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Cops Steal Park Row Bike Lanes to Store Cars, Equipment

Locals complained about cops parking on the sidewalk, so the NYPD moved into the bike lane.

Photo: Kevin Duggan|

Squad cars and vehicles with police placards or paraphernalia lined Park Row on March 11.

One step forward, two steps back.

Police have filled the two-way protected bike lane on Park Row near NYPD headquarters with illegally parked squad cars and unmarked vehicles after finally scrapping metal barricades that had lined the strip for years.

The street south of Worth Street recently shed some of its Checkpoint Charlie-like infrastructure, but those gains for public space came undone after cops dumped their cars on the corridor — to their neighbors' chagrin.

“Park Row is not a parking lot, it’s a street," said one resident of the adjacent condo complex Chatham Green, Lucy West.

"It doesn’t belong to the police, it’s part of our neighborhood." 

What bike lane? Photo: Kevin Duggan

Up until recently, the Brigands in Blue parked their vehicles combat-style on the sidewalks of Park Row. Residents had long complained about the practice to the local police precinct, saying their vehicles squeezed pedestrians.

Cop cars used to squeeze the footpath. Photo provided by a resident

“There were cars practically up to our fence,” West said. 

On Monday, metal barricades lined the sidewalk. Instead of occupying legal spots, dozens of police cars sat smack dab in the middle of the bike lane.

Vehicles were either marked police cruisers or had parking placards or other police paraphernalia in their dashboards to avoid parking tickets. One vehicle had a police union “courtesy card” and a handwritten note saying, “Do not have parking permit yet. Please don't tow.” (The parking perp may not have had his car long enough to get a placard, but he's already racked up three camera-issued tickets since December.)

This driver put a sheet in the dash saying, 'Do not have parking permit yet. Please Don't tow' along with a police union card. Photo: Kevin Duggan

A pair of cars with placards were parked on the sidewalk across the street where just a few months ago cops removed the longstanding barricades

Cops removed barricades here a few months ago ... and replaced them with parked cars.Photo: Kevin Duggan

Another resident and founder of a local civic group said they hoped the police would find other ways to store their equipment that doesn't get in the way of residents.

"Our residents have difficulty with something as simple as walking down the street and riding their bikes – and it's especially difficult for those in wheelchairs and with strollers," said Nick Stabile, a co-founder of the Park Row Alliance. "We hope that NYPD can find another solution to their operational challenges that doesn't involve blocking sidewalks and bike lanes."

NYPD's rampant discourtesy comes on the eve of a city presentation to a local community board about a $4-million plan to make Park Row more welcoming as part of a larger $56-million revamp around the entryway to Chinatown that includes flipping nearby Kimlau Square plaza to the other side of Bowery from its current location and installing a new arch.

City officials closed off the street to most private car traffic nearly a quarter-century ago following September 11, since it runs below a bridge that connects to NYPD headquarters at One Police Plaza. 

The area has become a de facto private parking lot for cops and court officials in the decades since. It's time for law enforcement officials to give up their perk, West said.

“There’s a lot going on on Park Row, the police are going to have to find somewhere else to park,” she said. 

A police pickup and barricades block what should be a painted sidewalk extension. Photo: Kevin Duggan

The city has not released its plans for the corridor, but the Department of Transportation noted in workshops last summer that the current conditions are "uninviting" due to "gateways and security infrastructure."

That was abundantly clear on Monday when one tourist had to ask Streetsblog's reporter how to get to the Brooklyn Bridge — just across the street from the Park Row steps leading up to the span's walkway.

The police set-ups make the entrance to the bridge appear to be prohibited to public access:

It's not hard to see why few visitors get on the Brooklyn Bridge at this Park Row entrance.Photo: Kevin Duggan

The Adams administration last year planned to reopen Park Row to cars on nights and weekends without any public discussion. Local electeds intervened, urging Hizzoner to gather more public feedback. 

There was more parking disorder just around the corner outside City Hall on Broadway, where the parking lane reserved for government officials was blocked by a car without plates and another vehicle with Pennsylvania plates and city merchandise in the dash.

NYPD did not respond for comment.

City officials will give a presentation about their plans for Park Row and connections to Chinatown to Manhattan Community Board 3's Transportation Committee on Tuesday, March 12 at 6:30 p.m. The hybrid meeting will be held at the Chatham Green Community Room,165 Park Row, Basement, and via Zoom at https://us06web.zoom.us/j/82417052106.

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