BELIEVE IT! City Busts Eight for Placard Abuse

Two years later, we have the start of the beginning of digital placards. Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
Two years later, we have the start of the beginning of digital placards. Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Law enforcement officials cuffed more than a half-dozen people on Tuesday for separately all using “forged parking placards” in order to get away with illegally parking on city streets, officials said — but critics said the enforcement is low-hanging fruit when compared to rampant placard abuse perpetrated by the city’s own employees and cops. 

The eight suspects are facing up to four years in prison after Department of Investigation authorities arrested them Tuesday at Chinatown’s 5th Precinct on felony charges for using fraudulent parking placards, fabricated to appear as if they were issued by the City Law Department, the DOT, and the New York Blood Center. The defendants selfishly took reserved spots from people who need them — even parking at times in handicapped spaces, according to the DOI.

“Using fraudulent placards to circumvent the rules is a crime,” said DOI Commissioner Margaret Garnett. “These individuals abused city parking regulations and attempted to escape paying the penalties by posing as city employees with city-issued placards or by using fake handicap parking placards reserved for those in real need.”

All eight got tickets on their vehicles. But when it came time to fight the summonses, they all submitted their faux placards to the Department of Finance. Some of the placards were entirely fabricated while others were altered.

There is no evidence that any of the individuals were working together as part of a faux placard-making ring and none of the placards or defendants involved in the investigation is NYPD-related, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Investigation.

“None of the placards at issue were legitimate placards that were simply being misused,” said DOI spokeswoman Diane Struzzi.

The whole charade seemed more like a dog and pony show than an authentic crackdown on placard abuse since officials look the other way when city employees illegally park with placards.

“The hypocrisy is unmistakable,” the keeper of the the watchdog Twitter account, Placard Corruption, told Streetsblog. “The official misconduct of officials who deliberately misuse their placards is also a crime, yet the people who have connections continue to avoid parking tickets, let alone the humiliation of a perp walk in front of news cameras.”

But Mayor de Blasio applauded the city’s investigation and insisted that “fake placards are not going to be tolerated,” despite widespread abuse by his own cops. Hizzoner also tooted his own horn by saying the arrests of the eight individuals is part of the “bigger crackdown” he announced back in February to rein in placard abuse throughout the city.

“We’re going to increasingly using every tool we have to create real consequences for anyone who misuses a placard or creates a fake placards,” de Blasio told reporters at an unrelated press conference on crime stats.  

The Department of Investigation hinted Tuesday that this round of arrests is not the end of the placard crackdown, but perhaps the beginning. “[It] doesn’t mean we are ignoring or not putting resources into other aspects of the issue.”