NYPD will send inspectors to look into rampant illegal parking and placard abuse in Downtown Brooklyn after police officials got grilled by politicians during a lengthy City Council oversight hearing Tuesday, Oct. 26.
“You couldn’t throw a tennis ball in Downtown Brooklyn without hitting an illegally-parked car, it’s impossible, they’re everywhere,” said local Councilman Steve Levin during the hours-long virtual session of the Council’s Transportation Committee. “It is a free-for-all and nothing ever gets done about it and it’s just this low-level corruption, but it infects a mindset because it is allowed.”
The Council questioned brass from the NYPD Transportation Bureau and officials with the Department of Transportation during the more than five-hour meeting that was dubbed “Rethinking Vision Zero” and was primarily concerned with cops mishandling 311 complaints and ways to improve street safety.
The questioning session came after an investigation by Streetsblog found that police routinely close out 311 complaints about driver misconducts within less than five minutes, indicating that they’re not dealing with the issues raised.
A separate probe by the Council over the summer submitted 50 complaints about parking scofflaws via 311, and in 14 cases the staffers found that cops either falsely claimed the issue had been addressed or wrote in response that no action was necessary, according to Bronx Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson.
The Tuesday meeting shifted to illegal parking, which runs deep in Brooklyn’s central business district home to many governmental offices, two police stations, the courts, and the Fire Department.
Sometimes people use official government-issued placards, but they often rely on phony documents or other paraphernalia, such as utility vests, police union business cards, or even a police officer’s exam.
“They are everywhere and it’s total free rein,” said Levin. “I never see a ticket on those cars, ever.”
Even the city’s likely next mayor, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, drew heat two years ago because his own staff leave their cars illegally in the public park surrounding Borough Hall, and the beep famously shot back someone on social media for calling him out at the time by comparing the online critic to the Ku Klux Klan.
Queens Councilman Bob Holden said the issue is also particularly bad near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway where illegally parked cars litter the areas around the highway’s exits.
“You go on the BQE get off at Tillary Street, Chief, take a look at what that looks like with Fire and police officers parking everywhere they want,” said Holden. “There’s no cleanup, there’s nothing, there is just a mess down there and everybody’s looking the other way. So don’t say that the NYPD is addressing this because they’re not.”
Deputy Chief Isa Abbassi acknowledged the issue in the area and said he would speak to the 84th’s chief Captain Adeel Rana and send Department investigators to the scene.
“We write many many summonses, but what I will do, because I know what you’re saying is fact, I’ve driven through the area, I’ve seen the cars double parked,” Abbassi said. “I’m going to speak to Commander Rana after this call today, we’re going to get some of our investigations people who are quality assurance people out there and we’re going to take a look at it independently and see what we can do.”
Levin suggested Abbassi check several other local hot spots such as Adams Street leading to the Brooklyn Bridge, but the police honcho made clear he was well aware of the problem locations.
“I know where to look and I don’t want you to think that this is a police-only issue,” the police official said. “There’s members of the judiciary, there are courts there, schools there, there’s a lot of factors here that we need to address and we’re going to do it.”
The Brooklyn lawmaker previously put forth a bill to allow New Yorkers to report illegally parked cars, but DOT balked at the idea and worried people would assault their neighbors for reporting them to the authorities.
Illegal parking persists around precinct station houses across the Five Boroughs, where officers’ personal vehicles block the sidewalk and force New Yorkers out into the roadway, according to Holden.
“I’ll take you to the 104 Precinct now and we’ll take a walk and you’ll see at night that people have to walk in the street because they can’t even get into the crosswalk,” he said. “The CO [commanding officer] said they’re going to address it — nothing happens. How many COs do I have to go through on this?”
When Holden pressed NYPD reps about their specific plan to address this issue, Abbassi only said they would “double” their efforts, but declined to reveal specifics at the public meeting.
“We will stay focused on solving problems for our community and will double those efforts when we are the cause of that problem,” Abbassi said. “We can talk about a plan offline, I’d be happy to get in touch with you.”