Mapping placard abuse

City Council data maps 311 complaints about parking permit misuse, most of which result in no action

  • Illegally parked vehicles owned by city employees are a common sight on many Chinatown streets near City Hall and NYPD headquarters. Photo: @placardabuse, via Twitter.

  • The location of 311 parking placard complaints since May 2017. Image: NYC Council

New Yorkers made 3,165 official complaints last year regarding improper use of city-issued parking placards, just 11 percent of which resulted in a ticket or summons, according to 311 data analyzed by the City Council.

The vast majority of placard complaints — 68 percent — resulted in no police action, either because investigating officers reported that they could not find the vehicle in question or determined that no action was necessary.

Roughly 125,000 city employees hold official parking placards, which are not administered by a single entity but rather issued separately by individual agencies — primarily the Department of Transportation, New York City Police Department and Department of Education. Placard holders are permitted to park in loading zones or metered spots for free, but abuse of the system is widespread. The Twitter account @placardabuse regularly posts images of personal vehicles blocking fire hydrants, bus lanes, bike lanes and crosswalks, or displaying fake or expired permits.

The City Council, which is currently weighing a package of legislation that would crack down on placard abuse, produced an interactive map tracking the location of every 311 placard complaint since May 2017. The full map is available at

“The days of giving a free pass on illegal parking are over,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson said at a March 27 hearing on the bills. “Personal convenience cannot trump safety or the needs of bus riders, pedestrians and cyclists.”

One bill under consideration would create a standardized application process for placards; another would require traffic enforcement officers to call for a tow of any vehicle obstructing a bicycle lane, bus lane, sidewalk, crosswalk, or fire hydrant in a non-emergency situation.

Shortly after the Council legislation was introduced in February, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his own proposal to step up enforcement and enact stronger penalties on placard abuser. Under de Blasio’s plan, the city will create a new three-strike policy that would permanently revoke the placard of any city employee found to have misused their privileges three times. The mayor also said the city would replace placards with a new digital parking system by 2021, but the administration has resisted calls to reduce the number of parking permits in circulation.

Are there placard abuse hotspots in your neighborhood? Tell us where:

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