HELL’S KITCHEN — A local police precinct has been parking its vehicles in a left turn lane on Ninth Avenue — a practice that creates a “traffic hazard” at an already-hectic intersection, locals say.
On a recent visit to Ninth Avenue, between West 34th and West 35th streets, a Midtown South Precinct vehicle was parked in the left turn lane along the avenue for more than half an hour.
Three other precinct vehicles, meanwhile, were parked in the traffic lane adjacent to the left turn lane for around 20 minutes — forcing cars to travel around them before making their way into the left turn lane until officers from the precinct stationhouse around the corner returned to them and drove off.
The lane is "just not a good place to park a vehicle," Community Board 4 Transportation Planning committee member Dale Corvino said at a meeting on Wednesday.
“It creates a hazard, a traffic hazard,” he said. “They feel, at least, [based on] my interactions with some of the police officers in the street… entitled to park in places like a left hand turn lane.”
Officers have said construction in the neighborhood makes it difficult to find parking, he added.
Nevertheless, the parking practice has been a “recurring problem,” committee co-chair Yoni Bokser said.
On Thursday morning, district manager Jesse Bodine said the board met with the precinct about the issue this past week and received a positive response to its concerns.
“Unfortunately, they’ve got a large number of vehicles, limited number of spaces, [and] a lot of different events that require them to move things around,” Bodine said.
“We try very hard to make that whole intersection safer, so it’s frustrating to have part of the dedicated turn lane blocked, but… the commanding officer has been very responsive,” he added.
Later that day, at the Midtown South Community Council's monthly meeting, precinct commanding officer, Inspector Russell Green, said his traffic control division started closing the left lane regularly around six months ago, to relieve congestion during rush hour.
Officers began using the lane for "overflow" parking while it was closed, as the precinct has 48 vehicles and only 18 designated parking spots.
Since the lane reopened, the precinct's supervisor has been inspecting the lane every day to make sure officers don't park there, he said.
"It's been remarkably improved. We don't routinely park there — occasionally, at the change of a shift between 3:30 and 4 o'clock is when we have our most problematic time," Green said. "There may be a police car there for a matter of 10 or 15 minutes, while the officers change shifts."
Green himself has been checking the lanes and sending updates to Bodine, he said.
“The last two times I found a police car parked there, it was all the way in the back of the turn lane, so it wasn’t affecting the turns,” he said. “But, you know what, it shouldn’t be done.”
On Friday afternoon, however, two Midtown South vehicles were parked at the entrance to the left turn lane, close to West 35th Street, for more than half an hour.
A driver in a Honda Accord soon followed their lead, pulling in front of them and leaving his car there.
At Wednesday’s committee meeting, Corvino said he recently witnessed two NYPD vehicles parked on Ninth Avenue — one in the left turn lane and another double-parked in the traffic lane next to it — “during a very busy time of day.”
“It’s just a hazard,” he said. “And the officer I spoke to just really couldn’t care less about the hazard he was creating.”