Volume 21, Number 10 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN | July 18 - 24, 2008
City listens to placard complaints
By Julie Shapiro
Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler lent an ear to Civic Center residents last Friday to hear their concerns about placard parking.
The private meeting was part of the settlement of a lawsuit the residents filed about the city’s closure of Park Row. Skyler and the other officials who attended the meeting, though, did not do much more than listen, several residents said. Skyler stood behind the city’s current plan to deal with placards and expressed little interest in the alternatives the Civic Center Residents Coalition offered, the residents said.
Jeanie Chin, a longtime anti-placard advocate with the Civic Center Residents Coalition, had mixed feelings about the meeting. She appreciated the opportunity to talk to Skyler, but she was hoping he would be more flexible.
“We have to change the government culture of entitlement and the driving culture,” Chin said after the meeting. “If you have free parking, you have no incentive to take mass transit…. Why should our community suffer because [the city] wants to turn our streets into a commuter parking lot?”
Danny Chen, also of the Civic Center Residents Coalition, said the city’s crackdown on permits has helped some Chinatown streets, like Mott St., but he thinks the city needs to go further.
Chen proposed a new plan to fight placard abuse, which would replace paper placards with an electronic database to waive parking tickets.
“Placards create an atmosphere of exemption, like, ‘my car is untouchable,’” Chen said. That mindset leads government workers to abuse the placards, using them after hours and photocopying them for friends, he said. “Placards can reproduce better than rabbits,” he joked.
In contrast, Chen’s plan would do away with paper placards, leaving government and private cars indistinguishable to N.Y.P.D. officers issuing tickets. A database would track the government workers who need to park on the street, along with the specific times and locations where they are allowed to park. The database would link to the Department of Motor Vehicles system, erasing tickets government cars received at times and in places they were permitted to park.
Skyler and the other officials did not sound receptive to the idea, citing several problems with it, Chen said. They said they did not want a system that would remove the significance of parking tickets, since even legally parked government cars would get tickets under the plan.
At the meeting, the residents repeated their request that the city move police headquarters out of Lower Manhattan, taking the street closures and police placards with them. In addition, the residents want civilian representatives on the city panel that is addressing placard abuse, along with permanent signage in the no-permit zone that blankets much of Lower Manhattan. The officials listened to these requests but said nothing in response, Chin said.
Skyler promised to meet with the residents again in January to continue the discussion. Other attendees included Steven Weber, assistant commissioner for strategic planning at D.O.T.; Michael Farrell, deputy commissioner of strategic initiatives for the N.Y.P.D.; and Daniel Greene and Chris Reo from the city Law Department.
The meeting was the second to follow the settlement of the Civic Center Residents Coalition’s lawsuit about the closure of Park Row. At the first meeting, held last month, the residents requested the N.Y.P.D. move Police Plaza’s northern security barrier 125 feet to the south, allowing cars to freely enter the Chatham Green parking lot.
At the meeting, the police held fast to the line they’ve taken over the past several years, saying they would not consider the move because it would compromise security. Since the police took such a hard line, the meeting was “less cordial” than the more recent one, Chen said.
This week, Chin tried to stay upbeat about the progress on placards, but she also sounded frustrated and tired.
“I don’t want to fight this battle over and over again,” she said.