Two new bills would nix 60K parking placards and pay New Yorkers to snitch on illegal use
“Placard parking is a much bigger problem than most people understand because it creates a special privileged class that undermines trust in government,” said Danny Pearlstein, policy and communications director at the Riders Alliance. “The ultimate challenge is that it’s not just the legal placards themselves, which are bad enough, but the ubiquity of placards that has created a sense that anyone can park illegally if they have a nifty prop in their windshield.”
A second bill introduced by Restler would create a civilian enforcement program, enabling New Yorkers to report those who illegally clog the city’s streets to the city DOT. The measure would also create a new $175 penalty for each violation. Parking vigilantes would receive 25% of any fines collected by the city.
The mechanism is intended to bypass the Police Department, said Restler, and it has a precedent. An enforcement program run by the Department of Environmental Protection relies on civilian complaints to crack down on idling trucks, and it gives them a slice of any penalties issued.
“We need to empower New Yorkers to ensure that our city workers are following the law,” said Restler, who has declined the privilege of a placard. “Unfortunately, some of the most flagrant abusers have been police officers, and so there has been negligible enforcement against the NYPD and other city workers.”
Former Mayor Bill de Blasio put forward several initiatives to deter drivers from using fake and misusing real placards, but those have largely fizzled because of a lack of enforcement.
Since taking office, Mayor Eric Adams has done little on placard abuse and has said there are more pressing city issues. As Brooklyn borough president, he infamously refused to direct his staff to stop abusing their placards to park on pedestrian plazas and sidewalks.
City Hall and the DOT did not return requests for comment.
The legislation has support from a vocal coalition of transportation advocates. Danny Harris, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, called placard abuse “city-approved corruption” and said his organization supported the bills. Similarly, Eric McClure, executive director of Streets PAC, described the issue as “an indefensible practice” and said that his group planned to push for the bills to become law.
Restler recognizes that curbing the misuse of parking placards may seem relatively mundane compared to other city issues but stresses that it is perhaps one of the simplest to resolve.
“We have many urgent crises in New York City from gun violence to climate to reproductive justice, and I don’t think placard abuse quite rises to that level, but it is one of the easiest problems to solve,” Restler said. “The solution is self-evident that we just need to revoke these damn placards and return our streets to our communities.”