Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) When we reported last week that Governor Cuomo was continuing to issue thousands of parking placards a year, his office told us he was "reviewing" the matter. That's a pretty standard brush-off that politicians give reporters -- they don't want to magnify a story by giving you a quote, and they hope by saying they're reviewing it the whole story will go away and they will never have to think about it again.
But that wasn't the script here.
To recap, we reported that the the state division of homeland security was continuing to issue some 3500 placards a year, despite Cuomo's election slogan of promising to "end business as usual." The placards say the bearer is on "official police business," even though, in many cases, the placards go to elected officials and state staffers who have no law enforcement responsibilities.
With them, staffers can (and sometimes do) park anywhere, any time in New York City, where to say parking is at a premium is like saying water is valuable in the Sahara.
And having a placard means it's that much easier to drive to work, or on an errand, rather than use mass transit, at a time when many officials are encouraging people to reduce carbon emissions and relieve congestion by taking mass transit.
Despite repeated requests, we couldn't get the division of homeland security -- or anyone in the Cuomo administration -- to explain who got the placards, or why.
But it turns out, the matter really was under review. The state inspector General, Ellen Biben, has investigated several instances where placards were reported to be used in appropriately. Her conclusion: the whole system is flawed and needs to be redesigned. Cuomo agreed -- his remarks follow.
Here's the full text of Governor Cuomo's remarks on parking placard abuse, from a question-and-answer session with reporters in Albany today.
And here's the audio if you want to listen along.
"Police Placards are actually an abuse that goes back fifteen, twenty years I’ll bet when you look. Every nine months there’s a story on abuse of a police placard. It’s one of those situations that the design of the system is prone to abuse.
"There are a number of specific case of alleged abuse of police placards.
"Police placards are issued to state employees, elected officials, to be used when they are on official business and they are put in the windshield of the car and the car is allowed to park in areas. They are also used to gain admission to secure areas.
"A number of specific incidents were being investigated by the inspector general. The inspector general has reported that she believes the entire system is flawed and that unless you redesign the system you will have those incidents of abuse recurring.
"And that does make sense to me and we’re going to follow the recommendation of the inspector general and reform the system. We will be announcing that shortly."