HELL'S KITCHEN — For years, cops in the Midtown North Precinct have parked their personal cars on West 54th and 55th streets — as well as on nearby blocks along Eighth Avenue — for free as part of their daily commute to the precinct house at 306 W. 54th St.
Now, a collection of wannabe cops have noticed the police perks — and have begun to put bogus NYPD business cards on their dashboards in the hopes of getting free parking, police said.
"It's a problem that we take seriously," said Inspector Timothy Beaudette, the precinct's commanding officer, at a meeting of its community council on Tuesday.
"It's a self-enforced parking zone — four blocks — and it's started getting overrun with these business cards, or whatever it is."
Several cars parked on West 54th and 55th streets Wednesday lacked proper NYPD placards — some had business cards, while others only had pieces of paper with an officer's name on it.
One local resident said the business cards were especially prevalent on West 55th Street, and several cars used cards belonging to the precinct's former commander, Inspector William Matusiak.
"Some of them get over on us for a while," Beaudette said. "We go out periodically, we run the license plates and anyone who isn't kosher, we hit them with a summons."
The cars have wreaked traffic havoc on already-congested streets, some residents complained. Throughout much of the day, trucks serving Westerly Natural Market and Gristedes often use the streets for loading and unloading. Several nearby construction projects have also directed cars onto the side streets, creating a tangle traffic mayhem.
"The trucks, they go on West 55th Street and they double park, and it's very narrow because of police parking," said resident Leslie Boghosian, who lives on the street.
Boghosian added that the combination of police parking and double-parked trucks have made it hard for sanitation trucks and larger buses to get through.
Both Gristedes and Westerly did not respond to requests for comment, though a Gristedes worker unloading a truck Wednesday said the store tried its best to operate on Eighth Avenue.
The problem was supposed to be fixed when the Department of Transportation added a loading zone on the southwest corner of West 55th Street and Eighth Avenue.
"Unfortunately, cops — or whoever has the placards — are still parking there," Boghosian said.
Community Board 4's Transportation Committee has already asked the DOT for some additional loading space on both West 55th Street and on Eighth Avenue, according to chairwoman Christine Berthet.
But even Beaudette acknolwedged that he needs to better educate his officers as to where they can and can't park.
"As far as the police parking there, it’s something we’re going to get the word out," he said.
"They’ve been used to parking there for forever, basically. It’s going to take a little time."