Garcia, Stringer Say they Will Fight Placards — But Both Presided Over Increases on Their Watch

A placard.
A placard.

Two top mayoral candidates are campaigning on reforming the way New Yorkers park and taking on car owners’ belief that free parking is a birthright — yet both Kathryn Garcia and Scott Stringer have presided over large increases in parking placards doled out to their employees.

When Garcia was Sanitation Commissioner, for example, the number of placards issued to New York’s Strongest rose from 245 in 2014 to 339 in 2020 — a nearly 40-percent increase. And in Stringer’s time atop the Comptroller’s office, the number of city-issued placards rose from 9 to a peak of 29 in 2019 — an increase of 222 percent — before dropping to 28 last year.

Neither candidate’s campaign responded to a request for comment regarding whether voters should be concerned about the growth in placard use in these candidates’ office — and whether it calls into question the would-be mayor’s stated commitment to prioritize mass transit, biking and walking over cars if elected.

Data: DOT
Data: DOT

A spokesman for the Sanitation Department offered additional information in an attempt to show how few of the agency’s employees get the city issued parking perk. In Fiscal Year 2014, 2.66 percent of the agency’s then 9,182-person workforce got placards. By FY20, the percentage of employees receiving placards increased to 3.27 percent — the wrong direction as far as placard reformists say.

“Obviously, increasing the number of placards is a step in the wrong direction,” said the keeper of the seminal Placard Abuse Twitter feed, who requests anonymity because of prior harassment from the NYPD. “We would observe, however, that on the spectrum of public agencies, both Sanitation and the Comptroller’s Office have been on the more responsive end when addressing complaints about misuse of placards. Of course, nobody but Eric Adams has ever held a public meetingpublic meeting to announce that they were going to continue breaking the law!”

Sanitation spokesman Joshua Goodman could not say why the share of placard-possessing DSNY workers increased under Garcia’s watch. But he did say placards are essential to the agency’s ability to provide service.

“On-street parking placards are issued to DSNY personnel who may need to stop their vehicles to participate in our core work – street cleaning, basket service, and enforcement of sanitation regulations,” Goodman said. “Of course, a litter basket is emptied by people operating a collection truck, not a passenger vehicle, but there are many situations where a supervisor needs to join as well and they may be in a car or SUV with a parking placard — just to give one example.

Goodman said the placards are “not really for commuting or parking around town” but for “being able to temporarily stop and get out of a car while doing work.”

Meanwhile, the Comptroller’s office told Streetsblog on background that the office has only 20 placards (not the 28 that the city Department of Transportation reported to us) and that only 10 placards can be used at a time — and only to allow parking for parking in a designated area near the office. Stringer is the only employee in his office of 780 workers who is assigned a city-owned vehicle — a rarity in a city agency with hundreds of employees, the Comptroller’s office said.

The office has access to seven other cars, which are used for audits that require in person inspection and observation, the office said. No other questions were answered.

The increase in placards under Garcia and Stringer’s watch is not necessarily an indication that either candidate would increase the estimated hundred thousand city-issued placards currently in circulation — with scores of thousands given to city teachers during to contract negotiations with the de Blasio administration. Policy positions on both candidates’ website suggest that Stringer and Garcia would oppose a placard expansion.

Garcia, for example wants to “make on-street parking a privilege, not a right, and reward traffic law compliance,” according to her website.

In an interview with Streetsblog earlier in the campaign (before she got the StreetsPAC endorsement), Garcia chose the path of less resistance on parking.

“It is a balance,” she said. “We can’t prioritize parking over other uses, but we also have to understand the challenge of parking for people who need to drive.” Garcia advocates for residential parking permits, which she claims will not increase the incentive to buy a car, despite studies that show just that.

And in an interview with Streetsblog, also earlier in the campaign, Stringer said that if he became mayor, “city agencies will reissue all parking placards, only distributing them to employees who are not able to a) fulfill their daily duties without a private vehicle or b) commute to work via public transportation.” He also said he would “eliminate free parking in commercial zones and eliminate parking minimums for new housing.”

— with Jesse Coburn