Parking in Queens—let alone in Manhattan—can bring about a special kind of infuriation. Avoiding tickets can be as trying. However, for many there are solutions—from handicap placards to police placards to government placards, nearly any parking permit can be counterfeit.
To combat counterfeit placards Councilman Dan Garodnick introduced legislation on February 2 that would add a barcode that can be scanned to verify authenticity. Garodnick originally wrote the bill because of parking issues in his own Manhattan district, but said that it’s a problem all around the city.
“We have plenty of placards in the city that are legitimate, but perhaps just as many that are created with a pair of scissors and a copy machine,” he said.
The technology to read the barcodes is already used by traffic enforcement officers, and barcodes would make their job easier.
“Enforcement agents need all of the tools available,” Garodnick said.
While Garodnick’s bill is a fresh effort to enforce the use of fake parking permits, the city has been pushing back on placard misuse for several years.
Transportation Alternatives, an advocate for biking, walking and public transit, has been visiting communities in support of Garodnick’s proposed legislation.
“We need to bring some reality back to the conversation. And this bill is an important part of moving this conversation forward,” said Deputy Director of Transportation Alternatives Noah Budnick. “Were talking to communities that are really bearing the burden of these counterfeit placard and doing what we can to support reform because it’s really an important issue.”
Transportation Alternatives released an independent report in 2006 called “Above the Law” that found 77 percent of commuters with government issued parking placards used them illegally. The Transportation Alternatives report mentioned a 2006 NYPD Environmental Impact Statement analyzing the area around One Police Plaza that found 1,217 illegally parked cars. Of those, 1,012 had city-issued permits.
The report also quoted Mayor Bloomberg from 2001: “Curb space is a valuable public resource. There may be as many as 100,000 on-street parking permits issued to city, state and federal employees, judges, diplomats, the press, etc. The fact that no one knows the exact number points to an aspect of this problem.”
As it turns out, Bloomberg’s estimation was off—the number was around 140,000 city-issued placards. Spokesperson Jason Post said the Mayor’s office has since brought that number down to 70,000 city-issued placards, a 50 percent decrease in parking permits.
Post also pointed toward the formation of the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau’s Vehicle Placard Unit as a step in the right direction. While ramping up the number of citations given to city employees abusing the parking placards, the department has not had success without problems.
Lt. Jemal Doute, head of the Vehicle Placard Unit, came under investigation in 2009 when a placard from his office turned up in a friend’s car. But even when the department is doing things right—such as towing illegally parked cars—police officers have cried foul. In March of 2010, the Daily News reported that NYPD Internal Affairs regularly towed unmarked police cars, leaving on-duty officers stranded—sometimes with handcuffed suspects.
The proposed legislation has garnered wide support in City Council. Nearly every Queens representative has voiced their support, with the exception of Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), who is waiting for a hearing on the bill before deciding how she would vote.
The Mayor’s office is also keeping quiet about the legislation. “We typically don’t comment on legislation until there is a hearing,” said Post.
Garodnick’s bill would give the city one year to make the necessary changes to parking placards. It’s currently being reviewed by staff of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, and will be scheduled for a hearing once the review is complete.
Transportation Alternatives expects to release a new report on parking placard misuse within the next few weeks.
Written By David Harvey