By on February 24, 2014
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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.

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49 Comments on “Strict Enforcement of NY’s Parking Laws Affects Official Vehicles...”

  • avatar

    As a New Yorker, I can say that the police act as if they are a fraternity – and the FDNY is a rival fraternity.

    NYPD issues placards and PBA cards to their friends and family and for the most part, the PBA cards are honored so long as you’re respectful and haven’t done anything “major”.

    But the Placards use is like an excuse to park WHEREVER YOU WANT. I’m not gonna name names, but I know people who park in front of hydrants, in firezones, and in bust stops AT WILL. The cops and ticketers take a look at the placard and just keep on moving.

    They get into beefs with the FDNY a lot. If the FDNY is “nice” to the cops, they get to park wherever they want as well, but every now and then a personal beef starts a slew of tickets flying.

    Cops I know SPEED regularly at 100 plus and if they get pulled over, it’s no big deal. Get caught drunk driving? The other cops REFUSE to arrest you and they’ll just help you get home.
    God Forbid another cop tries to hold a cop to the same standards…

    He’ll be treated like Edmund Exley in “LA Confidential” after he had cops prosecuted for “The Night Owl”.

    It’s no wonder no one loves the police – even the hard working cops just trying to do their job, but getting hate for the stuff their buddies do.

    It wasn’t very long ago that they were “fixing tickets”: deleting tickets left and right for their buddies.

    Bloomberg was such a ****** mongrel that it was he who started seriously enforcing traffic laws against diplomats who under diplomatic immunity couldn’t be charged with crimes, but could be forced to pay up on back-owed fines. Take it right out of their country’s GDP.

    Sometimes I like driving over to the United Nations and watching the cops screwing with dignitaries – in between the protests of course.

    I do of course think it’s stupid to tow vehicles and then not access any fees. There’s no point in towing them then.

    • 0 avatar

      >> Cops I know SPEED regularly at 100 plus and if they get pulled over, it’s no big deal.

      And here’s a link to offender number 1:

      • 0 avatar

        The anti car folks are all in a lather in NYC. DeBlasio has proposed vision zero, which sounds good. Zero fatals in NYC. Now, as much as we might wish this, in NYC, it won’t happen. The most recent fatal was a pedestrian hit by a city garbage truck. The proposals all seem to be a 20 mph limit, with the slogan “Twenty is Plenty”, and massive photo enforcement.

        In light of this, his minor (for any politico) transgression is a huge deal. Cops get courtesy, and no one will ticket the Mayor; be real.

        We know also in a photo regime the official cars will still get courtesy, but now it will be a computer list of voided tickets.

        NYC has to convince Albany to give them more cameras. Fortunately, the Legislature has said no to the more fervent wishes of camera fanatics. (Cash starved municipalities combined with a very small hardcore of bicycle advocates). The rest of the state has so far kept NYC from tolling East River Bridges, congestion pricing NY, and turning NYC into an Aussie/Brit Camera Hell.

        There are two real points here. NYC cops do little if any traffic enforcement off highways. NYC was also laid out for horses and the model T, so places like Queens Boulevard are a really bad mix of people and cars. We don’t fix the roads or change the infrastructure.

        Our existing red light cams are limited in number by Albany. They are a “Temporary Demonstration Project”, the point of which is to come up with a report as to money, accident rates, and costs. Every time the temporary project sunsets, it is re authorized, and the report is kicked down the road.

        In short, they haven’t been proven to work, and there is no report. The whole thing is dishonest-today’s tv news was ‘think of the children”

        I hope that upstate keeps downstate from going nuts. The other item missed by most is that few of the cars in NYC are actually from NYC, so this will be a great tax on the out of towners.

    • 0 avatar

      Shylock mongrel?

    • 0 avatar

      In Houston, it was known as flashing the pin. Houston police officers would get extra HPD pins and give them out to relatives, friends, spouses, etc. If a HPD officer pulled you over for a traffic infraction, you showed the pin and the officer would let you go. The pin access was changed, not because it was wrong, but rather the city of Houston was losing a lot of money in fines. Another change in ticket writing was that the race of the officer writing the ticket and the race of the offender were on the same ticket. Tickets written dropped 30%. But if you want real corruption of police, go to Kiowa, OK. You can Google it and see the blatant “Police Crime for profit speed trap con game” that has been going on there for years, and the state of OK couldn’t care any less.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        I drive US-69 many times a year. Tushka, OK is much more aggressive about revenue from speeding tickets than Kiowa. The problem with Kiowa is the speed limit drops all the way from 70 mph down to 40 mph in 10 mph steps. Stringtown is also a speed trap, but the speed limit only drops from 70 mph to 60 mph, reasonable considering some dangerous intersections. However, the general rule that sees to work is to carefully obey the speed limit within the city limits of the really small towns with no economic activity. The larger towns and the highway patrol are more lenient.

        • 0 avatar

          Sir The police in Kiowa will pull you over and then be rude to you hoping you will mouth off back to them. If you do, this will be used as an excuse to search your car or look for other infractions. You are correct about the various speed changes 70 to 60 , then 60 to 50 etc. I worked outside of Kiowa, but lived in McAllister for 8 months in 2004. In the apartment next to me, was a traveling judge. He told me that of 114 tickets written; only 2 people were going to fight in court. That meant 112 cash deposits made to the city, which then went to pay the police. What a business?

          • 0 avatar

            the state of oklahoma does care…

            a) municipalities are not allowed to drop the limits more than ten mph per step.
            b) the signs signifying the drops must be of a minimum size.
            c) municipalities are not allowed to place the limit drop closer than a minimum distance.
            d) municipalities are not allowed to derive more than a set amount of revenue from traffic enforcement.

            back when the state truly didn’t care, the cities could drop from 55 to a school zone 20 in one step, with a tiny sign, hidden by trees and/or bridgework (see Lahoma, OK in the mid 80s)

            The limit is properly signed, by state law, in 10 mph increments set a minimum distance apart….

            if you get pulled over under those circumstances….you are breaking the law.


          • 0 avatar

            Mr. psychoboy. You seem to think corrupt police working in a speed trap government operated business have morals and honesty. Google Kiowa Speed Trap, and the page will fill of people posting of the abuses. How a town of less than 600 people could have 4 police cars should be an indication of how affective OK laws are regarding speed traps. Also, the frequency of speed changes should show you, from 70-60, then 60-50, then 50-40, then 40-30, are all opportunities to be caught speeding. And this Speed Trap con game has gotten worse since I left. While OK laws exist regarding abuses, in the Kiowa, they mean nothing. Unlike you, I have been there. I know how it works.

          • 0 avatar

            ” Unlike you, I have been there. I know how it works.”

            I’ve lived in Oklahoma my entire life. I’ve got a pretty good grasp on how it works.

            The signs are plainly obvious.

            Start here on the southern edge of town, and “drive” on in:

            60 MPH at the city limits.
            50 MPH where the divided highway becomes undivided.
            40 MPH at tenth street.

            it never gets to 30. it does get to 35 at the marked crosswalk, however.

            Those drops are crazy far apart and totally reasonable for entering a town on a four lane highway.

            Every complaint I find about these “speed traps” are from people who got caught breaking the law, usually because they weren’t paying attention.

            I got my stupidity fine in Lahoma at the age of 16….same thing you are whining about. But, instead of bitching about it…I STARTED PAYING ATTENTION TO THE LAWS.

  • avatar

    “serving as little more than a nuisance to public employees who take time out of their work day to retrieve their vehicles”

    Good enough for me. If it is modified it should be modified so that the employees are responsible for the fees.

  • avatar

    Arbitrary enforcement is not the answer either. There are some times when an official vehicle has a good reason to be parked illegally. I would say that they should be handled on a case by case basis, but that would just invite corruption.

    The problem is that officials are human, and sometimes they just can’t help but take advantage of some of the “perks” of the job.

    • 0 avatar

      The problem was when people were using official vehicles for unofficial business.

      In NYC it’s almost IMPOSSIBLE to park your car without getting a ticket. The street signs are purposefully made difficult to understand and you are likely going to end up with a $115 no standing ticket unless you’re a commercial vehicle.

      What we are talking about is official vehicles being used to shop, get your hair done, or enjoy NYC nightlife in bars/ clubs.

      • 0 avatar

        Well, to be fair, it is pretty stupid for most people to be driving in NYC. So I have no real problem with them ticketing the shit out of people for parking here.

        • 0 avatar

          You explain to me why we should be forced into trains and buses with mentally ill, beggars, gsng bangers and women with weaves???

          I refuse. Every single time I take masd transit, I HATE MYSELF for it. Only when I’m going to the financial districts will I take the LIRR (the train for the top 10%).

          • 0 avatar
            kid cassady

            You take specific offense at sharing subways with women with weaves? The asinine comments and neverending reminder of his insipid YouTube channel were bad enough. Could you guys please ban this racist idiot?

          • 0 avatar

            Kid Cassidy,

            Big Truck’s got a right to voice his opinion, whether or not you agree with it.

            You don’t have the right to demand that he be silenced because you claim that what he said offends you.

            Offend him back, if you like.

            That’s how we do here it in America, comrade.

          • 0 avatar

            BTS is cool. Him and I differ in opinion sometimes, but he stands up for what he believes. I have never heard of him insulting or talking down to people…he just gets into the conversation…

          • 0 avatar

            kid cassidy…why is it that you think only black women get weaves?

            that sounds racist.

          • 0 avatar
            old fart

            kid cassady , I couldn’t agree with you more , he always has inflammatory comments, thinks he is an expert at everything posted here but spews nonsense , just a venomous hateful person that makes this site less enjoyable . Bring back the hard line editors .

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          8 years ago I ventured into the city to visit a long time friend. I had a rental car; he lived in the upper west side. I could a) pay $50 for overnight parking; or b) pay Ronnie $20 to triple park and move it for me as needed.

          Ronnie lived on the street and moved cars for a living. He did quite well – my friend said his weekly rate was $90, and it was well worth it.

          That said, I’ve driven into the city three times in the last 25 years….MetroNorth in from New Haven or Stamford and then the subway just makes life much easier.

        • 0 avatar

          The last time I drove to NYC, it was to pick up a load of computer equipment I won from a bankruptcy auction.

          It’s kind of hard to carry 20 servers on the train.

  • avatar

    The point of towing cars away from bus stops, fire lanes, no standing zones, etc. is not to punish the offenders, it’s to keep the streets safe and traffic moving. It’s not just “little more than a nuisance” when you’re making sure that the streets actually function like they’re supposed to.

    • 0 avatar

      A fire lane or bus stop cleared isn’t an empty gesture without a fine, it’s the meat of the enforcement.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, but when you have a response to a ticket fixing scandal, or a periodic crackdown, you get a lot of petty moves from the local bureaucracy.

      In San Diego, the city responded to a ticket fixing scandal with a ticket everybody policy. A week after that started, I told a fireman I knew to stay out of red zones, and he laughed. A police homicide detective sitting next to me told of a crime scene the night before with a dead body on the sidewalk, and a meter maid was ticketing the police cars in the red zone. The detective interrupted her writing a ticket for the coroner’s van and threatened to arrest her. She told him, “they told me to ticket everybody”.

      I turned to the fireman, whose jaw had dropped and told him, don’t park that pumper truck in front of a hydrant – you’ll get a ticket. A couple days later, he was on the annual hydrant check, testing the valves and water pressure, when a meter maid stopped to write a ticket. The firemen hosed down her 3-wheeler.

      Never underestimate the local bureaucrats’ capacity for petty stupidity.

    • 0 avatar
      old fart

      +1 Maybe the answer is to have some spots marked out “For official business only “

  • avatar

    I recently took a photo of a newer S class Mercedes in Chicago with a placard on the dash that said “Emergency Elevator Repair”.


  • avatar

    The law here in Michigan (MCL 257.603) is quite clear and restricts the exemptions from parking laws for government vehicles to those cases where police are in the act of surveillance or apprehension of an actual criminal or criminal suspect. Police departments around here routinely and as a matter of policy violate that law.

    It appears that most police officers regard casual violation of traffic laws as one of the perks of the job.

    That New York City doesn’t fully enforce the law against public employees isn’t surprising. My own municipality tickets private property owners who don’t shovel the snow from their sidewalks but disclaims jurisdiction over sidewalks that are the responsibility of the county or the state.

    It’s very easy to identify who was driving a publicly owned vehicle when it was illegally parked. The public employees who illegally park (or violate any other driving related laws) should be subject to the same fines as any other drivers.

  • avatar

    It’s been 35 years since I’ve set foot in NYC. Just like a lot of cities, there are too many people, too many cars and not enough parking spaces.

    An overbuilt city can be a hassle for someone with a car. Even where there are parking garages, it is often a 3 or 4 block hike to your final destination.

    One of my favorite scenarios is parking at the bus stop in order to visit the ATM or better yet unloading the Pepsi truck – while seeing the extended flexible buses having to maneuver around the Pepsi truck.

    My absolute favorite is when someone parks in the crosswalk on a four or six lane street, especially if it is during the lunch hour.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    Years ago when I worked in a city department we often got parking tickets on our city vehicles . Hard to avoid getting the tickets as I would travel to other city departments and have to wait for some typically slow moving city workers to provide engineering plans or whatever . My manager blamed the police for ticketing a vehicle with obvious official plates and decals . IIRC the tickets were sent back to the police and nobody paid for anything , but there was the feeling that our ” brother ” city employees were breaking some sort of unwritten code for ticketing us .

  • avatar

    NYC is a tough place to have a car in. Parking is very tight. I drove into Manhattan every day for 45 years but had my own spot in a garage downtown. When i think about it i paid enough money to park that i could have brought a second house. My Son-in-law retired from the NYC Police dept as a Capt and of course i always had a PBA card which doing 95 MPH on the FDR got me a free pass but drunk driving is a No-No for everyone. A few years ago in Bklyn a NY city cop was driving drunk and killed a few people. If i remember it right they tried to help the cop but the s*it hit the fan and the newspapers ran with it. To be honest some times i can’t even park in front of my house. Thank God i have a one car garage and a long driveway.
    We have three cars and some people on my block have 5 cars.

  • avatar

    It’s so nice to see the system feeding on itself.

  • avatar

    One has to realize that you can’t just say “public employees” as if the rules apply to them equally. First and foremost, the police protect and cover for all of their own. They get to park with impunity and there is nothing done abut it, even during the Bloomberg years. BigTruck’s comment about FDNY and the NYPD is pretty much accurate. For the other employees, Bloomberg drastically culled the number of official placards. Those that still have them usually have them with an assigned vehicle. That placard does give parking privileges during official business, but they can’t be used in fire zones, bus lanes and the like. They also can’t be used inside a personal vehicle. The placard also lists specific areas and restrictions where the placard in invalid. If the official vehicle gets towed for violation of the restrictions, the employee may lose the right to use official vehicles. Remember, this is for non uniformed people – with the uniformed, all bets are off. Lastly, regarding the elevator example above, there may be a legitimate reason for the private car being parked with a pass. If a call comes in for elevator entrapment, the call gets routed to the elevator staff who will return to work to open the doors or otherwise get the elevator back in service. Should the off duty employee get the call when they are in their personal vehicle, they usually respond and park the car they were driving when they get the call. Leaving entrapment releases to the FDNY usually means some broken elevator doors to fix the next morning.

  • avatar

    “Dear motorist: Your vehicle is illegally parked in the borough of Manhattan. If you do not remedy this malparkage within 72 hours, your car will be thrown into the East River at your expense.”

    Works for me.

  • avatar

    HNL doesn’t tow illegal cars fast enough/at all, so if NYC is pretty quick to pull the trigger… official car or not… good for them.

    As for police enjoying the perks, besides speeding the worse has to be when they light up the blue lights so that they don’t have to wait at red lights like the rest of us.

  • avatar

    There’s nothing better when New Yorkers turn on each other, especially at the municipal level.

  • avatar

    You know what really grinds my gear? Diplomat plates.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    I can’t get mad, it’s what I would do.

  • avatar

    Back in the day, I drove a cab in NYC to pay for school. Studebaker Larks! Dodge Coronets! No air conditioning!The traffic was just as bad as now, and the air smelled a lot worse. I saw enough traffic to last several lifetimes, but now, living 30 minutes outside Manhattan where many family still live, I actually enjoy driving in. 97% of the time there is legal street parking, if you search properly. I’d reveal my method, but then all the spots would be taken. Meanwhile, a veritable army of 15,000 meter people have relieved the cops of parking ticket duty. Rain or shine, they’ll getcha. Cops and firemen parking illegally? I confess, many of them are friends of mine, and, when I’m around at least, they rarely abuse the parking privilege. And, no, I would never ask them for a placard. DiBlasio is the latest in the unbroken line of mayors going back to John Lindsay who is hostile to personal automobile use. He now has the backing of the bicycle/20 mph people who share that attitude. With any luck, Albany will shoot him down on this as he squanders his political capital on raising taxes, etc.

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