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No Placards Revoked Yet as de Blasio Takes Gas Out of City Employee Parking Crackdown

Dozens of city employees — including City Council members — ignored tickets on city-permitted vehicles after racking up parking and traffic-enforcement fines.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announces a plan in 2017 to crack down on placard abuse.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announces a plan in 2017 to crack down on placard abuse.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

A parking-placard enforcement push Mayor Bill de Blasio announced with fanfare last year has yet to yank a single permit away from any municipal worker, according to the chief agency issuing the prized perk.

“No placards have been officially revoked,” Scott Gastel, a spokesperson for the city Department of Transportation, told THE CITY.

The revelation comes as a special interagency placard enforcement unit de Blasio launched in February 2019 has been dismantled, a victim of cuts in the pandemic-battered city budget.

And it comes even after some placard-holders — among them City Council members — have racked up unpaid bills for traffic and parking violations. Repeat violators also include a recently deceased Board of Elections official who played Tony Soprano’s driver on “The Sopranos.”

Placards allow parking in designated areas and are intended to help city employees fulfill their work duties. But some workers flaunt them to illegally park — much to the consternation of many New Yorkers.

In 2018, city agencies issued more than 125,000 placards.

Under a three-strikes policy introduced last year, any city worker found to have repeatedly misused or fraudulently used a permit is supposed to lose the placard, after getting a warning and an opportunity to appeal the decision.

A placard holder can also have their parking permit revoked or suspended if parking and traffic violations in excess of $350 go unpaid for 90 days.

Gastel confirmed that his agency has sent some city employees warning letters for misuse of a placard, triggered when a placard-holder gets a first violation for misusing the permit or amasses at least $150 in unpaid traffic or parking violations. In July, the New York Post reported that warning letters were on tap for 389 city employees.

But a review and appeals process can brake the procedure for stripping away permits.

A DOT committee examines the appeal and decides whether the placard holder gets to keep their pass, Gastel said.

In July, according to Gastel, DOT sent 10 notices to city employees that their placards would be revoked. Of those, he said, eight did not have three citations for placard abuse, he added.

The remaining two, he said, “did not return appeals, and will be sent official revoke final notices shortly.”

Council Members Cited

Records DOT maintained for the period prior to the launch of the new enforcement program, and obtained by THE CITY, show dozens of placard-wielding city employees had not only racked up traffic or parking violations but then failed to pay their tickets on time.

The data shows that at least 92 parking and moving-violation tickets issued to placard-holding city employees between July 2018 and early February 2019 ended up unpaid for so long that the Department of Finance issued a judgment for collection, with penalties.

Of those tickets, five went to members of the City Council: Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn), Chaim Deutsch (D-Brooklyn) and Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan), all of whom have since paid.

Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan) speaks at a 2017 press conference about cracking down on placard abuse.
Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan) speaks at a 2017 press conference about cracking down on placard abuse.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

City records show Deutsch received a $115 ticket for parking in a no-standing zone, ultimately paying $176.14 once a $60 late-payment penalty and interest were added.

A spokesperson for Deutsch said the council member was standing next to his vehicle and talking to a constituent in front of a post office when the summons was issued.

“He immediately moved his vehicle, and then watched the traffic officer pull into that same ‘no standing’ spot, park his car, and go get lunch,” said the spokesperson, Tova Chatzinoff-Rosenfeld.

Rodriguez — who chairs the Council’s Committee on Transportation — received two tickets in the fall of 2018 for parking in a no-parking zone, each a $60 or $65 violation. DOT records show he owed $242 at one point last year, including penalties and interest.

Rodriguez said that he’s worked for years on resolving the issue of placard abuse, and has always obeyed the rules of the road to “the best of my ability.”

“If I have parked in a non-standing area, I have paid off those tickets,” Rodriguez added.

Levin also received a no-parking zone violation, in addition to a ticket for driving without a state DMV registration sticker, normally a $65 penalty. He owed the city Department of Finance $247.

Councilmember Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn) attends a press conference on the steps of City Hall about combating homelessness, Jan. 30, 2020.
Councilmember Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn) attends a press conference on the steps of City Hall about combating homelessness, Jan. 30, 2020.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Levin told THE CITY that he paid those tickets, but only vaguely remembered receiving them in first place. He said placards are still too often misused, and “that’s got to change.”

Since receiving those tickets, Levin said he’s biked and taken the subway more often. “I drive my car as little as possible,” he added.

Unsafe in Child Welfare

An Administration for Children’s Services employee racked up the most unpaid tickets in the records obtained by THE CITY, a total of 10, all after license plates associated with his permits got zapped for driving in bus lanes and driving through red lights.

Those violations were tied to placards held by Stuart Goldstein, ACS director of transportation. A second ACS permit got hit with additional three tickets.

City records show fines and penalties remain owed on all but one of those 13 violations, totaling $1,325.74.

A spokesperson for ACS said that Goldstein does not drive any of the vehicles. “These placards are utilized on a shared pool basis by a variety of frontline employees across the agency,” said the spokesperson, Marisa Kaufman. A third ACS employee, who amassed six unpaid parking-related violations on his placarded personal vehicle, no longer works for the agency, she said.

Added Kaufman: “We are currently working to resolve these summonses, including the summonses that involve individuals who no longer work at ACS.”

A Board of Elections official from The Bronx, Anthony Ribustello, had four unpaid parking tickets go into judgment last year, months before his death in December. Ribustello was best known for his role playing Dante Greco, Tony Soprano’s driver on “The Sopranos.”

After issuing a placard crackdown plan in 2017, de Blasio two years later promised to replace the system of placards — first with a sticker pilot program, then fully with scannable license plates — by 2021.

“These initiatives give us the tools we need to start making a real dent in this pervasive issue, to help build a fairer city for all,” de Blasio said in announcing the scheme.

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