The New York Times reported Sunday on how strict enforcement of parking violations in Manhattan is causing problems for government agencies as they are forced to reclaim official vehicles that have been towed. In most cities, official vehicles are kept immune from the effects of parking enforcement by dashboard placards that allow government officials to park in red zones or without feeding the meter while they are on the job.
In New York city, that policy ended in 2008 when then Mayor Michael Bloomberg promised to crack down on illegal parking by city employees and gave oversight of parking violations by official vehicles over to the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau. That agency’s policy is to tow cars, placard or not, no questions asked and, as a result, in 2013, New York City tow trucks removed 1855 vehicles displaying placards. Those vehicle included 242 registered to the Fire Department, 361 assigned to the Police Department itself and another 311 vehicles assigned to Federal agencies operating in the city. Most of the vehicles fall into the category of “safety hazard violations” and were towed for blocking bus stops, no standing zones and other places where parking is prohibited like fire lanes.
On the surface, this seems like a good policy that holds government employees to the same standard as the general public, but the article explains that towing and impound fees are not generally assessed against official vehicles and goes on to say that they are usually released to their agencies upon receipt of an official request. The net result is that the entire operation is one that actually costs the city money in unpaid fees while serving as little more than a nuisance to public employees who take time out of their work day to retrieve their vehicles. Senior officials have stated that the new police commissioner is currently reviewing the program.