Marcel Moran, a PhD candidate at the University of California’s Berkeley Department of City and Regional Planning, spent a month last fall visiting every police station in New York City as part of a research project for his graduate program. He walked the perimeter of each station to see whether vehicles — both personal and NYPD-labeled — were parked on sidewalks (partially or fully) and/or in crosswalks.
He found these instances of illegal parking at 70 out of 77 stations across the five boroughs, and every single station in the Bronx and Brooklyn. Moran said he observed vehicles parked on sidewalks at 69 stations and in crosswalks at 36 stations during his November 2022 trips across the city.
In the Bronx, he found that all 12 precincts had cars parked on the sidewalk and all but three — the 41, 52 and 47 precincts — had cars parked in crosswalks, Moran told the Bronx Times.
Some may argue that it’s a sheer coincidence that the vast majority of police stations in the city had this kind of parking debauchery on the day Moran happened to visit. But he also analyzed historical Google street images going back 15 years, and a pattern was clear.
“There did not seem to be an increase or decrease in this behavior between 2007 and now,” Moran told the Bronx Times. “It’s just been incredibly high throughout that period.”
According to Moran, Google took an average of nine images of each station between 2007 and 2022, resulting in 703 archival pictures, of which 82% showed either parking on sidewalks, crosswalks, or both. All Bronx stations had historical evidence of the parking behavior, Moran said.
During his single visits to each of the 77 stations across NYC, 91% had these types of obstructive parking.
Moran, whose research interests are pedestrian, transit and bike issues in cities, published his findings in a peer-reviewed academic article called “Authorized Vehicles Only: Police, parking, and pedestrian access in New York City” in the academic journal Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives.
“This is a widespread and chronic problem that degrades the pedestrian environment, especially for people with mobility impairments and mobility aids and parents with strollers,” Moran told the Bronx Times. “Crosswalk and sidewalk regulation citywide should hold across the city and I don’t think that they should be de facto suspended in certain areas because of the offices on those blocks.”
Parking on sidewalks and in crosswalks is prohibited in New York. People who see cars parked on sidewalks near signs that say “Authorized Vehicles Only Police” or see vehicles with city-issued parking permits in the windshield — also known as placards — may think it’s a special privilege. But the NYPD patrol guide actually specifies that it’s not.
The patrol guide references section 219-29, which explicitly states that “there is no valid verifiable defense” for officers to park their vehicle — with or without a “Restricted Parking Permit” — under an array of conditions, including double parking, parking in crosswalks and parking on sidewalks. The patrol guide also directs desk officers to inspect the area around the station “to ensure there are no Department vehicles or vehicles displaying Restricted Parking Permits parked illegally,” such as obstructing bicycle lanes and sidewalks or parking in front of fire hydrants or in bus stops — all types of behavior that Moran observed in his study.
Moran said that the authorized vehicle signage posted near stations is intended to reserve “lawful parallel street parking” for NYPD affiliated vehicles, which he said is “obviously sensible.”
In his academic article, Moran said that the East New York Community Land Trust identified 73 parking lots in Brooklyn and the Bronx that are controlled by the NYPD, “with many underused in terms of parking.”
A wave of advocates regularly call out instances of city employees misusing their parking permits — like Twitter account “placard corruption” — and members of the NYPD parking on sidewalks — like the account “NYPD Parks On Our Sidewalks.” Moran said he didn’t take placards into account in his study because the type of parking he was looking at isn’t allowed even with legitimate placards.
Moran was inspired both by these online activists and through his visits to friends in New York, where he first noticed the “unusual” parking at the Long Island City precinct in Queens before realizing how widespread it was. He said that while he saw individual instances being called out online, he wanted to see the “complete picture.”
“I didn’t see anywhere that was looking at all of this at the same time, and I didn’t see any accounting for how chronic this type of parking behavior is,” he said. ” … I wanted to move from this type of precinct by precinct collection of frustrations and say, well let’s take the full picture.”
The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment.
Reach Aliya Schneider at [email protected] or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes