ST. GEORGE — Official city vehicles are still filling Staten Island parking spots meant for shoppers at local businesses despite the Department of Transport barring them, locals said.
The spaces along the left side of Hyatt Street, across from Borough Hall, had DOT "No Permit Zone" signs put in place in December.
It took city workers just a week to ignore them — apparently with impunity, business owners and residents said.
"Days after the signs went up, you have official city vehicles parked there," said John Kilcullen, a member of the St. George Civic Association.
"When you have something like this, literally in front of Borough Hall, it just smacks you in the face. If we can't get the city to follow the regulations, who else is going to follow them?"
Residents have complained about placard parking abuse in the area for years.
All along Bay Street, Central Avenue and Hyatt Street, residents said that official city cars and placarded vehicles take up metered spots, no parking areas and sometimes even bus stops.
"It's just a nightmare over here," said Kristopher Johnson, a photographer who helped lead the charge for a ban. "They come and leave their cars there all day long.
"They park wherever they want and if you want to come to St. George, it's practically impossible to find a parking spot."
Lorie Honor, who co-owns Honor Wines on Bay Street with her husband, said the lack of parking has lost her customers.
She said she's regularly told people were going to come in to buy a bottle of wine, but couldn't find a parking spot.
"We lose tons of business," Honor said. "They explain that they had to go somewhere else."
Honor said she often sees NYPD traffic officers handing out tickets to the cars of regular folk whose meters have expired, but skip over the placarded vehicles.
"It just makes us look lawless. It seems like there's just different rules for regular people and people who work for the city," she said.
This month, the group has started a new push to get better enforcement against placarded cars taking up space, and have sent letters to the DOT, the mayor's office and Borough President James Oddo.
"It is an ongoing issue, particularly the effect it has on local small businesses," Oddo said.
"As Borough President I cannot unilaterally solve the problem. It requires the cooperation of the NYPD and other city agencies."
The DOT referred requests for comment to the NYPD, which didn't return calls.
Transportation Alternatives previously studied placard abuse around the city and found that, on a day in 2010, 172 placarded vehicles were parked in St. George. Of them, 48 percent were parked illegally and 45 cars had forged placards.
Honor said the situation has not improved since. Some drivers just put a construction helmet and a vest in their window and avoid getting ticketed.
Locals said a municipal parking lot on nearby Central Avenue largely sits empty.
"There's an unfilled lot," Honor said. "If it's not an emergency responder, I don't see the disconnect between asking that all long parking should be diverted to the parking lot."
With the New York Wheel and Empire Outlets coming to the neighborhood, Johnson said he expects things to get much worse.
With lack of adequate parking in the neighborhood and Staten Islanders relying on cars more than other boroughs, he said he thinks the inability to park will put a damper on the renaissance the additions are expected to bring to the neighborhood.
"All of this talk about the wheel and everybody's all excited about it, but if no one can freaking park over here it's not going to change," he said.
"It's a pain. And I don't think people are that eager to drive up to St. George and do something when you can't park."