Update, 4:31 p.m. — Score one for the little guy! After complaining to the Voice about the NYPD’s sometimes illegal and otherwise dubious parking practices on his Eighth Avenue block, Andy Hort around 1 p.m. today received a visit from a detective and two lieutenants from the Midtown South Precinct. According to Hort, the officers said they were aware of, and shared, his concerns. There had indeed been a great deal of unauthorized parking on the block, they admitted.
They also assured him that they’d be cracking down, and within an hour, Hort says, dozens of cars on the block had been plastered with a stern warning from the precinct. Hort was pleased with the quick reaction. “They said all the right things,” Hort tells the Voice. “They said it was wrong…and if they follow through, I’m satisfied.”
Original story is below.
Andy Hort is nearing the end of his rope.
For months, he says, the NYPD — and others apparently connected to the police department — have been taking up all of the available parking spots on the street near Earth Enterprise, Hort’s 100-year-old midtown printing business. His vendors are unable deliver the supplies he needs, and his own trucks have been exiled from the block, forced to double-park or simply circle the block, near Eighth Avenue and 36th Street.
The cars that are giving him trouble aren’t police cruisers or other marked vehicles, but personal cars of members of the NYPD (and, in some cases, their families) as well as retired cops. And Hort says he would understand if the vehicles — almost uniformly parked without paying for metered parking, or with all manner of infractions, like in front of fire hydrants or in clearly marked “no standing” zones — displayed a valid police placard, which allows cops on official business to park where they need to without fear of a summons. But instead there are handwritten notes, reflective NYPD vests, badges that read “family of NYPD,” and, in some cases, just a copy of the NYPD patrol manual sitting on the dash. Fed up, Hort decided to start documenting what he saw.
He also went to the parking enforcement officers in the neighborhood, asking why cars without the proper permits weren’t being ticketed, but they ignored him.
Finally, Hort spoke with a sergeant from the nearby Midtown South Precinct. The sergeant said, in no uncertain terms, that the cars Hort was complaining about — even as personal vehicles — were off limits for ticketing. The precinct, he said, was responsible for policing parking within two blocks of the stationhouse, and the parking enforcement officers in the area had instructions not to ticket cars with police insignias. The sergeant also told Hort that “cops aren’t everybody else,” a comment Hort interpreted to mean that police don’t have to play by the rules. You can watch that interaction in the video above, starting at the 4:30 mark.
An officer at the front desk in the Midtown South precinct told the Voice that the officers working out of that station don’t have any parking of their own, and said anyone displaying police placards or other indicia are cops working out of the stationhouse. He confirmed that the precinct polices its own parking, and that parking enforcement officers are instructed not to ticket near the precinct house. He referred further questions to the precinct’s community relations office, who in turn referred questions to the Deputy Commissioner of Public Information.
“It’s not that they’re filled with police vehicles, which I could appreciate and I’d understand,” Hort tells the Voice. “It’s that the street is filled with people who put fake placards or expired placards, or yellow vests that say NYPD, or NYPD notebooks.” Hort has watched delivery drivers place apparently bogus placards on their dash, and he’s confronted retired cops who place their union cards in view and proceed to park without a care in the world. He strongly suspects that many of the purported police officials are relatives or friends of cops who have now “figured out that they can park on this block.” And it’s driving him crazy. “We got a ticket a week ago for a double-parked truck because we had to unload it and there were no spots on the street,” he says.
“I have complete respect for police officers,” Hort adds. “I think they do a hard job and they risk their lives and they work in a bureaucracy that can’t be fun to work in.” But the situation is hurting his business, and as a committed environmentalist, he’s also troubled by the fact that trucks, circling to find a spot, are contributing to unnecessary air pollution.
But most important, he says, allowing cops to treat parking rules with open disregard breeds a culture of impunity.
“I feel like this is broken windows for the police,” Hort says. “This is corruption. Agreed, it’s small corruption. But it creates an arrogance that the police feel like they can do anything…the little things get into your head.”
When the Voice visited the street on March 25, Hort’s reports proved true. There were at least 28 vehicles within a block — trucks, sedans, none of them marked police cars — sporting handwritten, improvised, or otherwise questionable “credentials.”
As a Voice reporter accompanied Hort, pen and pad in hand, tallying up illegally parked vehicles, two people approached spontaneously to echo Hort’s concerns. Parking is routinely abused on the street, one delivery driver said. Just the day before, he had a parking spot “stolen” by two apparently off-duty parking enforcement officers. Just as he was about to back into a space, they zipped in behind him and snagged it.
“I get out of the car and I’m like, ‘Really?’ ” the driver says. “I guess they were shopping. They took my spot, they put their little card up, and they were laughing. Laughing at me.” He shrugs. It’s one of the hardest blocks to find parking on along his route, he says, and he attributes the difficulty to the huge number of apparently police-affiliated cars.
Another business owner on the block, who would only give his first name as Lenny, called the parking situation a serious problem. Vehicles for his business are forced to double-park, and tickets are frequently handed out to trucks trying to load or unload. But not for the police.
Hort captured video a few weeks back after someone else in the neighborhood — not Hort — started putting up some rather cheeky signs, urging parking enforcement officers to ticket illegally parked vehicles.