Fall 2003, p.2

Provocateur: Selfish, Unfair Parking Scam Hurts New York City

Free parking for city employees is absurd. It clogs streets, penalizes truckers and endangers bicyclists

Caught in the act! Every day, government employees park on the sidewalk of the small pedestrian island near the Manhattan entrance to the Manhattan Bridge. Illegal? Yes. Ticketed? No.
Caught in the act! Every day, government employees park on the sidewalk of the small pedestrian island near the Manhattan entrance to the Manhattan Bridge. Illegal? Yes. Ticketed? No.

What is wrong with an unattended, double parked truck getting a ticket for $115? Nothing, unless the truck is near a police precinct, firehouse or government building in the city. In these places, the private cars of policemen, firemen, teachers and other government employees park everywhere, including on the sidewalks. The vehicles of city employees block commercial vehicle driver access to the curb on hundreds of busy New York City blocks, forcing commercial drivers to double park. When city employees obstruct commercial drivers, they also endanger bicyclists and slow emergency vehicles. That is right: Free parking for cops and firemen keeps those same cops and firemen from getting swiftly to emergencies.

Abused, abundant and absurd, the 110,000 parking permits held by government employees in New York City encourages them to drive to work, and then park illegally. The obvious abuse of government parking permits has caught the eye of City Hall, which has worked to reduce permit parking in Lower Manhattan and negotiated an end to permit parking for teachers. But even the mayor does not seem to be able to do much about police and fire department employees. The police, who control the Parking Enforcement Division, which does most of the ticketing, also blatantly park their private vehicles in bus stops, bus lanes, on sidewalks and in front of fire hydrants; parking in these places would result in a stiff fine and a towed car for the average driver. Last year, the police union called the illegal parking a "courtesy" to which emergency workers are entitled.

A recent study of government permit parking in Downtown Brooklyn commissioned by Councilmember David Yassky and the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association found that:

  • 80% of government permit holders used their permits illegally.
  • 70% did not pay into parking meters.
  • 50% of available meters were taken by permit holders.
  • 40% of cars with permits were parked all day, suggesting an overuse of the right.
  • 10% of the government permits had expired.
  • 30% of permits were bogus (usually photocopied).

The worst offenders were court workers, the NYPD, the Department of Correction and the Transit Authority.

Nearly half of the permit users at meters in Downtown Brooklyn were illegal, costing the city nearly $80,000 a year in revenue.

In addition to creating traffic and safety problems, providing permits to select government employees also creates a sense of unfairness and ultimately reduces public respect for government authority and the law. Public employees should be rewarded with good salaries and the respect of the public. Free parking permits are very costly to the economy and welfare of the city because of the traffic congestion that they create. If the City gives a substantial raise to public employees, it should make the elimination of parking permits a condition of the raise.

Caught in the act! Every day, government employees park on the sidewalk of the small pedestrian island near the Manhattan entrance to the Manhattan Bridge. Illegal? Yes. Ticketed? No.

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