New Academic Study Bolsters Streetsblog’s March (Parking) Madness: Cops Degrade Neighborhoods

We've been on this crap for years.
We've been on this crap for years.

Our March (Parking) Madness contest just got its Ph.D.!

A noted academic has confirmed what we’ve found for years: that police park their personal vehicles all over the place, disrespecting their neighbors, degrading police-community relations, delaying bus riders, oppressing pedestrians and making their neighborhoods a complete mess.

University of California professor of City and Regional Planning Marcel Moran visited all 77 NYPD precincts last fall for his paper, Authorized Vehicles Only: Police, parking, and pedestrian access in New York City, which was just published in the august journal Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives.

From his field work, Moran said he can confirm that Streetsblog’s reporting on police parking is seminal.

“My takeaway from visiting all the station houses is that this behavior corrodes trust and goodwill towards the NYPD,” Moran told Streetsblog on Monday. “And it does so on a daily, monthly and yearly basis and has been going on for decades. It’s a type of disrespect to the city and to its residents. It poisons the well of people’s ability to trust the department. A great way to rebuild trust is to reform this type of parking.”

Streetsblog NYC reporting is cited eight times in the study, including pieces by every current member of the staff, plus former deputy editor Eve Kessler. Just as we’ve reported, Moran found the same problems at virtually every station house, finding “widespread and longstanding parking on sidewalks, and, to a lesser extent, in crosswalks.”

Of the 77 station houses, 70, or 91 percent, “exhibited parking of at least one of these kinds, with sidewalk parking often extending along the entire block (and not simply in front of station houses), on adjacent blocks, and on both sides of the street,” his study showed. “This renders many sidewalks impassable — forcing pedestrians into traffic — and in many cases directly abuts residences and businesses, curtailing access to such destinations. (A slideshow below shows off many of the worst examples around town.)

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“Given police are tasked with the bulk of traffic enforcement in America, it is uniquely relevant if police themselves are behaving in a manner that might otherwise draw enforcement actions,” the study added.

In an interview, Moran said conditions at most station houses left him feeling angered at the way public infrastructure such as sidewalks are treated — and what that means for the public.

“You know, the majority of New Yorkers do not own cars, so it’s disheartening to see this disregard for basic public amenities that all New Yorkers deserve,” he said. “Someone asked me the question, ‘Is it really such a big deal?’ Well, if it’s your sidewalk, it’s a big deal. If it’s the front of your house, it’s a big deal. If it’s your curb ramp, it’s a big deal. So for me, this study for me was rooted in empathy for all these people who live near station houses.”

The study cited many of the station houses that Streetsblog readers have come to know from the March (Parking) Madness contest, whose 2023 version is in the very final round, pitting the 75th Precinct in East New York vs. the 43rd Precinct in the Soundview section of The Bronx. (Voting closes at noon on Tuesday.)

It's a bad sign when Google Maps offers this photo evidence of police disrespect. Photo: Google
It’s a bad sign when Google Maps offers this photo evidence of police disrespect. Photo: Google

Moran also singled out the 70th Precinct in Brooklyn for its egregious parking that forces pedestrians into the street, which we cited in our 2021 March (Parking) Madness contest, though voters ended up finding other precincts even worse.

Interestingly, if you search the station house on Google Maps, the picture that comes up shows a squad car illegally parked to block a curb cut.

Moran’s treatise does not address the fact that the majority of NYPD officers live in the suburbs, and an even larger majority drives to work every day. But those facts dovetail with his findings, he said. Certainly, police officers’ out-of-town residences encourages driving, but so does the presence of free parking.

“People often have the causality of driving flipped,” he said. “They think, ‘Well, cops have to drive because they live in the suburbs, but it’s actually the opposite. The land use is driving the transportation behavior, not the other way around. If it’s understood that you can park for $0 wherever you want, that greases the wheels to drive. If cops, like any employee or commuter in New York City, had to confront the fact that parking is very expensive and hard to come by, they would be much more likely to take transit or carpool or bike.”

The paper concludes by recommending that this particular cop behavior be cracked down upon.

“The most obvious policy implication is the enforcement of existing parking regulations, and/or clarification of those regulations for police personnel,” the paper concludes. “The type of parking documented here would likely be reduced substantially if traffic-enforcement officers ticketed and towed such vehicles.”

Yeah, good luck with that. The NYPD declined to initially respond to a request from Streetsblog for comment on Moran’s study.

After initial publication of this story, the agency sent over a statement that did not address our specific questions:

We listen to our communities and we know that parking around our precincts is a persistent concern. It is difficult due to the number of persons who work in a precinct and the amount of parking available. In terms of vehicles that are seized and stored at the precinct, if we are able to operate the vehicle, we will drive the vehicle to an appropriate storage location. We recognize that this is a challenge and remain committed to addressing these community concerns.

Read the full study below: