In May of 2017, after a laser-focused Twitter account showed how drivers park illegally with embarrassing frequency using city-issued parking placards, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised "real consequences" for the scofflaws. While New Yorkers are still waiting on the results of the mayor's crackdown, the City Council isn't: last Wednesday, five bills were introduced that aim to stop the culture of placard abuse on city streets.
“Placard abuse is corruption, plain and simple, and New York City cannot tolerate it any longer,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is co-sponsoring all five of the bills, said in a statement.
— placard corruption (@placardabuse) February 14, 2019
The way the city currently issues parking placards is arbitrary and not need-based—as part of contract negotiations with the education unions in late 2016, Mayor de Blasio agreed to give one to any school employee who had a car and wanted one. Drivers are supposed to use the placards to park in their official capacity as city employees.
There are roughly 124,000 city-issued parking placards out on the city's streets, according to City Hall; 31,500 of them are issued through the Department of Education, 38,500 are issued through the NYPD, and 54,000 are issued through the Department of Transportation.
And that's not counting the state-issued placards for District Attorneys offices, state police, MTA police, the attorney general's office, and the Port Authority.
One of the bills would create a standardized application process for all of the city's placards, and gather information on how they are used to further the city's business.
The rest of the bills are aimed at ramping up enforcement: one would require the NYPD to conduct "at least 50 targeted enforcement sweeps each week," with the Department of Investigation ensuring that the department complies. Another would allow New Yorkers to use 311 to submit complaints and photos of illegally parked vehicles, and would force the city to respond when a bike lane, bus lane, crosswalk, sidewalk, or fire hydrant is blocked, and a third would mandate towing for those vehicles. While it is already illegal for city vehicles to block those five street elements, a fourth bill makes it illegal, again.
Speaker Johnson is co-sponsoring all the bills; other co-sponsors are Council Members Margaret Chin, Ritchie Torres, Robert Holden, and Keith Powers.
I’m going to end today’s tour here, in front of the Stuy Town leasing office, where a NYPD officer just parked in the bus lane and walked into a Dunkin Donuts. I’ll have a summary for you (and Manhattan CB6) later today. pic.twitter.com/YXBCpwd51J
— Rich Mintz (@richmintz) February 14, 2019
On Thursday morning, Rich Mintz, a member of Community Board 6 in Manhattan, biked along the bus lanes on Second and First Avenues as part of what he said was the board's effort to improve bus lane enforcement (another stated priority of the mayor's). Mintz found that they were blocked by 21 vehicles, 9 of which had parking placards.
"I watch the placard issue pretty carefully because I depend on the M23 and M15 SBS personally, and I haven't seen any change in enforcement," Mintz said of the mayor's 2017 announcement.
The M23 crawls along at an average speed of 4.3 mph, according to a recent report from the Comptroller's office.
Mintz says that he supports the new placard legislation, but added that he would go even further.
"Speaking for myself and not the board, I personally would like to see all the existing placards invalidated and a new system established that is not under the enforcement control of the police department," Mintz said. "Because in my opinion, the NYPD has not demonstrated it is willing to enforce the law against the members of the service."
Six of the vehicles Mintz observed blocking the bus lanes belonged to the NYPD or the City.
"The NYPD is reviewing the bills, including their operational impact and associated costs," Lieutenant John Grimpel, a spokesperson for the department, told Gothamist. "In 2017, the NYPD created a new placard unit comprised of 100 TEAs [Traffic Enforcement Agents] to increase enforcement, resulting in 54,608 placard-related summonses in 2018."
Seth Stein, a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio said that the administration is also reviewing the bills, and that the public will get an update on their efforts to crack down on placard abuse before the end of the month.
"The Mayor agrees that placard abuse erodes faith in government and has no place in our city," Stein said.