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Volume 20, Number 30 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | December 7 - 13, 2007

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HELSEA PIERS


Downtown Express photo by Jefferson Siegel

Cars with permit placards illegally parked on Murray St.

It’s not just Chinatown — parking abuse in B.P.C. too

By Julie Shapiro

Along no standing zones, in front of fire hydrants and across sidewalks, cars with government-issued permits are parking illegally in Battery Park City.

Illegal placard parking is a widely recognized problem in Chinatown and near City Hall, and now, with the chaos from the World Trade Center construction, residents are noticing a bigger problem in Battery Park City as well. The permits give government employees some leeway with parking regulations when they are on official business, but permit holders are never allowed to park in no stopping or no standing zones.

“It’s been going on ever since Battery Park City existed,” said Linda Belfer, chairperson of Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee. “It may be worse now because of what’s going on across the street, but there’s always been a very limited number of legal parking spaces.”

In Chinatown and the City Hall area, most of the illegal placard parking is by government employees driving to work, but in B.P.C. it appears to be residents who use their government jobs for free parking.

The most common place to see cars with placards parked illegally is in the eastern curve of the Rector Place oval, Belfer said. The hairpin bend on Rector Place is a no standing zone, but cars regularly park there for hours.

“Fire trucks have not been able to get through because the bend narrows the street,” Belfer said. “Ambulances and fire trucks need to pass through there.”

Anthony Notaro, a B.P.C. Committee member, sees the same cars over and over, using the same illegal spots.

“You just get the sense that it’s not for business when you see the same car day in and day out,” he said. Since Battery Park City is a residential neighborhood, Notaro doubts that there are so many vehicles on official business.

Lack of enforcement is also part of the problem.

“For the most part, [the police] ignore it,” Notaro said of illegal permit parking. It could be difficult for police to tell which cars regularly park illegally, since they don’t patrol the same spots at the same time each day, Notaro said. Still, he thinks police should be more vigilant, especially regarding cars parked overnight.

In a “No Standing Anytime” zone on Murray St. between North End Ave. and West St., Nohar Singh was recently looking at yet another ticket on his navy pickup truck. Singh, a hoist technician for Regional Scaffolding and Hoisting, parks there almost every day, because he can’t find any other spots. Asked where he works, Singh pointed toward the Goldman Sachs construction at Murray and West Sts.

Singh gets a ticket three to four times a week, and he feels even worse when he sees all the other cars lining the street, many with N.Y.P.D. permits.

“The cop cars, they don’t ticket,” said Singh, who is frustrated by what he sees as special treatment. “They never get a ticket.”

That afternoon, one of the cars on Murray St. had an N.Y.P.D. permit that wasn’t even valid — the license plate displayed on the blue placard did not match the license plate of the car.

Some vehicles display illegally photocopied permits, including a few with dubious titles. One resident spotted permits proclaiming the nonexistent “New York City District Attorney” and the unlikely “Secret Service.”

“Most of Community Board 1 is a no-permit area, and yet wherever you look, you see vehicles with these permits,” said John Fratta, chairperson of C.B. 1’s Seaport/Civic Center Committee. “It’s a real annoyance, and something that needs to be dealt with.”

“The problem is centered in Downtown Manhattan,” said Wiley Norvell, communications director at Transportation Alternatives. “There’s not a single street where this abuse isn’t happening.”

Approximately 150 agencies have permits, Norvell said, and Transportation Alternatives estimates that 150,000 permits have been issued citywide.

“It’s a case of rampant bad government,” Norvell said.

The Department of Transportation issued 8,198 yearly permits to city agencies in 2007, said spokesperson Craig Chin. The police and fire departments, along with the court system, issue their own permits separately.

Transportation Alternatives supports a bill in the City Council this year that would require the city to take an inventory of the permits and reduce the number issued.

Norvell is also awaiting results of a $400,000 study undertaken by the Department of Transportation on parking problems in general. The study was scheduled to come out this fall, but “We’re still collecting and analyzing data,” said Ted Timbers, spokesperson for the D.O.T. He does not have a projected release date.

Transportation Alternatives launched the Web site uncivilservants.org last spring to draw attention to illegal permit parking. Users have posted hundreds of pictures and descriptions of illegally parked cars. The site generates discussion, and even attracts the attention of agencies whose employees are shamed, Norvell said.

In a 2006 study, Transportation Alternatives found that three-quarters of placard holders used them illegally and that government employees commute by car at twice the rate of everyone else. So, cracking down on the number of permits could do a lot to easy congestion on city streets, Norvell said.

Several people noted that while construction around Battery Park City is already exacerbating illegal permit parking, the newly constructed office buildings would bring even more government workers to the area.

“The situation may get even worse,” said Barry Skolnick, a B.P.C. Committee member. In addition to an influx of government workers, the new buildings will also bring in visitors, all of whom will need a place to park.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed legislation on Wednesday that would put all parking restrictions in an online database, searchable by block. Bloomberg has also called for an overhaul of placard parking in the past.

On a recent afternoon, James Davis was sitting in the passenger seat of a Sanitation Dept. car parked in a no standing zone on Murray St. Davis, a laborer for the Laquilla Construction Company, hadn’t picked the spot and said he was waiting for his friend.

Traffic cops never ticket official cars, Davis said. “As long as they have a placard in the window, they ain’t going to give them no ticket.”


Julie@DowntownExpress.com





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