City Council passes bills aimed at parking placard abuse

A vehicle displaying a District Attorney placard while illegally parked is issued a ticket near the corner of Boerum Place and Joralemon Street in downtown Brooklyn on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. 

The City Council is trying to curb the worst parkers in government.

The Council Tuesday passed nine pieces of legislation targeting parking placard abuse among government workers. Among the bills include new requirements for police reports on enforcement; steeper fines; and a three-strike rule that would revoke placards after repeated misuse.

“Placard abuse is corruption,” said Speaker Corey Johnson, who sponsored three bills in the package.

Council members lambasted city drivers who use their placards to park illegally on sidewalks, in crosswalks and bike lanes or in front of bus stops—measures that erode public trust and make streets less safe, he said.

“We’ve talked a lot about how to fix our streets lately, but even good design doesn’t work if people simply don’t follow the law,” Johnson continued. “Neighborhoods across the city are plagued with cars that park with impunity … some are abusing their city-issued placard, others try to get away with it by putting a vest or notebook with a city logo on their dashboard.”

Still, advocates had little confidence that the package would make any material difference in placard use through the city.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has twice promised to crack down on the misuse of parking permit placards, fraudulent placards and government paraphernalia used in lieu of a placard. But rampant abuse is still obvious across the city — especially near government buildings — as evidenced by watchdogs like @placardabuse.

There are currently roughly 125,000 city-issued placards in circulation, with the state and federal governments issuing tens of thousands of additional placards to their respective workers, the city has estimated.

De Blasio has come under increased pressure to deal with misuse after he dished out 50,000 new placards to the city’s Department of Education in 2017.

The mayor’s office ignored multiple requests for comment.

Ben Fried, spokesman at TransitCenter, said the city should be moving to reduce the number of placards in circulation and that policing of the issue should be removed from the NYPD entirely.

“If everything works the way it’s supposed to, these bills could make a difference — but the thing is, you could say the same things about the current system,” Fried said.

“One, there are too many [placards] and, two, the people who enforce the rules are afraid to do it because they might anger someone above them int he chain of the command,” Fried continued. “I don’t think these bills address those fundamental flaws in the system.”

Johnson argued that there was outside checks in place to address that very issue. One of his bills requires the Police Department to evaluate at least 50 sites a week over the course of six months for illegal parking based on complaints and summonses relating to placard abuse. Those evaluations would require photographic documentation and would be sent to the Department of Investigation for a report on abuse.

“We wanted an outside check because the TEAs, the traffic enforcement agents, who are supposed to be writing the summonses … don’t always do it because they’re afraid of policing the police,” Johnson said.