When I lived on Meserole Avenue, it was rare that I could walk the length of one side of the street without eventually encountering an obstruction that forced me, suddenly transformed into a character from The Sims, to redirect my path.

The obstruction in question usually came in the form of a squad car parked on the sidewalk in front of the 94th precinct headquarters. But it’s not just our local NYPD who does it — a recent study documented sidewalk parking at 70 out of the city’s 77’s precincts, contributing to a phenomenon known as placard abuse.

Placard abuse involves city employees from all types of agencies taking advantage of their parking permits to often flout traffic rules, though the NYPD’s participation seems particularly egregious.

“A similar degree of lawbreaking goes on at courthouses, jails, hospitals, firehouses, and other city facilities,” wrote Errol Louis in a recent story from Intelligencer, “But the precincts tend to be the worst offenders — most of the city’s 35,000 NYPD officers don’t live in the city and commute to work — and cops are supposed to enforce the traffic laws.”

Marcel Moran, a Ph.D. candidate at UC Berkeley, conducted the study, and found that beyond just what he personally documented in visiting all precinct locations, he gathered that through Google Street View data, “across 703 street-imagery data points, Moran found 82 percent included parking on sidewalks or crosswalks, with an average going back 12 years,” Vice reports.


Placard abuse is not new, though it’s turned into a political talking point in recent years, thanks to the proliferation of the issue through social media documentation and media attention (a series of recent excellent articles from Streetsblog details how NYPD officers are rarely disciplined for intentionally defacing their own license plates to avoid getting picked up on traffic cameras).

Last year, even the notoriously cop-friendly rag the New York Post reported that the NYPD was refusing to cooperate with a city law requiring that they report placard abuse every few months.

A Twitter account formed last year has been documenting the 94th precinct’s sidewalk parking proclivities, alongside other localized accounts. Submissions are welcomed, so stay vigilant and send any parking problems their way.

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  1. Placard abuse? I love to mach up NYC cops private car ownership with moving violations at the DMV.

    I suspect it is close to zero.

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