Sun
May 22, 2003

 

Police Park Penalty-Free As They Hit Citizens With $105 Tickets

Patrolmen Defend a ‘Courtesy,’ While HQ Says It’s Against Policy

IT’S ‘OPEN SEASON’ ON NEW YORK CITY MOTORISTS

By ERROL LOUIS
Staff Reporter of the Sun

Police officers, whose union is spending $100,000 on an advertising campaign asking New York City residents not to blame them for blitzing motorists with $105 traffic tickets, appear to be among the most flagrant violators of those same parking rules.

Near police stationhouses across the city, cops routinely park their private vehicles in bus stops, on sidewalks, and in front of fire hydrants — places that would result in a stiff fine and a towed car for the average driver.

While a spokesman for the police union called the illegal parking a "courtesy" to which emergency workers are entitled, an NYPD official said the practice was improper and could result in disciplinary action.

The dispute comes as the president of the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, is accusing the NYPD of turning the department into "a summons machine," with cops pressured to meet traffic ticket quotas.

In fact, NYPD statistics show the number of summonses issued has fallen by 17% this year, to 2.2 million tickets issued between January and May of this year from about 2.7 million tickets in the same period last year.

But revenue has increased because the price of each summons — for offenses like double parking — has jumped to $105 from $55.The high cost has led to widespread complaints by motorists.

In response, Mr. Lynch’s voice has been heard in recent days on a wide range of television and radio stations.

"You know that feeling you get when you come out of a grocery store and see a summons on your windshield?" the PBA president asks in the ad."Well,the city has doubled the price of a parking ticket, so you can expect that feeling to be twice as bad. Just don’t blame the cop." The ad goes on to blame city officials for pressuring cops to issue more tickets.

But miffed motorists are also confronted with daily traffic snarls around many police precincts, caused by the private vehicles of officers that are often left in bus stops, doubled parked, or left on city sidewalks.

Yesterday afternoon, for instance, half a dozen cars near Brooklyn’s 78th Precinct were parked along the sidewalk on Sixth Avenue near Dean Street. Not far away, in the 67th Precinct in Flatbush, pedestrians squeezed past cars with police plaques on the dashboard that were parked on the sidewalk along Snyder Avenue and at a bus stop on Rogers Avenue.

The unspoken rule is that the police won’t ticket cars belonging to on-duty cops or firemen.But PBA spokesman Al O’Leary said there was no contradiction in officers issuing high-cost tickets to the public while exempting themselves.

"Do we believe there should be courtesy extended to police and firefighters, people who put their lives on the line and may not come home from work? The answer is yes, " Mr. O’Leary said."Letting them slide on some parking around the precinct is a small price to pay."

An NYPD spokesman said it was against department policy for cops to park illegally. "It’s not a courtesy," the spokesman said. "Command disciplines are issued. First, there’s a warning, and the next time you can lose a day’s pay. It’s a lot more than a summons."

One union official has publicly accused Mr. Lynch of raising the ticket issue and launching the advertising campaign in order to raise his profile among the union’s 23,000 members. Union elections are scheduled to take place next week.

According to a story in the May 23 edition of the Chief-Union Leader newspaper, PBA trustee Thomas Barnett, who is running against Mr. Lynch, said the president was "misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in members’ money" by creating the campaign.

The PBA spokesman denied the charge.

"There is an election, but the business of representing police can’t stop because there’s an election," Mr. O’Leary said.

All sides agree that drivers are facing tough times ahead.

"It’s open season on New York-area motorists," said spokesman Robert Sinclair of the Automobile Club of New York. "Not only do we see the tickets going up, but as part of the new state budget there are higher fees and ticket charges."

Mr. Sinclair said the state budget passed this week quietly added a $10 surcharge to parking tickets. When the new law takes effect, city fines for double parking and other offenses will increase to $115.