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Queens Chronicle

Placard legislation is stuck in park, for now

Despite past bills being cast aside, interest grows in another attempt

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Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 1:47 am, Thu Feb 13, 2014.

It’s that time of year again: the annual slicing of the state-issued parking placard by state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside).

A major proponent of cracking down on the use of phony state-issued parking placards, Avella sliced a copy of his valid one on Friday at his office in Bayside to inspire action by the state and city governments.

“I don’t think any elected official should get this,” Avella said. “I’ve introduced legislation on this, which would help identify how many legal placards are out there because there’s an underground market for illegal placards.”

In 2008, the city cut the number of registered parking placards from 80,770 to to 54, 871, a reduction of 32 percent.

A Transportation Alternatives survey of nine Jamaica streets in 2010 found that 59 percent of the 188 placards seen were used illegally, while 26 percent were bogus.

In response, Gov. Cuomo announced in April 2011 that the number of “official business” placards issued by the state would be slashed by 10 percent, from 2,210 to 1,993, while law enforcement placards distributed by the State Police would be cut by 84 percent, from 1,730 placards to just 261.

To further combat the illegal and improper use of the placards, legislation introduced by Avella on the state level in February 2013 calls for every parking placard to have a barcode.

That way, traffic agents would be able to confirm a placard’s validity with a scanner.

According to Avella’s bill, the barcode would contain the name of the individual authorized to use the placard, the license plate of the vehicle on which it is displayed, the name of the agency the driver is employed with and a unique identification number specific to each placard.

The legislation has stalled in the state Senate because of a “lack of support” from his colleagues, and Avella isn’t sure if any further action will be taken on it in the near future.

“In fact, a couple of them have said to me over the years ‘You’re giving this up? It’s a great perk,’” he said. “It hasn’t moved. But I’ve always got good reaction from my constituents and other people throughout the city. I’m hoping we can generate some interest today.

“I routinely will send notices around to my colleagues saying I’ve introduced the bill and I would appreciate them co-signing,” he continued. “But you get 100 of those things.”

The bill was referred to the state Senate’s Finance Committee on Jan. 8.

Councilman Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan) introduced mirror legislation in the City Council in February 2011, with a sizable amount of support from Queens representatives such as Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) and Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), who all co-sponsored the bill.

In June 2011, Garodnick’s legislation was laid over by the Transportation Committee and no more action was taken on the measure before it died at the end of the Council’s session last year.

Dromm believes the bill was pushed aside by then-Council Speaker Christine Quinn as being unimportant.

However, he has hope for a new version being introduced sometime soon.

“I don’t know for sure, but from what I can surmise, Christine Quinn didn’t see it as a priority,” Dromm said. “The legislative process is just beginning, but I would sign onto it again if Councilman Garodnick reintroduced the legislation. I definitely support the idea of having barcodes on the placards.”

And if Garodnick decides not to bring the bill back to life, Dromm says he will take matters into his own hands.

“If the councilman doesn’t introduce it, I will introduce it myself,” he said. “It would be a priority for me.”

Garodnick’s office did not respond to multiple inquiries from the Chronicle by press time.

The matter of state-issued placard abuse was highlighted in a January 2011 Chronicle exclusive when then-Councilman, now-Deputy Borough President Leroy Comrie alerted the paper to mass misuse of the perk along various Jamaica streets.

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