NYPD’s Selective Approach to Selective Enforcement in Central Park

NYPD’s official stance on traffic violations committed by cyclists in Central Park is one of zero tolerance. At least that’s the word from Captain Philip Wishnia, commander of the Central Park Precinct, who met with the parks and preservation committee of Community Board 7 this week.

The West Side Spirit reports that when committee members asked if officers might focus on serious infractions — rather than targeting cyclists who roll through red lights when no pedestrians are present, for instance — Wishnia “dismissed that idea as selective enforcement.”

City Council Member Gale Brewer has concerns too. In a letter to Ray Kelly and Janette Sadik-Khan, Brewer wrote that “to concentrate enforcement within Central Park, when there is no vehicular traffic in the park, does seem to be a misuse of police resources and impose unreasonable restrictions on cyclists in an environment intended for exercise and enjoyment. For example, forcing bikes to stop at every light contradicts the goal of opening the park drives to bikes and pedestrians and closing them to automobiles.”

But let’s assume the bike crackdown is a sincere strategy to reduce conflicts and injuries, and represents the precinct’s best effort to improve safety for all park users. NYPD is still operating under a clear double-standard when it comes to enforcing traffic laws in Central Park. As shown in this video from the Transportation Alternatives East Side Committee, motorists on the park’s Loop Drive not only exceed the 25-mph speed limit as a matter of course, they do so in the company of police officers themselves. This blatantly dangerous behavior puts park users at risk, and the city has allowed it to continue for years. Writes committee member Steve Vaccaro:

Cyclists are wondering whether NYPD will ever launch an “Operation Safe Motorist” to protect park users from speeding cars, or whether NYPD’s current “Operation Safe Cycle” will remain the sole focus of Central Park Precinct’s traffic law enforcement.

Selective enforcement promises to be a topic of discussion at the next Central Park Precinct Council meeting, to be held at 7 p.m. on March 14 at 160 Central Park West.