160,000 parking placards in NYC; many used illegally

One car blocking a hydrant in a no standing zone, another parked halfway in the street, and a whole line of cars parked right in an active bus lane.

The violations on Wednesday afternoon in downtown Brooklyn were abundant and blatant but Fox 5 News could not see a single ticket issued to any of the cars.  What they did find was a placard in the windshield of almost every one of the illegally parked cars.  Some seemed official but others clearly were not real.

Benjamin Fried is the Editor in Chief of Streetsblog which recently began mapping locations of repeat offenders.

Fried says the issue has gotten worse across the five boroughs as the city has distributed more placards.  There are 160,000 legitimate ones in circulation, including 50,000 handed out by Mayor de Blasio to teachers last year...

"It does not give you the blanket right to park Illegally wherever you want but that's how they're used," Fried says.  "It's the same stuff every day, the same people are abusing the same spots and it's not getting any better."

Then there are the countless fake placards or substitutes for placards like city issued vests.

Sam Schwartz, the transportation engineer and columnist known as Gridlock Sam, says placard abuse creates major safety hazards and slows down the rest of city traffic. 

"Right now, it's the Wild West when it comes to what people are putting in their windshields," Schwartz says.  "We are reaching a critical state of congestion in city."

Last May, de Blasio announced a crackdown on placard abuse and illegal placards. He even announced the creation of a special placard enforcement unit within the NYPD. While that unit says it's issued some 37,000 tickets, it seems there are still plenty of people who think they're above the law.

Safe street advocates like Fried and Schwartz aren't convinced the crackdown is helping.

"If the mayor wants to claim his placard crackdown is making a difference, prove it and we should be able to go back to these places in a month and say the problems gone, but that's not what we're seeing," Fried says.