Volume 17 • Issue 36 | February 4 - 10, 2005

Police parking once again draws residents’ ire

Downtown Express photo by Dave Sanders
Pedestrians walk by as parked cars owned by police personnel block part of Frankfort St.

By Ronda Kaysen

Most cops don’t approve of cars touching curbs, but cars on top of curbs is another story — so long as the car is one of theirs.

Employees working at One Police Plaza park their personal cars in creative locations — including atop city sidewalks, in front of public bus stops and on traffic islands — in the surrounding Civic Center neighborhood, according to Community Board 1 officials. With vehicles outfitted with N.Y.P.D. permits, usually the cars go un-ticketed and unchecked.

“These are people that show total disregard for the needs of pedestrians and bus riders,” said Paul Goldstein, C.B. 1’s district manager. “We’re not being unreasonable here. We’re not trying to get rid of all of the unauthorized parking. We’re just trying to say this is way over the line. I would love to see these people’s reaction if someone drove in their neighborhood and parked on their lawn.”

In an effort to put a stop to what Goldstein says is an escalating problem, the board made a presentation at its Jan. 11 Seaport/Civic Center Committee meeting, calling on city officials to step up enforcement of the city’s parking laws. The problem, he insists, has worsened since the parking violations moved to the bottom of the board’s post-9/11 list of priorities. Now, after a long silence, the issue has gotten the board’s attention.

“Since 9/11, we really laid back a bit, but we’re getting too many complaints now,” said Goldstein.

The most egregious offenders, says Goldstein, are the One Police Plaza employees. “Go out there at 5:30 p.m. and you’ll see all the people coming out of police headquarters and getting into those cars and driving off,” he said. “These are people who are working at headquarters who are given permits.”

The N.Y.P.D. begs to differ. The neighborhood is full of city, state and federal employees, including those working at nearby City Hall and the many courthouses, according to Lieutenant Eugene White, a police spokesperson. “I’m not trying to pass the buck here, but it could be anybody,” he said.

White, speaking from his One Police Plaza offices, is not entirely convinced there’s much of a problem at all. “I’m looking out my window right now and I don’t see any cars illegally parked anywhere.” Even with a N.Y.P.D.-issued permit, a driver cannot park on a sidewalk, block a hydrant or occupy any other illegal space, he noted. As far as he could tell, parking had improved — not worsened — in recent years.

After Sept. 11, C.B. 1 pushed to help secure a 400-spot parking lot on Avenue of the Finest for the exclusive use of the N.Y.P.D., says Goldstein. Now nearly complete and partially in use, the additional parking at the former municipal garage does not appear to have alleviated the parking congestion. Parts of Park Row, Beekman, Frankfort and Gold Sts. are overrun with illegally parked cars. Police closed the garage in the summer of 2001 to build a 911 calling center, but after 9/11, decided the emergency center should be further from police headquarters and that it was not safe to have public parking nearby either.

Goldstein is not confident the committee’s recent presentation to mid-level police officials will be effective at all. Change, he says, will only come with orders from the top.

“The commissioner needs to get involved and indicate that this degree of violation of the rules is unacceptable,” he said of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, a Lower Manhattan resident. “When we’ve had parking problems, the only time they’ve been addressed is when the commissioner got involved.” So far, Goldstein has not heard any response from Kelly.

Gary Fagin, a Water St. resident and former C.B. 1 member, remembers his years as chairperson of the Civic Center/Seaport Committee in the late 1990s, when illegally parked vehicles were a persistent problem. The police department, he says, was unresponsive. So long as sidewalks exist close to One Police Plaza, says Fagin, the problem will not abate. “They have absolutely no interest investigating anything that means they would have to park legally further away from where they work,” he said.

Lieut. White however, thinks the city’s parking enforcement laws are sufficient to handle any illegally parked vehicles. If Goldstein and anyone else sees illegally parked cars, White suggests they make a call to 311, the city’s non-emergency hotline.


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