(Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)
Nearly two years after announcing a series of reforms to stop drivers from using city-issued parking placards to park illegally with impunity, Mayor Bill de Blasio once again announced a series of reforms aimed at stopping placard abuse.
“It has been an intensive effort, because getting this right isn’t easy,” de Blasio said at a press conference in Chinatown on Thursday. “If it was so easy, they would’ve done it in the Koch administration, or the Dinkins administration, or the Giuliani administration, or the Bloomberg administration—but, finally, in this administration, due to the hard work of so many of my colleagues, I think we found what will be a long-term solution to the problem of placard abuse.”
Under the de Blasio administration, the number of parking placards the city issued skyrocketed thanks to union contracts and the growth of the city’s workforce. There are now around 125,500 of them, not counting those issued by the state and the federal government. The DOT issued 50,000, the NYPD issued 44,000 and the DOE issued 31,500, according to City Hall. The placards are supposed to allow city employees to park illegally in some circumstances in their official capacity as municipal workers.
None of the mayor’s new reforms aim to reduce the number of placards, or determine how many city employees actually need them to do their jobs.
Instead, the mayor said that the city-issued laminated placards that are on the streets today would be replaced with difficult-to-remove, barcoded stickers on windshields by the end of 2019. By 2021, the plan is to create “an integrated parking management system will eventually link parking meters, hand held enforcement devices and license plates,” according to a release from City Hall, which would eliminate the need for placards and stickers altogether.
Additionally, the city will create a “three strikes” policy that will permanently revoke a placard from a city employee the third time they are caught using it illegally. The policy is not retroactive, so previous tickets won’t count as strikes, according to the mayor’s office. (The penalty for this offense is $50, but the mayor said he would lobby Albany to raise it to $250.)
Ten DOT traffic agents will also be assigned to “hot spots” in Lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn to crack down on placard abuse. If this sounds familiar, back in 2017, de Blasio touted the addition of 100 new NYPD traffic agents, and designated 16 officers who would target “hot spots” of illegal parking.
While the mayor praised the City Council for “working on legislation that’s going to play a crucial role” in reducing placard abuse, it is unclear if he actually supports the bills, which go much further than his own reforms. The mayor’s office says they are still reviewing the legislation, and haven’t taken a position yet.
De Blasio dismissed concerns that city employees would continue to look the other way for their colleagues, and pointed to the 54,608 tickets written for placard abuse in 2018—a 93 percent increase from 2016.
“Yeah, there is a history we have to overcome, there is no question, but I think this kind of action is going to send a message,” de Blasio said.
Parked illegally in the No Standing Anytime zone & sidewalk on Canal Street yesterday while @BilldeBlasio was having a big to-do, telling the press @NYPDnews really is trying to address #placardcorruption. pic.twitter.com/3bq3KxRxPh
— placard corruption (@placardabuse) February 22, 2019
Of course, a “three-strikes” policy is not afforded to immigrant delivery cyclists who use e-bikes to do their jobs, but the mayor insisted that we should be more patient with these city employees who abuse their privileges.
“I think it’s an acknowledgment of human reality, that sometimes people make mistakes, sometimes people do something unknowingly, sometimes there are exigent circumstances,” de Blasio said.
In fact, the mayor said it was “crazy” that some NYPD and FDNY employees have to park on the sidewalk, and that the city should pay to build or lease more parking spaces.
“What we can say with assurance is there are some police precincts, some fire houses where there is ample parking and there are a lot where there is not, and that’s crazy. We have to come up with a system that actually accommodates these employees, and again, if it takes leasing a parking lot or leasing spaces in a garage or whatever the heck it is, we’re going to find a way,” de Blasio said.
— placard corruption (@placardabuse) February 21, 2019
Danny Pearlstein, a spokesperson for the Riders Alliance, told Gothamist that the placards “pose a challenge for the city’s two million bus riders.”
“They encourage placard-holders to use their cars, increasing overall traffic congestion. In certain cases, they also lead drivers to block bus lanes, delaying large numbers of people for the sake of individual convenience.”
Pearstein said it was “encouraging” to see the mayor talking about the issue, but “it remains to be seen whether tackling abuse can both succeed on its own terms and also stem the traffic and parking issues that placards create from the get go.”
Ultimately, the mayor framed the issue from the perspective of someone who is driving their car, despite the fact that 55 percent of New Yorkers don’t own a car, and those that do tend to be wealthier than those who don’t. The mayor didn’t make one mention of blocked bus lanes or bike lanes or crosswalks.
“I’ve done dozens and dozens of town hall meetings and parking comes up essentially in every single one of them,” de Blasio said. “And when I used to drive my own car around and tried to park at my home in Brooklyn each night, I spent many a night where – 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes circling, looking for a space. So, I understand what every-day New Yorkers feel about this issue and how frustrating it is.”