StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on Misuse of Placards and Illegal Parking

StreetsPAC gave the following testimony yesterday at the New York City Council Committee on Transportation's hearing on legislation aimed at curtailing the misuse of placards and illegal parking:

Illegal parking, and the misuse and abuse of parking placards, causes significant problems for New York City, so we’re grateful that the Council has introduced legislation to address these vexing issues, and is holding today’s hearing to discuss them. Coupled with recent initiatives announced by the Mayor, we’re hopeful that these efforts can begin to put a dent in the problem.

Illegal parking and placard abuse have numerous negative consequences. Obstruction of crosswalks, sidewalks and bike lanes puts the safety of our most vulnerable street users at risk, often gravely. Illegal parking in bus lanes disrupts commutes, and inconveniences dozens of passengers at a time. Blocked access to fire hydrants is a potential catastrophe every time it happens.

Furthermore, the prevalence of the misuse of placards, let alone their legal proliferation, incentivizes driving that adds to congestion. And we shouldn’t overlook the effect that placard abuse has in eroding the public’s faith and trust in government.

The “Placard Corruption” Twitter account has put a spotlight on the problem of placard abuse, and misusers of parking permits provide a seemingly never-ending supply of material. We support Intro 1393-2019, which would require the weekly evaluation of sites prone to misuse of permits and illegal parking, though we have reservations about having NYPD take the lead on data collection. Since evaluating the problem wouldn’t require immediate enforcement, we would urge that the work be done by another agency, given the degree to which placard misuse seems to be done by police officers.

We also support the intent behind Intro 1394-2019, which would prohibit the illegal parking of city vehicles except in emergencies. These vehicles, however, don’t park themselves, and we believe that the legislation needs to outline consequences for city employees who might park vehicles in violation of the rules.

The same is true for Intro 1395-2019, which would require 311 to accept complaints and photographic evidence regarding misuse of permits and illegal parking. Without explicit consequences for the city employees responsible for such actions, we’re unsure of how effective such prohibitions might be. Illegal parking has consequences for those who have to avoid or deal with it, and it should have consequences for those who perpetrate it.

We strongly support Intro 1412-2019, which would require the towing of any vehicle blocking a sidewalk, crosswalk, fire hydrant, bike lane or bus lane. Towing is a real consequence that would undoubtedly create a much stronger incentive for people to avoid illegal behavior, than would summonses alone. Given the significant potential for improving the safety of pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists, as well as for improving conditions for bus riders, we urge the expeditious passage of this legislation.

Lastly, we also strongly support Intro 1422-2019, which would standardize the process of applying for, and granting, city-issued parking permits, and increase transparency around the issuance of placards. The process outlined by this legislation would make the misuse of permits more difficult, and the civil penalties for misuse would create a real consequence for placard abusers. We urge quick passage and implementation of this legislation.

The ultimate solution to reducing the misuse of placards and their role in illegal parking is for the city to significantly reduce the number of parking permits that it issues. We hope that the Council will take up such an effort, and explore ways to incentivize city personnel to use public transit rather than drive. We’d all be better off as a result.

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