A pair of bills in the City Council would revoke tens of thousands of city-issued parking placards and allow New Yorkers to report illegally parked cars.
Brooklyn Councilmember Lincoln Restler introduced the two pieces of legislation Thursday, June 2, to combat widespread abuse of the city-issued permits, and the lawmaker estimates the move would get rid of about 60,000 placards.
“It is petty corruption and it makes our streets unsafe for a parent walking with a stroller, for a person with a wheelchair, for a cyclist — it is hard to get around our community because we have illegally-parked cars all over the damn place,” Restler told amNewYork Metro in an interview. “It’s time to abolish placards as we know them.”
Restler’s 33rd Council District includes Downtown Brooklyn, which lawmakers have decried as a “free-for-all” of illegal parking and placard abuse thanks to a concentration of government agencies and courthouses in the area, whose employees get passes or use paraphernalia like a hi-vis vest to leave their private cars in illegal spots.
“You can’t walk through Downtown Brooklyn without seeing illegally-parked vehicles, and for the most part they are city workers, state workers, federal workers, who have put real or fake placards in their dashboards to somehow allow them to park anywhere they choose,” Restler said. “At the end of the day they work for us, the public, not the other way around.”
The area has some of the best subway connections in the Five Boroughs, but the widespread availability of free parking for those working in the public sector has incentivized government workers to drive into the business district rather than take public transit, according to street safety advocates.
“Placard abuse is a violation of the public trust, and even when used as intended, the proliferation of parking placards needlessly encourages driving,” said Eric McClure, the executive director of StreetsPAC.
Restler’s first proposed law would prohibit city agencies from giving out parking permits for private cars that don’t have an elected official license plate issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Exempt from the ban are permits that are part of collective bargaining agreements, such as Department of Education teachers, along with single-use permits, and those for people with disabilities.
The second bill wants to allow civilians to report illegal vehicle parking to the Department of Transportation for cars that are blocking a bike lane, bus lane, sidewalk, crosswalk, or a fire hydrant within a quarter-mile of a school.
That bill also creates a new violation for such offenses with a $175 fine, and New Yorkers who report the incidents could get a quarter of the proceeds if DOT uses their evidence or information during a proceeding before the city’s administrative law court known as the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings.
It’s a revived version of a bill introduced by Restler’s predecessor Councilmember Stephen Levin in late 2020, but that proposal was opposed by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose DOT reps worried that civilian enforcement would lead to conflicts between New Yorkers.
But the city’s Department of Environmental Protection already allows civilian complaints for idling cars, which de Blasio promoted in early 2020 under the “Billy Never Idles” campaign together with ’80s rocker Billy Idol.
The city has yet to launch a crackdown against parking placard abuse more than two years after the Council required the Department of Investigation and the NYPD to do so by law, with officials still blaming the COVID-19 pandemic for the setback.
Restler was optimistic that the new Council and administration in City Hall will tackle the low-level corruption this time around.
“It’s a new City Council, it’s a new DOT, and I am hopeful that through sustained organizing and a broad coalition of support inside and outside of the Council that we can finally get this done,” he said.
The mayor’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.