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Under Threat of Federal Suit (Again!), City Hall Promises Action on ‘Unacceptable’ Illegal Police Parking

A deputy mayor made a flat-out promise to eliminate illegal police parking that violates the Americans With Disabilities Act. But when? How? We don't know.

File photo: Gersh Kuntzman|

Sidewalks around stationhouses are not accessible. But Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi (inset) promises to change that.

Do you swear on your mother's placard?

With the Adams administration under fire from the U.S. Department of Justice, Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi on Tuesday made a flat-out promise to eliminate illegal police parking that violates the Americans With Disabilities Act, though she also praised the city's past accessibility efforts that, um, only came after threats of federal litigation.

First, the promise: On Tuesday, after Streetsblog reminded Mayor Adams that the US Attorney for the Southern District called NYPD parking practices a violation of the ADA, Joshi responded for the mayor that the problem will be addressed:

"Any vehicle that blocks the path of a pedestrian, especially with those with mobility limitations, is unacceptable," she said. "And it's extremely unacceptable when it is a public servant's vehicle. It is a matter that we take seriously, and we will address."

Joshi's confidence that the city "will address" the long-documented mayhem around police stationhouses flies in the face of years of documented efforts, and failures, to address illegal police parking — failures that include a recent Department of Investigations report outlining how little has been done, coverage by Streetsblog, and even a deep academic report on the problem.

But her optimism is founded, she said, on the city's prior accessibility successes.

"We're a city that has made a lot of strides in terms of accessibility and mobility," she said, before running through a list of city suggests that were almost entirely the result of legal settlements or court orders.

  • "We have the largest accessible for-hire fleet," she said, not mentioning that the imperative to make the taxi fleet handicapped accessible stemmed from a legal settlement in 2014 ... and that the city is behind on its stipulated goal.
  • "On the actual streets, we have put in over 2,500 of the pedestrian signaling so those with disabilities can press a button and get an audible voice that tells them what color the light is and when to cross," she said, without mentioning that the city was forced to do that under a court order issued in 2021.
  • "We've done almost 50,000 ped ramp upgrades, which again are a real service to people with disabilities as they get from the street crossing the street and up onto the sidewalk," Joshi said, without mentioning that these improvements also came after the city was sued way back in 1994 and settled in 2019 ... and that the city is behind on its goals.

It's unclear if Southern District U.S. Attorney Damian Williams will be satisfied with a mere promise from Joshi. In his March 29 letter to the NYPD, Williams threatened that the Department of Justice "may initiate a lawsuit pursuant to the ADA" if the city does not fix the problem, but referenced prior struggles to get the city to fix problems rapidly even after court orders.

"We would prefer to resolve this matter by working with you to negotiate a court-enforceable agreement that brings the City of New York and NYPD’s practices into compliance with the ADA," he wrote.

And he offered multiple recommendations for how the city could achieve its legal obligation to ensure that "the pedestrian grid is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities."

"To remedy the violations and protect the civil rights of New York City pedestrians with disabilities, the City of New York and NYPD must reform their practices with respect to the parking of city vehicles on sidewalks and crosswalks," he concluded. "These reforms must include oversight to ensure this objective is accomplished."

We reached out to City Hall with a simple follow-up question — How with the city carry out Joshi's promise? — but no one got back to us.

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