CB1 Takes Aim at Illegal Parking and Seizure of Public Space by Government Employees
In spite of a putative (and now cancelled) crackdown on placard abuse, dozens of illegally parked cars bearing law enforcement placards remain on River Terrace each day.
In a pair of resolutions enacted at its September meeting, Community Board 1 (CB1) is voicing frustration at the rampant local abuse of parking privileges by government officials, especially police officers.
In the first measure, CB1 notes that there are more than 125,000 placards (credentials displayed in a windshield, identifying the vehicle as belonging to a City employee) in circulation, which public officials use not only for official business, but “for commutation or personal outings.”
The resolution also observes that, “the economic value of a single placard for parking is at least five hundred dollars a month per NYPD officer, which amounts to six thousand dollars in annual untaxed income per placard,” which, “robs the city of revenue” and “prevents the safe and efficient flow of vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle traffic.”
This resolution comes in the wake of a decision by the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to disband two separate enforcement units that were tasked with cracking down on placard abuse. The move was justified by the budget constraints imposed by the economic downturn that has followed the pandemic coronavirus. It may also have been inspired by the fact that these units (which spent a combined total of more than $6.2 million) succeeded in revoking fewer than a dozen placards in more than a year of operation.
To supersede the failed clampdown, City Hall will roll out in 2021 a new system of scannable decals that are slated to replace placards, at an estimated cost of $52 million. But, as the CB1 resolution notes, “although Pay-by-Plate decals will allow the Traffic Enforcement Agents to use scanners to seamlessly verify and ticket, their past failure to ticket other City workers suggests that the agents are unlikely to scan the new decals.”
Recalling that, “no changes or relief have occurred,” even though “CB1 included placard enforcement as a priority budget item in FY 2020 and 2021 and started requesting a reduction in the number of placards in 2008,” the resolution urges that, “clear consequences, including a change in the responsible City department, be created for a failure to enforce Pay-by-Plate, or any other placard enforcement program.”
A second resolution, also enacted at CB1’s September meeting, decries the use of so-called “frozen zones” around police precincts — created ostensibly to provide security for police department vehicles during recent civil unrest — as private (and free) parking lots for the personal vehicles that officers take to and from work.
“CB1 is concerned that the NYPD and Transit D2,” the Lower Manhattan command post for officers who patrol the subways, “are using these zones for personal parking, abusing the public right of way.” The same measure notes that, “CB1 has not received any information at all from NYPD or NYPD Transit District 2 with regards to seizing the areas to create frozen zones around the First Precinct,” and that “NYPD is unable to confirm any time frames or alternate solutions to the seizure of public space.”
The resolution concludes by insisting that, “the Mayor’s Office, NYPD First Precinct and NYPD Transit District 2 release the public space that they have seized,” within Lower Manhattan.
For those who lack the official (but extra-legal) privilege of leaving their cars wherever they please, parking unlawfully in Lower Manhattan is an expensive proposition. The average price of a parking ticket in Battery Park City is $101, which is tied for the highest anywhere in the five boroughs, according to a 2017 study by SpotAngels (a smartphone app that offers users real-time data about available street parking options nearby).
According to the study, the Financial District is the most hostile environment for parkers anywhere in the five boroughs, with an average of 25 tickets written for each parking space every year, and each space subsidizing City government with about $2,219 per year. (This is more than twice the average for Manhattan as a whole, where each parking space disgorges an average of $1,093 in annual revenue.) In FiDi, this amounts to 118,289 violations written every 12 months. With an average fine of $89.10 per ticket, these summonses contribute an annual $10,537,000 to municipal revenue.
In Tribeca, the outlook is only slightly less grim. In that neighborhood, every parking space is the location for 18 violations per year, ringing up an additional $1,559 on the municipal cash register. This totals some 71,215 annual tickets for the community as a whole, with an average price $87.60, yielding $6,236,236 in funds for the City.
And if parking in Lower Manhattan is generally difficult, within Battery Park City, it borders on the impossible. The neighborhood is, in statistical terms, the most parking-deprived community in the five boroughs of New York City. With a residential population of more than 13,000 (and another 10,000 reporting here for work each day), it has just 201 parking spaces available to the public, of which 58 are metered and 143 are unregulated, except by alternate-side parking rules. (These figures come from a City Department of Transportation study, issued in 2008, the last year for which detailed numbers are available.) While there is ample curb space within the community’s 92 acres (enough for more than 1,600 parking spaces), 59 percent of it falls within zones that are signed “no standing” (785 spaces) and “no parking” (581 spaces). Much of the rest is set aside for commercial vehicles, buses, and vehicles displaying government placards.
But these restrictions are of little concern to the owners of dozens of vehicles parked each day on the west side of River Terrance, adjacent to Rockefeller Park. This quarter-mile length of roadway is subject to the City’s most stringent curbside ban, with signs reading, “No Stopping, No Standing, No Parking.”
And for anybody who lacks a placard, those signs should be taken literally: traffic enforcement officers regularly sweep along River Terrance, and place summonses on vehicles not displaying official credentials. But almost all do have the equivalent of a get-out-of-jail-free card: There is ample (but illegal) space for more than 50 vehicles on River Terrace, and each day, nearly all of those spots are filled, and the cards in them go un-ticketed.
Most of these vehicles appear to belong to officers assigned to the New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), an arm of the Drug Enforcement Administration that is headquartered at 250 Vesey Street, in Brookfield Place. Because this office, which brings together more than 100 officers from a dozen-plus City, State, and federal agencies, conducts sensitive, undercover investigations, it must conceal from public view the vehicles it uses for actual law enforcement operations. For this reason, OCDETF pays for 130 parking spaces in an underground garage within 250 Vesey Street.
The vehicles parked on River Terrace appear not to be used for any official purpose. Rather, they are used by officers driving between their homes and the OCDETF office at Brookfield Place. During a 2018 meeting with CB1 officials, convened to address illegal parking by law enforcement personnel in Battery Park City, a New York Police Department commander was blunt about this, telling CB1 members that the officers at OCDETF required many dozens of street parking spaces, “for commutation purposes.”
If It’s Tuesday, This Must be Compost Day
New Weekly Compost Drop-Off Site Opens Downtown
Lower Manhattan’s City Council representative Margaret Chin (third from left) drops her compost material at Bowling Green on Tuesday, October 20.
Outside of Battery Park City, there aren’t many places in Lower Manhattan to drop off your compost material. But now, downtowners can bring their vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds and egg shells to the Bowling Green Greenmarket on Tuesday mornings. After 10am, the material will be picked up by Earth Matter staffers and brought to a composting facility on Governors Island.
Composting—separating organic material from garbage to be recycled and broken down into a nutrient-rich soil enhancer instead of decaying in landfill—is one of the easiest ways for individuals to take meaningful action in addressing climate change. And composting is easy: it’s not messy or smelly, and you don’t need a special bucket (although Bed Bath & Beyond does sell such things). Just keep a bag in your freezer and add to it each day.
The Earth Matter compost program accepts fruits, vegetables, coffee, dried flowers and plants, as well as eggshells, tea, nuts, bread, grains and pasta. Please, no meat, fish, dairy, pet waste, wood, paper, metal, glass, plastic, diapers, or medical waste.
Join historian Alfreda Murck as she guides guests through Poster House’s exhibition The Sleeping Giant: Posters & the Chinese Economy, focusing on posters produced during the Mao era. She will unpack these dynamic works of graphic design, exploring elements of politics, famine, and warfare that led to the Cultural Revolution. This is a unique opportunity to examine and discuss these pieces with a leader in the field. Free
In Tudor City: Manhattan’s Historic Residential Enclave, Lawrence R. Samuel recounts the history of Midtown Manhattan’s “urban Eden.” Created by the innovative developer Fred F. French from 1925 to 1929, Tudor City is arguably the world’s first skyscraper apartment complex was and remains an idyllic enclave of neo-Tudor towers, parks, and quiet. Longtime resident Samuels traces the development of the Tudor City neighborhood over the decades to the present day. Free
These are precious days for monarch butterflies embarking on three-thousand-mile-trips in their annual migration to Mexico—and for humans privileged to see them. With Lower Manhattan on the monarch flyway, the gardeners of the Battery Park City Authority, Liberty Community Gardens, Hudson River Park and the Battery Conservancy have planted milkweed in recent years, an offering to these delicate yet amazingly hardy creatures, who rely on this plant’s nectar for strength and nourishment.
A Veteran Poll Worker and Community Leader Reflects on a Moment When the Franchise Is More Confounding Than Usual
Longtime Battery Park City resident Bob Schneck has always looked for ways to serve—whether as a member of Community Board 1, or a poll worker or an activist for more than a decade.
Asked to reflect on what drives him to show up at local voting locations before 5:00 am each Election Day, and stay until 10:00 pm, he says, “I see it is a civic responsibility, plus I get a rush out of it. It is a wonderful chance to meet the neighbors and fellow poll workers each year.”
“The challenge is that this work is extremely difficult and demanding,” he reflects. “And it needs to be delivered 100 percent. Poll workers put in almost 17 hours, with three minimal breaks. But overall, it is a system that works reasonably well.”
While hundreds of Lower Manhattan restaurants have shuttered as a result of the pandemic coronavirus (and dozens of these have announced that they will never reopen), one operator has gamely chosen to open his doors for the first time, instead. Last week, City Winery debuted its new flagship location, on Pier 57, within the Hudson River Park (near the intersection of West 15th Street and the waterfront).
With 32,000 square feet in floor space, City Winery is one of New York’s largest restaurants. Originally slated to open in April, but rescheduled for October as a result of COVID-19, the current (truncated) 200-seat indoor capacity will be complemented by another 70 seats on an outdoor deck, overlooking the Hudson, which are likely to prove handy in the era of socially distanced dining. (When pandemic precautions end, however, the facility will be able to host more than 900 people.) But the true specialty of the house is wine: the list of more than 1,000 bottles (from a dozen-plus nations) easily makes the new location the most capacious wine bar in the City.
State Judge Halts Planned Transfer of Homeless Men to FiDi Hotel
In a dramatic reversal of a previous ruling, New York State Supreme Court Justice Debra James on Monday afternoon granted a temporary restraining order barring the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio from implementing its plan to begin moving homeless men into a Financial District hotel—a transfer that was slated to start on Monday.
The last-minute motion, filed on Monday morning by attorney Michael S. Hiller, acting on behalf of the homeless men who were scheduled to be transferred to the Radisson New York Wall Street (located at 52 William Street), argues that planned move “would have a devastating effect on the lives and well-being of the Lucerne Residents.”
Shades of ‘Stand Back and Stand By’ In Staged Reading of 1930s Cautionary Tale
A collaboration between nine highly regarded theater companies will offer a staged reading of “It Can’t Happen Here,” a play based on Sinclair Lewis’s classic 1935 novel about fascism coming to America.
The Harbor House Restaurant on Pier A has shut down, with no definite plan to reopen. A spokesman for the Battery Park City Authority says that agency, “is working with all relevant parties to determine a path forward.”
This distress (which predates the restaurant-industry woes triggered by the pandemic coronavirus and the economic slowdown that followed) was highlighted in December, 2018. To read more…
A Lament for Local Luncheonettes
Losses and Closures Mount Among Downtown Dining Spots
A new report from State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli documents the impact of the ongoing pandemic coronavirus on the restaurant industry in Lower Manhattan.
In this report, Mr. DiNapoli finds, there were 1,981 operating restaurants and bars before the pandemic began, which places Lower Manhattan behind only the Chelsea/Clinton/Midtown Business District PUMA area, with 2,661 such establishments. (Together, these two areas account for nearly 40 percent of the City’s restaurant jobs.) To read more…
Quay to Success
Pier 26 Opens with Amenities Galore
The tally of great public spaces in Lower Manhattan has increased by one. Last Wednesday, the Hudson River Park Trust officially opened Pier 26 in Tribeca (near Hubert Street), the product of a decade-plus of planning and construction, and a $37-million budget.
The result is 2.5 acres of woodland forest, coastal grassland, maritime scrub, and a rocky tidal zone—all culminating in a breathtaking view of the Hudson River. Additionally included in the design are a multi-use recreation field and a spacious sunning lawn, as well as boardwalks and seating areas. To read more…
TODAY IN HISTORY
740 – An earthquake strikes Constantinople and the surrounding countryside, causing destruction to the city’s land walls and buildings.
1774 – The first Continental Congress adjourns in Philadelphia.
1775 – King George III of Great Britain goes before Parliament to declare the American colonies in rebellion, and authorizes a military response to quell the American Revolution.
1776 – Benjamin Franklin departs from America for France on a mission to seek French support for the American Revolution.
1825 – The Erie Canal opens: Passage from Albany, New York to Lake Erie.
1936 – The first electric generator at Hoover Dam goes into full operation.
1958 – Pan American Airways makes the first commercial flight of the Boeing 707 from New York City to Paris, France.
1967 – Mohammad Reza Pahlavi crowns himself Emperor of Iran and then crowns his wife Farah Empress of Iran.
2001 – The United States passes the USA PATRIOT Act into law.
2002 – Moscow theater hostage crisis: Approximately 50 Chechen terrorists and 150 hostages die when Russian Spetsnaz storm a theater building in Moscow, which had been occupied by the terrorists during a musical performance three days before.
1609 – William Sprague, English-American settler, co-founded Charlestown, Massachusetts (d. 1675)
1854 – C. W. Post, American businessman, founded Post Foods (d. 1914)
1874 – Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, American philanthropist, founded the Museum of Modern Art (d. 1948)
1916 – François Mitterrand, French lawyer and politician, 21st President of France (d. 1996)
1947 – Hillary Clinton, 67th Secretary of State
1951 – Julian Schnabel, American painter, director, and screenwriter