New York City will soon be issuing thousands of new parking permits to the city’s education staff, heightening fears among transit advocates that the move will spur a congestion nightmare.
Every school employee at the Department of Education who owns a car will be eligible to receive an agency-issued parking permit, according to the United Federation of Teachers union. Michael Mulgrew, UFT president, announced the news this week in an email to members.
The new placard process, which will not increase the number of on-street parking spaces for DOE staff, is the result of arbitration and negotiation between the city and respective unions stemming from a 2009 lawsuit filed by the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators principals union, according to a DOE spokeswoman.
It’s a reversal of elements of former Mayor Michael Bloomerg’s crusade against parking perks, which in 2008 resulted in a significant reduction of DOE placards, from about 63,000 to 11,000, and a new permitting process.
The UFT did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Paul Steely White, the executive director at Transportation Alternatives, believes that issuing tens of thousands of new parking placards without increasing the number of parking spaces, or enforcement, will create a traffic headache around schools.
“This is the floodgates reopening,” White said. “We fought this battle ten years ago … the real issue was that people were using legitimate placards to park illegally in crosswalks, in front of hydrants, and really just creating major safety hazards around schools.”
The policy, which takes effect May 18, will increase the number of placards and change the issuing process. Currently, placards are distributed to DOE schools. And each school is issued the same number of placards as on-street parking spaces. Each space is currently available on a first-come, first-served basis and staff can’t leave with school placards.
The new process will give DOE workers their own individual placards, with a few exceptions. That worries Manhattan Councilman Daniel Garodnick, who has sponsored legislation that aims to overhaul the city’s placard permitting process and cut back on the number of fraudulent placards on city streets, a widely acknowledged problem.
“I’m concerned about any growth in the number of parking placards because there are too many already,” Garodnick said in a statement. “I’d rather spend our energies on improving mass transit so that people don’t have to drive to work.”
In New York, where elected officials have complained about city workers getting a free pass for parking with as little as a “traffic agent uniform wrapped up and put in the windshield,” as one City Council member put it recently, White said the DOE placard increase must be met with aggressive enforcement.
“This will bring a torrent of new traffic, a torrent of new driving by incentivizing people to drive to work,” White said. “It’s incumbent upon the de Blasio administration to step up enforcement. … Enforcement agents must be empowered to do their job.”
The mayor’s office didn’t address the question of increased enforcement. In a statement, mayoral spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein said the city encourages school staff to “take full advantage of public transportation options.”
“For those who prefer to drive, the same number of spots are available on a first-come, first-served basis,” she added.