‘Northern’ Exposure: New Spat Shows Rift Between Alleged Vision Zero Partners DOT and NYPD

Photo: A trusted source
Photo: A trusted source

It’s a scofflaw paradise.

Car owners who illegally park on Northern Boulevard over the next few weeks won’t get tickets, thanks to a misunderstanding between the NYPD and the Department of Transportation over how well each does its job, Streetsblog has learned.

The battle of the agencies has roots in the demise this winter of the DOT’s temporary protected bike lane on Northern Boulevard — a pandemic project that carved out a few feet of space along the curb between Broadway and the Queensboro Bridge with some parking moved off the curb.

The flexiposts that marked the lane were decimated by Sanitation workers during several winter storms, and drivers have reclaimed the space along the curb, as seen in the photo above, taken late last week.

So we asked the DOT and the NYPD what’s going on — and both sides pointed the finger at each other.

NYPD to DOT: Sign? What sign. Photo: A trusted source
NYPD to DOT: Sign? What sign. Photo: A trusted source

First, an officer with the 114th Precinct said that cops would not be ticketing drivers who park along the curb because the temporary bike lane had expired. “As of now, cars can park there,” this source said.

In response, the DOT told us that cars certainly cannot be parked there, and that, in short, the cops are wrong. Also, the DOT promised to paint a new bike lane and install new protections on the bike lane in May. The agency pointed out that signs explained to drivers last year that they can’t park along the curb, which is still a bike lane (see sign, right).

When a Streetsblog correspondent went back to the NYPD to see if the signs made any different, a different officer at the 114th Precinct responded that the NYPD doesn’t care much for the signs because of “clear miscommunication” from the DOT.

“It is completely unreasonable,” the officer said, “for motorists to adhere to these rules that are obscurely posted on a pole the size of a sheet of paper. I honestly didn’t know [the rules], and I’m a police officer.”

The officer reiterated that the 114th Precinct “will wait” to resume enforcement of illegal parking in the bike lane “until the DOT conducts a prominent painting of the lanes as they have done on Crescent Street.”

DOT did not respond to a follow-up request for information about the dispute.

It’s obviously not the first time the agencies, which Mayor de Blasio says are “Vision Zero partners,”  have not seen eye-to-eye over how to execute the mayor’s street safety initiative. Streetsblog has long documented the NYPD’s failure to hold up its end of the bargain, but more recently, we documented how DOT has failed to do anything about the flagrant violation of agency rules by police officers at their station houses.

Ironically, the 114th Precinct was recently named the worst offender in a Streetsblog poll.