Feb. 22, 2019 By Nathaly Pesantez
Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a much-anticipated plan yesterday that takes the next steps toward overhauling the “broken placard system” that has plagued New York City’s streets “for a long, long time,” with new technologies, a penalty system and a dedicated enforcement unit among the measures to be implemented.
The plan aims to phase out the use of physical, city-issued parking placards and replace them with a digital parking management system by 2021. The city will also enforce a three-strike policy against bad actors who misuse a placard, which will result in the placard’s permanent revocation.
Misuse, or fraudulent use of a placard would also count as a new and separate violation on top of a parking violation. A new Department of Transportation team would also be dedicated to enforcing placard rules, and will be dispatched to hot spots around the city first.
The administration will also work to set aside more parking for NYPD, FDNY and other uniformed members who often feel they have “no choice” but to park in unauthorized spots given the dearth of available spaces in the city, de Blasio said.
The plan is meant to do away with issues long seen with city-issued parking permits, which has emboldened many holders to park in places like bus and bike lanes, no standing zones and other unauthorized areas without fear of being ticketed.
“Placard abuse erodes faith in government and has no place in our city – it’s simply a question of fairness,” de Blasio said. “Misused and fraudulent placards increase congestion and pose a public safety risk. These initiatives give us the tools we need to start making a real dent in this pervasive issue, to help build a fairer city for all.”
To kick off the plan, the city will use stickers to replace DOT-issued placards by the end of 2019, pending the results of a placard sticker pilot currently in progress.
The pilot, its results expected this summer, is being conducted on 300 DOT-owned cars, where window stickers have replaced paper placards. The idea behind the program is to prevent placard-holders from moving the placard to a different, unauthorized car—a significant aspect of placard misuse, the city says.
The stickers are a lead in toward a new “Pay by Plate” system, which will phase out all physical placards issued by city agencies in two years time. In 2018, there were about 125,000 city-issued placards, with DOT issuing 50,000 and the NYPD issuing 44,000. The Department of Education gave out roughly 31,500.
The new parking management system will eventually integrate all parking meters, hand held enforcement devices and license plates, but as far as placards go, the system will be able to automatically detect if a car is in violation of rules.
Parking placard holders authorized to park at a given location will have the stipulations of the permit essentially registered to the car’s license plate, which can be scanned to quickly determine if the car is legally parked on site. The automatic function, according to the city, is also another way to eliminate discretion and confusion in placard enforcement.
The pay by plate system will cost $52 million, and include installation and new equipment costs.
The DOT and Department of Finance are also working to have the three-strike rule in place by this spring. The city will also advocate for Albany to raise the penalty for a placard violation from $50 to $250.
The new placard enforcement team will consist of 10 agents that will first target consistent problem areas in Lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn. The agents will be rolled out within one year, and will have the authority to ticket vehicles abuse placard rules or using fake placards.
“DOT looks forward to playing a key role in helping combat placard abuse, including moving towards a digital placard system and strengthening targeted enforcement,” said Polly Trottenberg, DOT Commissioner. “These initiatives are important steps towards a better regulated placard system and better curb management citywide.”
The mayor’s office is set to conduct an annual survey on the rate of illegal placard use in hotspots around the city to track the progress of the new plan.
The overhaul follows de Blasio’s 2017 initiative to begin cracking down on placard abuse. The city said there has been a 93 percent increase in police summons’ issued for illegal parking while displaying a placard since the announcement two years ago.
De Blasio, in a press conference yesterday, also vowed to do “whatever it takes” to find more parking spaces for uniformed service members, whether that be purchasing or leasing parking lots, garages, or designating more spaces on city streets.
“We ask them to protect us and we often ask them to come in at all hours a day as part of their job,” he said.
He added: There’s no place for a lot of our officers to park, just not enough parking, so they have to go where and they do their best.”
The mayor emphasized that the new plan will “make clear to city employees that we value them and we value their work, but we do not accept them breaking the law.”
The unveiled plan also comes as a group of council members introduced legislation earlier this month to crack down on placard abuse in a package that would create a standardized application process for permits; prohibit placard holders from parking in bike lanes bus lanes, crosswalks and similar areas except in emergencies; and tow vehicles with placards that are found to be blocking the designated areas.