By Olivia Scheck
CITY HALL — The city's capital for civic leadership is also its capital for fraud and abuse when it comes to bogus parking permits, a recent study found.
A galling 95 percent of the parking permits surveyed in Manhattan's Civic Center neighborhood were either being used improperly or were outright fakes, according to a study released Wednesday by the non-profit group Transportation Alternatives (TA).
The Manhattan Civic Center area, which includes City Hall, 1 Police Plaza and the courts, was the worst of five neighborhoods surveyed, with only 11 of the 244 supposed city employee parking placards encountered being used properly, TA said.
Improper parking offenses included parking in crosswalks, in front of fire hydrants and on sidewalks or double-parking.
"No permit in New York allows the bearer to park in such a way," TA Executive Director Paul Steely White explained at a press conference announcing the study Wednesday morning.
Even more egregiously, 92 of the placards, 38 percent, were forgeries, expired permits or simply personal effects "masquerading as permits," such as a sheet of paper scrawled with the initials "NYPD." Some were Xeroxed copies of actual permits and others were unofficial union placards that had not been authorized by the city.
To cut down on the use of bogus permits, East Side City Councilman Dan Garodnick, who was on hand for the Wednesday press event, has proposed a bill to require all city parking permits to feature bar codes. The bar codes, Garodnick said, would allow enforcement officers to distinguish between real permits and fake ones and limit the incentive for impostors to try to intimidate officers.
In addition to the problem of bogus parking permits, White called for decreasing the number of parking permits in circulation.
The number of parking permits distributed to city workers was slashed by 46 percent to 78,000 in 2008, White said.
"[But] 78,000 permits is still too many," according to the transportation advocate. "Other cities only give special parking privileges to people responding to emergencies."
"Here in New York we're still dolling them out to regular people who should be taking the subway or finding parking like everyone else," White added.
While White said he believes there is a need for non-emergency permits in New York City, including those for city council members, he and others emphasized the deleterious effects of excessive parking privileges.
In addition to being unfair, White said parking permits hinder local businesses by stealing spaces that could be used by customers or the businesses themselves.
He also argued that the practice creates a dangerous distance between average citizens and civil servants.
"Members of out political class, city workers, enforcement personnel – when these individuals are driving everywhere, parking with impunity," White said. "They are out of touch with how regular New Yorkers are traveling and they aren't fighting for better mass transit."