblog has long reported — to drive to work every day.

Here's the parking lot.
Here's the parking lot.
Here's the parking lot.

Now, we could only spot 18 police officers' vehicles from the roadway — our eyesight ain't what it used to be, and the huge "No trespassing" sign was a deterrent to getting a better angle — and noticed that of those 18 cops' cars, 18 of them (that's 100 percent, people) had at least one camera-issued ticket for speeding or running a red light.

Unlike cops, cameras, of course, don't know that the reckless driver is brother or sister in blue. And of the 18 cars, 11 of them, or 61 percent, had multiple reckless driving tickets, including this guy with 21 speeding tickets and two red-light tickets.

So do the math: Parking lot appropriation + police officers driving to work = dangerous streets for everyone in the neighborhood. To protect and serve? More like, "To neglect and unnerve."

And it's not as if the residents of E. Fifth Street don't have better things to do with that parking lot. The 5th Street Park Coalition, for example, wants something that benefits the whole neighborhood — something that will "bring thoughtful design to low income housing and public space that serves all." That was in response to a city announcement two years ago that the lot would be repurposed for the "development of affordable housing." The existing school, P.S. 751, only has a small playground — the part the cops don't park on.

"Maybe the cops could have a subterranean parking lot, but we identified three other main needs: the neighborhood, affordable housing, and the school," said John White, who lives on the block and founder of the park coalition, which has lots of renderings on its website that are a lot better than the current parking lot filled with cops who recklessly drive through the neighborhood every morning and night.

Here are two views of what the coalition wants:

Two renderings from the 5th Street Park Coalition.
Two renderings from the 5th Street Park Coalition.
Two renderings from the 5th Street Park Coalition.

But all of that is years away. Right now, the parking lot is a scar and a danger.

Beyond that, some of Deputy Inspector Ralph Clement's other cops are blatant in their disregard for the community. For instance, on Second Avenue, just to the west of the station house, cops often park atop two "daylighting" zones created to keep cyclists and pedestrians safe by the Department of Transportation, which considers the NYPD to be its "Vision Zero partner."

This guy's a jerk.
This guy's a jerk.
This guy's a jerk.

One of them — this guy (pictured above) — has six camera-issued speeding tickets, but he also has a child seat in the back, suggesting that he wants his kids to be safe, even though he doesn't care about kids who live in the East Village.

The same thing can be said for whichever cop left this squad car in the adjacent daylighting zone:

Check out the bent flexipost.
Check out the bent flexipost.
Check out the bent flexipost.

Beyond that, neighbors have to constantly worry that the Ninth Precinct will again seize their roadway, just as they did for an extended period during and after the George Floyd protests in 2020. The precinct still has its gates in position for a quick swiping of public space:

But is all this theft of public space, plus recklessly driving cops, enough to get to the borough finals? Let's see the competition:

26th Precinct (Morningside Heights)

NYPD's 26th Precinct occupies a quiet little block of W. 126th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue — two avenues that are, unsurprisingly, hotbeds of speeding and bus lane obstruction by the precinct's officers, Streetsblog discovered on a visit on Tuesday.

The cops under Commanding Officer Captain Jose Taveras's supervision primarily angle-park along the block, often with two wheels hopped up on the sidewalk. But few had NYPD parking placards in their dashboards on the day of our visit, and Streetsblog did not notice any of the license plate covers that are ubiquitous around police station houses.

Still, things were hardly pretty on the precinct's block. Cars blocked the crosswalk and accessibility ramp at multiple corners at the intersection of W. 126th Street and Old Broadway, including outside a city-run health center. The NYPD's blatant disregard for the norms and laws governing city parking appeared contagious — with lots of cars without placards and even one self-proclaimed "funeral director" among the drivers parked by the precinct house.

Taveras can count several dangerous drivers among his employees, who have collectively racked up dozens of speeding, red light and bus lane camera violations — many of them within the borders of the precinct, which runs 30 blocks north of W. 110th Street.

One driver had six speeding violations since 2021 alone, including at 125th Street at both Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, according to publicly available data.

Another received 43 tickets since 2021, including three for blocking a fire hydrant, two for blocking crosswalks, five speeding tickets, four bus lane camera violations and one red light camera infraction:

The 26th Precinct's corner of illegal parking madness. Photo: David Meyer
The 26th Precinct's corner of illegal parking madness. Photo: David Meyer

So which of these fairly normal precincts should go to the Manhattan borough final? You get to decide — with polls remaining open until Thursday at 11:59 p.m.

The contest so far. Click to enlarge.
The contest so far. Click to enlarge.
The contest so far. Click to enlarge.

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