“Where else am I supposed to park?”

It’s a big city, with a big municipal vehicle fleet, and a quarter of a million employees. Those vehicles and people all have to move around, which is why there are hundreds of thousands of official and unofficial parking placards floating around, which aim to give public employees permission to park in certain places ordinary people can’t—or at least to help them avoid consequences.

This is all out of control, and the official placard system is so extensively abused at this point that most placards you see on the street are fraudulent. Police officers and city employees park their personal and official vehicles in all sorts of places that are illegal, unsafe, extremely antisocial, or all of the above: in active bus lanes, in the safety margins of bike infrastructure, in pedestrian plazas, on sidewalks, on parkland, on every square inch of space around every block of concrete that holds up the BQE. We’re kind of surprised that no NYPD officer has parked on an active taxiway at La Guardia yet. (That we know of.)

And all sorts of people park illegally with talismans on their dashboards, like toy badges from the police union, orange construction vests, souvenir license plates that say NYPD, Blue Lives Matter decals, and other magical objects intended to say to the police, “hey, we’re one of you, cut us a break.” Enough of all this; it’s overrunning your neighborhood.

It’s time for public employees to stop behaving that they’re above the law and above the people they serve. On a more practical level, it’s time for them to stop acting like they’re entitled to park wherever they want. You can’t all drive to work, guys, and when you’re on the job, you can’t park your city car on the sidewalk. This isn’t that complicated.

What the law says: Even with your placard, you can’t just park wherever you like.

Both the law and the policy of city agencies (including the NYPD) expressly prohibit using a parking placard to park their personal vehicles in any of the following places:

  • in “no standing” or “no stopping” zones
  • in clear areas set aside by the DOT for safety or visibility
  • obstructing bike or bus lanes or bus stops
  • on the sidewalk or in pedestrian space or parkland
  • anywhere that common sense says is hazardous or unsafe

Basically: if you’re parked like an asshole, even with a parking placard, you’re doing it wrong.

There are common-sense exceptions, obviously, for people on duty with urgent public safety business. But “urgent public safety business” means “I’m resuscitating someone who is having a heart attack.” It doesn’t mean “I forgot my life insurance paperwork at the union hall” or “I’m late to work.”

This should be obvious, but: a laminated card printed by the FDNY union is not a parking permit. A toy badge is not a parking permit. An orange vest that says “NYPD” or “MTA” on it is not a placard. What is wrong with people?

What actually happens: Please, you know exactly what happens. It’s a shitshow.

In early 2019, a politically broad coalition of NYC councilmembers held a hearing about the problem of placard abuse. The NYPD public relations team lied on the public record about the extent of the problem and what was being done about it; pronouncements were pronounced by Corey Johnson; a package of thoughtful bills were introduced that might make a dent in the problem. What happened to those bills? Don’t ask us, we have no idea.

Has anything changed? A little, at the margins. Some precincts are a bit less likely to park in the bus lane (and more likely to park on the sidewalk). The frequency with which summonses are issued to illegally parked vehicles with fraudulent placards has increased, from “never” to “almost never.” But to our knowledge, virtually no one with a legitimate placard (or one of the quasi-legitimate ones issued by the NYPD outside the official system with no paper trail) is ever summonsed ever, no matter how egregiously they park.

And most significantly, around virtually every one of the hundreds of police precincts and courthouses and municipal office building and fire stations in NYC, and half of the public schools, cars are openly parked on the sidewalk. The police don’t even pretend to consider it a problem; outside most precincts, they’ve illegally spray-painted parking stalls on the sidewalk.

Time to rein this in, everyone. People live here. We deserve better than this.