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Drawing Lines: NYPD Precinct Steals Sidewalk with Unauthorized Paint Job

Cops at the 94th Precinct in Greenpoint have stolen public space with some paint. Whatever happened to the Integrity Control Officer?

Photo: Ben Kesslen|

Why is this allowed?

Nothing to see here?

Greenpoint's 94th Precinct has taken the typical precinct house parking scam to the next level — stealing sidewalk space for their cars by laying down yellow paint, a seemingly illegal practice that one NYPD employee claimed is actually nothing new.

The freshly added perpendicular lines on Meserole Avenue create room for seven spots in the middle of the sidewalk between Manhattan Avenue and Lorimer Street. 

Streetsblog observed precinct employees pull in and out of the spots this week as other cars belonging to the NYPD and its employees cluttered the surrounding streets and double-parked for long periods of time.

Photo: Ben Kesslen

Cops have long parked on the sidewalk in question, but the fresh yellow paint appeared recently. The markings would qualify as graffiti under city rules prohibiting “defacement” of roadways and sidewalks — if anyone was willing to prosecute.

Luke Ohlson, a former organizer with Transportation Alternatives and a candidate for District Leader in Assembly District 50, said that it takes years to complete basic street safety projects — projects that can simply be undone by the NYPD.

"'There seems to be a community process for safety improvements on streets for the rest of us and one for NYPD," he said. "This shows a lack of commitment to making streets safer. And I'm very concerned about people who are not able-bodied, who are using strollers, who are in wheelchairs, either being forced to walk in the street or cross not in a crosswalk."

Greenpoint Resident Sarah Neckamkin described the yellow lines as "heinous."

"I walk by several times a day to walk my dog, and cop cars are often backing into those illegal spaces without even realizing who’s walking behind them," she said. "There have been several times when I’ve had to jump back for fear of the car hitting my small dog. I find it strange how they basically dominate the entire block."

The Department of Transportation did not respond to a request for comment on whether it authorized the new lines or planned to remove them. The NYPD did not respond either. 

Streetsblog also stopped by the 94th Precinct three different times one day this week to ask about the paint job. Stationhouse staff declined to comment on the record, but one worker said the lines were painted “a long time ago.” New lines were put in after the road in front of the station was repaved.

“The police have to park somewhere,” the employee told Streetsblog.

Car owners — even the police — aren’t allowed to paint curbs or sidewalks, according to city law. DOT regulations define “defacement” as “when a person paints, prints, writes or attaches, in any manner, an advertisement or printed material to the sidewalk, curb or roadway” — and this seems like a pretty clear example of that. 

Still, cops are famous for parking on the city sidewalks. In previous years, Streetsblog held a March (Parking) Madness tournament, pitting precincts against each other to determine the most disrespectful towards pedestrians. The 75th Precinct in East New York won last year's competition; other precincts are so bad that the 94th in Greenpoint has never even been in the running, though Streetsblog covered its illegal parking in 2019.

Illegal behavior by 94th Precinct officers and staff goes beyond the unsanctioned parking lot and into recklessness that directly endangers Greenpoint residents. Almost 80 percent of the 27 vehicles belonging to NYPD employees and parked around the precinct had at least one red light or speeding ticket on its record, according to How’s My Driving NY, which compiles public records of such violations.

More than half of those precinct-affiliated cars had three or more red light or speeding tickets.

  • One car had 15 school zone speed camera violations and one red light ticket dating back to 2018.
  • Another car had six camera-issued speeding tickets and one red-light ticket since Feb. 2022. 
  • And another car had eight speeding violations and two red-light tickets dating back to 2014. 

Speeding in school zones and blowing through red lights can lead to serious injuries or death. Last year was just the latest year with more than 200 roadway fatalities.

Pedestrian deaths and car crashes might make something like parking on the sidewalk seem minor, but it’s all related. When police park their vehicles wherever they want, it “corrodes trust and goodwill towards the NYPD,” Marcel Moran, a faculty fellow at the NYU Center for Urban Science and Progress, told Streetsblog last year after publishing his own findings of low-level parking corruption in the journal Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives.

"You know, the majority of New Yorkers do not own cars, so it's disheartening to see this disregard for basic public amenities that all New Yorkers deserve," Moran said. 

"Someone asked me the question, 'Is it really such a big deal?' Well, if it's your sidewalk, it's a big deal. If it's the front of your house, it's a big deal. If it's your curb ramp, it's a big deal.”

Council Member Lincoln Restler pointed out that the NYPD is expected to enforce the law, as it has promised, not break it.

"Sidewalks are for walking — not parking," he said. "But when it comes to illegal parking, there is one set of rules for the public and none at all for government workers. ... Chief [John] Chell promised to address rampant illegal parking around precincts, but we have yet to see any progress."

The newly painted lines come in direct contrast to something Mayor Adams said last month when announcing a new crackdown on people who deface or cover their plates. Asked by Streetsblog what he will do when NYPD officers violate the law, he said, "No one is above the law. It is the responsibility of our integrity control officers … and we're going to let them know it is your responsibility and obligation to police your precinct, to inspect the cars, to make sure those cars that are parked at a police precinct are not carrying out the actions that we're fighting. … So we're going to inspect what we expect, so it won't be suspect."

Concern about the NYPD's theft of sidewalk space comes as the Department of Investigation issued a report on Wednesday that criticized the NYPD for abusing its "self-enforcement zones" around stationhouses, as Streetsblog reported.

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