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City Council Vows To Crack Down On Parking Placard Abuse, For Real This Time You Guys

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The New York City Council is taking up the mantle of placard reform, following a series of lackluster efforts from Mayor Bill de Blasio that advocates say had a negligible impact on the problem.

On Tuesday, the chamber passed a package of bills aimed at finally reining in the widespread practice—in which drivers use their city-issued permits (or obvious counterfeits) to park illegally, often eating into pedestrian and cyclist space.

Under the new legislation, a six-month pilot program will require the NYPD to evaluate at least 50 sites weekly with a high concentration of placard abusers, based on 311 complaints. Police officers—who have been some of the most egregious abusers of placards—will be required to photograph their enforcement efforts for review by the Department of Investigation and the City Council.

The city will also be required to create a “comprehensive plan on the use and distribution of placards,” and a standardized process for city employees to apply for the parking permits.

“Placard abuse is corruption, plain and simple, and the City Council is cracking down,” Speaker Corey Johnson said on Tuesday. “Street space in New York City is too valuable a commodity to let placards—both real and fake—have the run of the place.”

City-issued placards, which are meant to be used by drivers parking in their official capacity as municipal employees, have often been awarded arbitrarily under Mayor de Blasio‘s administration. During contract negotiations with teachers unions in 2016, for example, the mayor agreed to give one to any school employee who had a car and wanted one.

The number of parking placards issued to city employees has skyrocketed by roughly 25 percent since de Blasio took office. Of the roughly 125,000 permits currently in use, 54,000 were issued through the Department of Transportation, 38,500 were issued through the NYPD, and 31,500 were issued through the Department of Education, according to City Hall data released earlier this year.

One shortcoming of the legislative package, advocates noted, is that it doesn’t lessen the number of available placards. Still, the bills should still be seen as a step in the direction, according to Marco Conner, co-deputy director for Transportation Alternatives.

“They’ve gone significantly beyond the mayor’s efforts, which I think haven’t really shown much of a positive effect,” he said.

The fine for unauthorized or fraudulent placard use will increase from $250 to $500 under the new legislation. A separate bill reiterates that placard privileges should be revoked from any individual who receives three or more parking violations—a policy that was already introduced by the mayor as part of his first placard corruption crackdown.

Another bill would expand New Yorkers’ ability to use 311 to submit complaints and photos of illegally parked vehicles. After de Blasio encouraged New Yorkers to report placard abusers to the city hotline as part of his “zero tolerance” approach, the NYPD received thousands of complaints, but towed a mere 89 vehicles in the span of a year.

The NYPD has pushed back against all aspects of the proposed changes. Testifying before the City Council earlier this year, Oleg Chernyavsky, the NYPD’s executive director of legislative affairs, said the NYPD has the problem under control.

“We acknowledge that placard misuse by city personnel, including our personnel, at times has occurred,” Chernyavsky conceded. “However, we take this issue seriously and have dedicated personnel specifically to maintain the integrity of the city-issued parking permit system.”

Some advocates say they have doubts about whether the new efforts will actually have an impact on the petty corruption pervasive among city-employed drivers.

“It’s a very hard thing to write legislation that makes agencies enforce things they don’t want to enforce,” Jon Orcutt, a former DOT official now at Bike New York, told Gothamist. “If the mayor and the mayor’s deputies and commissioners wanted to stop this, they could order it stopped. That’s really the solution. Probably not prior to 2022, though.”

A spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio, who leaves office in November 2021, congratulated the City Council for their efforts.

“After working collaboratively with the Council for the past several months to further reform the City’s placard system, we congratulate the Council on the passage of today’s placard reform,” the spokesperson said.



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