He had a prop — but no plan!
Nearly three years after Mayor Bill de Blasio foisted digital placards and said he would finally curb rampant illegal parking by government employees, his administration has backed away from the long-stalled program, the Department of Transportation quietly acknowledged Wednesday.
“NYC DOT will implement meaningful placard reform, with a specific process for identifying those who really need them. Some form of automated enforcement may be necessary to achieve compliance,” DOT officials wrote in a paragraph buried on page 83 of the agency’s new 96-page “streets” plan.
Instead, the agency has created a digital database of every city-issued parking placard, which NYPD agents will soon be able to use for enforcement, agency spokesman Vin Barone said.
“We remain committed to modernizing the placard system and are working closely with all city agencies to get a digital placard verification system up and running by the end of the year,” Barone said in a statement.
Under fire for rampant illegal parking, Hizzoner in February 2019 held a sample digital placard with a barcode over his head at a press conference, promising that the technology would bring an end to traffic cops giving a pass to illegally parking by city and state employees who left fake, expired or ineligible parking placards in their windshields.
As of January, just 1,700 digital placards were in circulation, out of an estimated 125,000 or more total. That number has not budged since, DOT confirmed.
“We’re going to phase out placards as we know them entirely by 2021,” de Blasio had said at the time. Yet other efforts announced that day to quell placard abuse and misuse have also floundered.
One proposal to convert metered parking enforcement to a digital “pay-by-plate” system, for example, has been pushed to 2022, a DOT spokesman said. The system would ostensibly automatically register cars as legally or illegally parked — allowing computerized verification of a placard’s authenticity.
An annual survey of placard misuse, meanwhile — which Hizzoner in 2019 claimed would be conducted by his office’s Street Conditions Observation Unit — has never been released. DOT has said the unit is busy enforcing outdoor dining regulations.
Parking placards ostensibly exist to give municipal employees better access to curbside real estate when they’re on the job. In reality, they are widely abused. City blocks are littered with government workers turning sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, bus lanes, and no-standing zones into permanent parking for their cars.
The 2019 announcement was actually de Blasio’s second “crackdown” on placard abuse, after he pledged to start a unit of 100 traffic cops to address the problem.
Every crackdown has been followed by a return to privileges as usual. The 2017 placard unit was disbanded in 2020 amid the city’s COVID-19 budget crisis.
City Hall and NYPD have also given no indication that they are following through on 2019 City Council legislation requiring 50 weekly placard enforcement sweeps.