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Parking Placards

Long-Awaited Placard Report Reveals Widespread Abuse by NYPD

The overdue report confirms years of Streetsblog reporting on placard abuse, illegal parking and enforcement failures by the police under two mayors.

Absolute placard corrupts absolutely.

City investigators found widespread misuse by the NYPD of city-issued parking placards, failure by the city to monitor who has placards, and a complete abrogation of enforcement against cops, according to a new, and years overdue, report by the city Department of Investigation released on Wednesday.

The report includes several recommendations that could reform the system, including developing a uniform parking permit "so that genuine and fake permits can be more readily identified by enforcement authorities" and "eliminating so-called 'self-enforcement' zones" near stationhouses where NYPD cops and Traffic Enforcement Agents "frequently choose not to issue summonses to illegally parked vehicles displaying parking permits."

"NYPD has no written policies or procedures regarding self-enforcement zonesand the rate of enforcement of parking laws within those zones was significantly lower than outside of those zones," the report stated.

How Streetsblog covered the failure of the NYPD to follow up on 311 complaints. Click to read.Graphic: Martin Schapiro

Worse, the city has no coordination among the three agencies that are able to issue placards (the Department of Transportation, the Department of Education and the NYPD). Those agencies "should phase out the use of physical permits ... eventually fully adopting a digital parking management system, including the use of an integrated parking management system to link parking permits, parking meters, a mobile application, handheld enforcement devices, license plate readers and license plates."

The report and its findings come years after Streetsblog began documenting in painstaking detail the culture of abuse that the current placard system has fostered, culminating in an investigation into the 311 system that revealed that police simply ignore many complaints about their illegal parking and sometimes harass members of the public who file 311 service requests.

The DOI report noted the very same practices, which stem from a simple problem: Unlike other basic issues, complaints about police illegal parking or placard abuse are handled by uniformed cops, not traffic enforcement agents, who ply their trade against the public but don't respond to 311.

As a result, "the majority of NYPD’s responses to 311 complaints for illegal parking and parking permit misuse do not result in summonses and/or enforcement actions, and NYPD closes 311 complaints for parking permit misuse as unfounded at a higher rate than 311 complaints for illegal parking," the report stated, mirroring Streetsblog's findings.

More embarrassing? When the DOI staged "integrity tests," half the time, the NYPD didn't even bother to respond.

"A lack of enforcement of parking laws with respect to permit-holders sends a message of special treatment that weakens public confidence in city government," DOI Commissioner Jocelyn Strauber said in a statement.

Streetsblog's placard coverage has been second to none. Click to read.

The placard problem predates this mayor and even his predecessor. Then-Mayor Bill de Blasio promised in 2021 to replace the hodgepodge of placards with a single, standardized, bar-coded design. But that never happened, as the DOI report also shows.

"The city," the report stated, "lacks a uniform process for the creation and issuance of parking permits."

The report is the long-awaited fruit of Local Law 6 of 2020, which required the NYPD to produce weekly evaluations for the City Council of at least 25 known placard abuse zones and at least 25 blocks where illegal parking is common. Citing the pandemic, the NYPD never completed the evaluations, and City Council officials repeatedly declined to comment on that failure. But DOI acted.

"To fill the gaps in NYPD’s evaluations and reporting, and in an effort to fully comply with Local Law 6, DOI undertook its own investigation into citywide parking permit misuse," the report said. "The street evaluations conducted by the NYPD pursuant to Local Law 6 were deficient. DOI’s own street evaluations found significantly more parking permit misuse than NYPD found in its evaluations of the same sites, albeit at different time periods."

In addition to the aforementioned recommendations, DOI is calling on the NYPD to train its officers better to remind them that "vehicles displaying government-issued permits ... should be summonsed." And DOI said that traffic enforcement agents, who might be less inclined than uniformed cops to ignore violations by fellow officers, should be in charge of responding to 311 complaints of police parking or placard abuse.

How Streetsblog covered the story.

Most interesting to people who have filed 311 service requests only to see them closed within minutes, the DOI recommended that the NYPD "be required to provide specific information before closing out a 311 service request related to illegal parking, including ... the badge or other identification number of the employee who resolved the service request, a photo or other visual confirmation that the employee physically responded and appropriately addressed the service request, and a more detailed narrative justifying the action taken or not taken."

Council Member Lincoln Restler, writing in Streetsblog in 2022, called for the end of parking placards entirely, calling them "not just an abuse of power [but] a public safety risk and nuisance."

Left entirely out of the report is the role played by scores of agencies — federal, state, local and otherwise — whose employees create fake placards or use real ones to fill the streets of the city with store personal vehicles operated by reckless drivers. A Streetsblog census of just a small part of lower Manhattan found that the majority of curbside space was occupied by placard possessors.

This is a breaking story. Streetsblog has reached out to City Hall and the NYPD for comment. After initial publication, an NYPD spokesperson who declined to provide a name, wrote, “The NYPD appreciates the Department of Investigation’s work in assessing our policies and practices relating to parking permits. We are reviewing the report and will carefully consider the recommendations.”

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