Councilmember Stephen Levin (D-Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Downtown Brooklyn, Dumbo, Fulton Ferry, Greenpoint, Vinegar Hill, Williamsburg) and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon (D-Gowanus, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope), yesterday, called for an end to the inadequate enforcement of parking regulations.
The lawmakers stood in cooperation with Deputy Director Marco Conner DiAquoi of Transportation Alternatives Brooklyn and Regina Myer of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership on the corner of Jay and Johnson Streets in downtown Brooklyn specifically to protest local authorities’ placard abuse of bike lanes and pedestrian spaces.
“COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of open and safe streets, but long-standing issues of placard abuse are putting New Yorkers at risk. Until we stop illegal parking in bike lanes and sidewalks, additional infrastructure will just become parking lots for vehicles,” said Levin.
The disregard for bike lanes and crosswalks by vehicles with city placards flouting safety and parking regulations is a danger to us all and has been an issue in Downtown Brooklyn for years, said Levin, as he points to two black cars sitting in the bike lane behind him. “That sign means what it says, ‘No stopping anytime,’ and that’s because this is a bike lane,” said Levin. “You can’t park here. Move your damn car.”
He said he’s had his own car towed plenty of times during his time in city council.
“We’ve had a proliferation of bogus permits for years,” said Simon. “There’s been an ongoing culture of law enforcement never ticketing anybody in a sister agency.”
Because of this they also called for the removal of placard enforcement by the NYPD and a significant reduction in city-issued placards so that more people can enjoy the downtown Brooklyn area. Levin suggested the Department of Transportation (DOT) either take over or they evaluate a more aggressive system, and that they are currently drafting legislation to do so.
“They should be parking in legitimate spaces or taking [public] transportation like the rest of us. The reality is enforcement is difficult. It makes you feel bad to give a ticket to another cop or firefighter,” said Simon.
Levin said resolutely the parking placard abuse legislation passed by city council was not enough. The legislative package of bills from 2019 was intended to crack down on the abuse of city-issued parking permits, unofficial and counterfeit permits, and blocking bike and bus lanes, in an attempt to rein in placard abuse and build on preceding bills from 2018 that created tracking systems and fines for any offenses.
In 2018, a dedicated computer engineer and cyclist named Alex Bell, created an algorithm and using traffic cameras studied how often just one New York City street bus lane was blocked, reported the New York Times. Bell’s preliminary findings said that over the course of 10 days, “the bus stop was blocked 57 percent of the time, while the bike lanes were blocked 40 percent of the time.”
“I love living and working in downtown Brooklyn, but I also feel like I’m putting my life in danger,” said Brooklyn Heights resident Rachael Thompson.
According to Crashmapper, there were 638 total crashes, resulting in 2 deaths and 869 injuries from August 2019 to July 2020 in Levin’s 33rd Council District. The cited contributing factors for the crashes included driver inattention, improper passing or lane usage, obstruction of view, and in a few cases, obstruction and debris in general.
“We’ve been working so hard to make downtown Brooklyn a great place for everybody,” said Myer, “I believe the health crisis really accentuated how much we need these spaces and sidewalks to stay safe.”
“What we’re forgetting now is that healthcare workers have the longest commute anywhere in the city,” said DiAquoi of transportation of essential workers during the COVID crisis that also used bikes, buses, and trains to service the city. “About one hour on average.”
DiAquoi said because of that and for sheer safety reasons we should do better. It’s not just a matter of convenience, he said.