Brooklyn lawmaker says DOT should enforce placard abuse, contradicting previous vote

nyc parking story – Edited
Councilman Steve Levin points to cars illegally parked in DOT’s makeshift bike lane on Jay Street.
File photo by Kevin Duggan

Citing a scourge of illegally parked cars littering sidewalks and bike lanes in his district, Downtown Brooklyn Councilman Steve Levin wants to task the Department of Transportation with the enforcement of parking placard abuse by municipal employees — saying the NYPD has failed to properly police the misuse of parking privileges. 

“I’m out of office in 16 months, we’ve just gotta do this,” said the politico at a press conference on Jay and Johnson streets Thursday. “I’m done waiting, I’m done with the task forces, I’m done with the studying of it over and over again.”

While the NYPD’s Traffic Enforcement Agents are currently tasked with doling out tickets to placard scofflaws, Levin said he is drafting a set of bills which would shift that power to transit bureaucrats — arguing the current lack of any serious enforcement puts people at risk when they are forced to navigate around swaths of vehicles with the city permits parked in dangerous spots.

“People’s lives depend on it,” he said. “We know what we need to do. Let’s just do it.”

Levin’s impending legislation would also create a program to allow members of the public to report placard abusers — similar to the city’s system for lodging complaints against idling vehicles.

But while the term-limited Councilman spoke in no uncertain terms at the Thursday afternoon press conference, his talk runs contrary to his recent voting record — as his “yes” vote on this year’s controversial budget helped cut the $1.2 million DOT division tasked with addressing this very problem. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio had announced that DOT enforcement arm in early 2019, but the unit failed to materialize, and was eventually completely axed in the budget — along with a dedicated $5.4 million placard abuse team within NYPD, which ticketed only a handful of drivers, according to an analysis by Streetsblog.

Since nixing the pair of placard units, Hizzoner has turned to robots — placing his hopes in a computerized placard enforcement system named “Pay by Plate,” which is slated to roll out next year.  

Placard abuse disproportionally affects Levin’s downtown district, which is home to many municipal agencies, like the borough’s court system, two police stations, and the headquarters of the Fire Department.

The agencies issue the plastic emblems so employees can leave their vehicles in spots that would otherwise be illegal to help them do their jobs, not to simply ignore parking laws out of convenience — but many safe streets advocates, and even some dedicated Twitter accounts, have detailed how officials have misused the placards unchecked to do just that.

Indeed, in the background of the politico’s press conference, two cars were illegally parked in the makeshift bike lane that DOT installed on Jay Street earlier this year, forcing cyclists to veer into car traffic.

Jay Street will also be home to the first busway in the borough since the Fulton Mall next month, and the DOT hopes the tighter restrictions on traffic will make it easier to enforce placard abuse along the stretch.

Other nearby hotspots include Schermerhorn Street, where police vehicles of NYPD’s Transit Bureau routinely block off much of the road. 

Also in Levin’s district, Borough Hall and the surrounding Cadman Plaza has become a makeshift parking lot for staffers of Borough President Eric Adams — leading to a bizarre confrontation last year when the Beep compared a Twitter user to the Ku Klux Klan for calling out the illegal parking. 

In joining Levin’s crusading presser, the head of the local business-boosting group the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership said the endless examples of the low-level corruption warranted swift change. 

“It’s just time for enforcement, we’ve had promises before, we’ve had promises as recently as last year, and yet there’s never been any change,” said Regina Myer at the Aug. 13 press conference. 

This story first appeared on BrooklynPaper.com