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‘They Don’t Care’: Cops, Placard Perps Block Disabled Drop-Off Zones

“They don’t care," said one woman who uses a wheelchair. "To me, their attitude is like, ‘So what you’re in a wheelchair. Deal with it.’”

12:01 AM EST on January 26, 2024

Photo: Kevin Duggan|

Illegally-parked cars with placards blocked the designated Access-A-Ride drop off for commuters like Julianne Munford.

Police officers and other government workers constantly hog designated Access-A-Ride parking to pick up and drop off commuters with disabilities — including outside the offices of disability support groups and the city’s own agency dedicated to people with disabilities.

At the Downtown Brooklyn offices of two organizations for the disabled on Elm Place, workers have for years tried in vain to get corrupt cops and other officials to stop claiming the paratransit curb, and the blockage forces people in wheelchairs and other mobility devices to get off in the middle of the street or all the way down the block. 

“It’s horrendous,” said Julianne Munford, who uses a wheelchair, as she was being dropped off at Independence Care System, a disability services organization on the block.

“They don’t care," she added. "To me, their attitude is like, ‘So what you’re in a wheelchair. Deal with it.’”

Activists years ago got the city to carve out curbside locations for Access-A-Ride, which serves disabled people who can't use the subway or bus, because riders and drivers kept missing each other, according to advocates, but the city’s rampant placard abuse has undone those gains.

A car with an NYPD placard blocks access to the curb. Photo: Kevin Duggan

Many workers and members at ICS and the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, which share a floor, rely on the paratransit service. The building also hosts an office of the NYPD’s Medical Division, and the scofflaws blocking the spot often include the so-called Finest, employees at the companies said. 

“They feel like they can do anything they want to just because they wear the badge,” said Christy Cruz-Cullins, an outreach worker at ICS. “It’s not just once in a while, it’s every time you come here. There hasn’t been a day where that space has been free.”

The Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled has tried to resolve the issue with officers from the local precinct, the Department of Transportation, and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, but without success, according to the center's Executive Director Joe Rappaport. 

The police offices in the same building put up a paper sign at its doors warning that “illegal parking may result in summons and/or disciplinary action,” but that has not had any effect, according to Rappaport.

The mayor’s dedicated disability division struggles with the same issue, with an Access-A-Ride spot outside its Gold Street headquarters in Manhattan.

A sedan with city plates was parked in the spot twice when Streetsblog checked over the last week, and it once had its windshield covered in snow days after the most recent snowfall, indicating it likely doesn’t move much.

Cars, including this one with a city plate, block an Access-A-Ride spot outside the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities on Gold Street. Photo: Kevin Duggan

The vehicle also has a history of speeding and illegal parking dating back to 2016, according to public records

There are 114 Access-A-Ride spots citywide, according to the DOT, whose press office declined to comment further, referring to the Police Department, which also did not respond to a request for comment.

Rappaport has tried to improve the situation outside his office through official channels. He asked DOT to paint the curb space outside his office with a wheelchair, but Transportation reps told him they don’t do that, and when he followed up, they stopped responding to his emails, he said.

“Ultimately, nothing real has happened,” the advocate told Streetsblog. 

Other lawbreakers on the troubled Brooklyn block included a Jeep with a “Fire Officer” placard in the dash, and a van with a plate from the state’s Office of Mental Health, both of which had track records of speeding and illegal parking. 

The former car’s placard is issued by a firefighter union and gives no authority to park in illegal spots, a Fire Department spokesman said. 

“We’re not supposed to be parking anywhere differently than anyone else,” said Jim Long. “We regularly communicate with the precinct and the DOT and send messages out when there’s concerns.”

The president of New York City Transit Rich Davey was frustrated with the illegal parking getting in the way of his agency's riders, but also voiced confidence that the NYPD was putting its "full weight" behind keeping transit zones clear.

"It frustrates the hell out of me that we have to continue to have this conversation," Davey told Streetsblog at an unrelated press conference Thursday. "Folks who are in our Access-A-Ride vehicles clearly have a disability, clearly have mobility challenges, and they need that space."

Office of Mental Health spokesman James Plastiras said the agency would review any reports of staff using fleet vehicles "inappropriately."

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