MARCH (PARKING) MADNESS: An Upper West Side Battle Pitting the 24th vs. Central Park

This is the fifth first-round battle in our annual March (Parking) Madness contest, and the first to feature Manhattan precincts. Previously in the first round, Brooklyn Heights’s 84th Precinct, the 110th Precinct in Elmhurst, and the 48th in the Bronx all moved onto their disrespective borough finals. But  polls remain open until Monday at 4 p.m. in our second Queens battle, pitting last year’s champs, the 114th Precinct, against the 103rd in Jamaica. For a reminder on why we do this contest, click here.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Who knew the Upper West Side was such a hotbed of police contempt? This year’s tournament of champions rogues features four Manhattan precincts, all of them on what could generously be called the Greater Upper West Side — and we even left out the 20th Precinct, despite well-documented placard abuse and parking corruption.

For now, let’s start with the first of two first-round matchups. In this corner…

24th Precinct (Upper West Side)

It’s sort of hard to believe that cops are only a part of the problem on W. 100th Street.

The precinct block — between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues — is certainly a problem, with police officers leaving their cars everywhere: double-parked perpendicular to neighbors’ angle-parked cars and also against their own fellow cops’ combat-parked squad cars. The cops and the firefighters who share the multi-purpose building on the north side of the block also block hydrants and park in clearly marked “No standing” zones.

Cops are fairly blatant about the public space they have seized, but their lawlessness encourages a culture of lazy faire on the block, with neighbors imitating their role models in blue on the block to the east of the station house, where the city allows residents to park perpendicular to the curb to cram in more cars (many of which never move, given that there was still snow from a week-ago storm on the hoods and windshields of many of these supposedly “necessary” cars).

But let’s focus on the cops of the 24. First, an overview slideshow:

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Let’s break down the transgressions one cop a time:

Here's a 24th Precinct truck blocking a hydrant in a no-parking zone.
Here’s a 24th Precinct truck blocking a hydrant in a no-parking zone.

Here’s a cop who defaced his license plate, yet still managed to get nabbed for 22 camera-issued speeding tickets and three camera-issued red light tickets:

This is a cop's personal vehicle. It is illegal to deface one's plate.
This is a cop’s personal vehicle. It is illegal to deface one’s plate.

Here’s a cop — well known to the famed Placard Abuse Twitter feed — who puts an ACS cap in the dash in the hopes that he or she won’t get a ticket for illegal parking (or the illegal cover on his license plate!):

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A fellow officer with the plate Hsw1098 puts a School Safety shirt on the dash, which allows him or her to park for free (neighbors should watch out: this cop has four speeding tickets on his or her record).

Speaking of recidivist reckless drivers, we ran the plates on every police officer’s vehicle that was legally parked in the NYPD-only zone or illegally parked with a placard, and discovered that 21 cars out of 42 cars have multiple camera-issued tickets for speeding and/or red light running (half of the cops having multiple reckless driving charges is way out of scale with the general public, which gets a second ticket only 17 percent of the time, Streetsblog previously reported). The multiple camera-issued tickets includes:

  • One cop’s car with six speeding tickets.
  • Two cops’ cars with five speeding tickets.
  • One cop’s car with nine speeding tickets since June, 2020.
  • One cop’s car with seven speeding tickets in eight months.
  • One cop’s car with seven speeding ticket and four red-light tickets.

And even when they’re just standing still, these cops are a danger to their neighbors:

We sure hope there's not a fire.
We sure hope there’s not a fire.

Is it the worst thing we’ve ever seen in the course of this contest? Certainly not. But a precinct stationhouse should not be a bad neighbor, and by stealing so much of the block’s parking and public space — both through double-parking in the NYPD zone, but also parking in non-cop parking and no-standing zones — cops at the 24th Precinct are, in fact, bad neighbors.

But this fish also stinks from the tail up. By allowing combat parking on the entire block, the DOT has enabled a chaotic mess. And to think, it all happens under a sign featuring the likeness of Frederick Douglass with one of the great American’s famous quotes: “Without struggle, there can be no progress.”

But is the 24th Precinct bad enough to move onto the borough final? Let’s see how it stacks up against …

Central Park Precinct

By all of Streesblog’s March (Parking) Madness metrics — massive placard abuse, cops driving recklessly in their private vehicles, cars littering the sidewalks and making life harder for pedestrians — the Central Park Precinct is doing exemplary the bare minimum that we should expect from professional police and would not have earned a spot in this year’s contest, except for one thing:

Think of the horses!

While other precinct commanders tell their troops to combat-park their squad or double- and triple-park their personal vehicles wherever they want, Central Park Precinct Commander Deputy Inspector William Gallagher has done the impossible: He’s stolen prime jogging and horseback riding space — in the middle of one of the world’s premier parks — so his employees can drive to work and not have to walk more than 30 feet.

Here’s what that looks like:

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Is it the worst thing we’ve ever seen in almost a decade of doing this contest? Of course not. But we do think there’s something sacrilegious about turning part of the world’s most famous park into a parking lot (especially a park that is supposed to be car-free anyway).

It’s been a problem long before the park banished cars (for the public, at least). In 1998, the Times (back when it still covered local news) pointed out that “a section of the path between the reservoir and 86th Street has become an ad hoc parking lot for police vehicles from the nearby Central Park Precinct. ”It’s an unsightly blemish on such a pretty path,” said Eric Neibart, a doctor at Mount Sinai Medical Center who has been riding in the park for 10 years. ”You used to be able to canter through here. Now it’s like a used-car lot.”’

In 2005, the paper wrote that the problem persisted — and that Upper West Siders were demanding that the NYPD stop the practice once renovations to the Central Park Precinct were completed. The city promised as much.

“We don’t want cars by default to use the bridle path as a parking lot for the next 30 years,” Thomas Vitullo-Martin, then a Community Board 7 member said at the time.

Well, the precinct’s $61-million renovation was completed in 2013 — and Vitullo-Martin goes down in history as another great man who was unheeded by his contemporaries.

Central Park Precinct’s great crime — the theft of public space — is not matched by what we have typically found at other stationhouses. Indeed, of the 50 police officers’ vehicles that we saw in the park last week, 19 of them had never been hit with a camera-issued speeding or red-light ticket. And 12 cars had only one of the serious moving violations.

As a result, only 18 of the police officers’ vehicles — or 36 percent — have been nabbed for multiple moving violations, the worst being a cop with eight speeding tickets and one red-light ticket. It’s bad — don’t get us wrong — but over the years, we’ve seen a cop in Park Slope who triggered speed and red-light camera 58 times in just two years. And we found a cop in Downtown Brooklyn with 28 camera-issued tickets. And another officer who had 22 camera-issued tickets — but wasn’t saved before he crashed his car and killed himself.

Compared to what we’ve seen on the streets beat, the Central Park Precinct is relatively tranquil. Now, if the cops could only get their cars off the bridle path…

So which precinct is worse? We’ll leave the polls open until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. and then announce which precinct moves on to the borough final. Please vote … and tell your friends.

[poll id=”144″]


Bash at the beach. That's a good headline. Photos: Dave Colon

March (Parking) Madness: Bash at the Beach

Today's competition is a beach-side battle pitting the Rockaway peninsula's two precincts against each other. Befitting the good vibes of the nearby beach, the entire experience was pretty chill, save for a burned-out car getting its own parking spot for some reason.