NEW YORK—New York City's parking spaces are a coveted commodity. Finding a place to park a reasonable distance from one's destination—a shop, restaurant or a bank—might prove to be a herculean task.
This is not only due to congestion, many of the parking spaces in the city are hogged by fake or misused city-issued parking permits, claims a new report by Transportation Alternatives (TA), a walking, cycling, and public transit advocacy organization.
According to the report, 57 percent of permits surveyed were either fakes or authentic ones used for purposes other than official city business, or parking in an illegal space. TA estimates the number of fake permits citywide to range between 10,000 and 25,000.
This practice has a negative effect on business, say merchants. “People tell us they have driven by and see our window, but do not stop, because there is no place to park,” said Barbara Clurman of Silkroad Antiques in downtown Brooklyn and a board member of the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association. “You [can] lose a lot of customers that way. You have people parking in front of your shop all day. They don't get ticketed, and they keep our customers from finding a parking place. Even if you have a legitimate permit, you can't use it for commuter parking,” she added.
This is not the first time the issue has been on the table. In 2008, following reports by advocacy organizations, Mayor Michael Bloomberg reduced the number of parking permits in an attempt to combat permit abuse. But the situation remains grave, said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.
“The permit abuse is dangerous,” he said during a press conference on Wednesday for the release of the report. White noted that parking in illegal places, such as in front of fire hydrants, can result in the loss of lives. White also noted that a fake permit placard was used in the failed bombing attempt in Times Square two years ago.
The organization proposes that the city track the use of parking permits, further reduce the number of permits issued to government employees, and have a better enforcement system for permit placards.
Councilman Daniel Garodnick has pitched in on the effort to combat this phenomenon. Proposed legislation, The Authentic Permit Act, suggests to add a bar code to all permit placards, allowing for easy authentication of the permits.
“Lets make it easy to enforce the rules against cars with unofficial permits and against cars with legitimate permits that are breaking the rules,” said Councilman Garodnick, “If there is no bar code, there is no reason not to give a ticket. All it takes is one scan.”
A placard denotes prestige and privilege and many parking agents do not want to brush up against authority, added Garodnick, and claimed that this mentality led the parking agents to ignore parking violations to cars with placards.
Garodnick said another problem is the great variety of placards, making it hard to tell the fake from the authentic. “It is nearly impossible to figure out what is legit and what is not.”
The bill was introduced in February. A hearing about the bill has yet to be scheduled. A city spokesman said that the number of permits has been reduced by almost half in the last few years and that the NYPD tickets cases of fake permit placards on a regular basis. He would not comment on the proposed Authentic Permit Act, as the city has not yet seen the bill. Nineteen additional council members have co-sponsored the bill.