Feds take action against parking scofflaws after Express inquiry

Downtown Express photo by Nicolas Fernandes These vehicles were still blocking the sidewalk March 18 before Downtown Express called to find out why.

Downtown Express photo by Nicolas Fernandes
These vehicles were still blocking the sidewalk March 18 before Downtown Express called to find out why.

BY NICOLAS FERNANDES  |   Two vehicles that regularly blocked the sidewalk behind the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian were moved after an inquiry was made by Downtown Express.

A black Ford Excursion with a Texas license plate and a green Ford pickup from Maryland, typically parked on the Bridge St. sidewalk in front of the museum’s rear loading zone from Monday to Friday and sometimes on weekends, forcing pedestrians to step into the street to go around the trucks, said Gustavo Suarez, a neighborhood resident.

“It does not matter if I go by at 6 a.m. or 8 or 9 a.m. — it’s the same thing,” Suarez said.

The vehicles indeed were blocking the way when Downtown Express visited the site March 18.

Suarez had seen the trucks since July, when he started walking his dog in the neighborhood. After a few weeks of seeing them, he asked the museum guards why they were always there and they said they did not know.

After another few weeks, he filed a complaint to 311. They told him that police did not see any vehicles parked on the sidewalk, but since it was not an emergency, the police could have waited until evening to check the location.

Suarez also notified the First Precinct through their community web channel, but never received a response. He then complained to 311 a second time, but never heard from them again. His partner also reported it to 311 and never got a response.

“No one should have the right to commandeer public property in this way all the more in an area that is increasingly residential,” he said.  “Bad enough I have to step around them daily on the street with my dog.  What about someone with an infant in a stroller or carriage or someone that is disabled?”

The Excursion’s dashboard had a temporary parking permit issued by the U.S. General Services Administration, which manages federal office buildings, but the pickup had no permit or parking sticker.

Renee Miscione, G.S.A.’s spokesperson, told Downtown Express March 20  that, “We are going to alert the guards to keep an eye on any vehicles that are parked there for a long period of time.”

On March 25, the trucks were gone.

“This morning I walked my dog when I got home from the airport,” Suarez wrote in an email to Downtown Express.  “For the first time in 9 months on a week day— with virtually no exceptions — no trucks were blocking the sidewalk.  Amazing!

“It is a great illustration of the critical role community newspapers play in addressing local issues that would otherwise be ignored.”

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