By Sasha Pezenik

Last Friday’s ticketing surge during evening prayers outside the Islamic Cultural Center on Riverside Drive and 72nd street raised tension in the area, but it doesn’t appear to have dissuaded cab drivers from double-parking so they can stop for evening prayers.

Residents say that cab drivers did seem to stop double-parking for a couple of days after the tickets were issued. But a few days later the old pattern reemerged. With the curb so densely congested, M5 buses have been forced to stop and let passengers off  in the midst of a bottleneck making them “navigate a two lane gauntlet of illegally parked taxis,” Jeffrey Morrison told us. Monday evening, he said that a taxi backing into the pedestrian zone nearly hit a woman walking her dog.

Residents have complained about the issue for years, and police say they’ve worked with leaders in the Muslim community to alert them to the concerns. But tensions were somewhat strained by last week’s tickets. Some taxi drivers say the NYPD and traffic agents have been unfairly stringent as of late. “It is a responsibility of our faith to be here,” said one cabbie. “This has never happened before.”

Abdul Razzaq Al-Amiri, director of the cultural centers on both 72nd street and 97th street, and Imam Chernor Sa’ad said that they’ve talked to people who pray there about the need to observe traffic laws and that any cabbies surprised by the ticketing “may have just been new.” There is more activity at the center now than usual, as Muslims are in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan.

Representatives from both the precinct and the mosque expressed their desire to communicate openly, and minimize surprises and tension. “We try to accommodate people as much as possible,” says Officer Clarke of the 20th precinct, “They [the Islamic Cultural Center] work with us, and we work with them.” Officer Clarke also indicated he thought the ticket count that some news sources had reported from last Friday was hyperbolic. “In fact, they gave out more like 50 tickets,” and “only those disrupting the flow of traffic.”

Mr. Al-Amiri and Mr. Sa’ad said that overall the ICC has a positive relationship with local police. They have participated in several precinct community council meetings to discuss the double-parking during Ramadan, and officers typically allow an approximate 15-minute courtesy for prayer. “We all want to work together,” ICC representative Mohammad Younes said, as Al-Amiri proudly presented snapshots of officers posing with mosque-goers.

When neighborhood complaints crop up, police usually call the ICC, and announcements are made at the Friday service reminding worshipers they are not allowed to double (or triple) park – according to Mr. Al-Amiri, that’s “almost every week.” Last Friday, however, ICC representatives can’t remember being notified. “I don’t know why last Friday was different,” Mr. Al-Amiri said.

Upper West Side residents are frustrated that the double-parking continues despite the fact that police have warned members. “If the police tell them once, they shouldn’t have to keep repeating themselves,” one local said. “Double-parking is against the law; if I do it, I get a ticket.” Inconsistent enforcement — officers sometimes looking the other way, sometimes upholding traffic statutes — may have encouraged some cab drivers to test their luck.

Compounding the quandary, cab drivers tend to stop to pray at the site closest to their last drop-off. A constantly changing congregation hailing from all five boroughs makes reminding drivers about etiquette a continual process, leaders of the ICC said. “Police in one area might have given them permission, but not in another area. And a passing traffic agent might not know.”

Cabbie Mohammad Arif says taxi drivers have repeatedly had friction with traffic police: “They’re always ticketing us, always trying to catch us,” he said. Knowing this, he plays it safe: he comes a half hour early to prayer, finds a parking spot for his car, and walks to the mosque.

ICC representatives echo community concerns and police comments – they know it’s illegal, and want to work within NYC traffic criteria. They added, however, that there has been resistance from the taxi-driving worshipers, and that some individuals simply do not listen.

Some police officers have said they now feel reluctant in writing tickets, not wanting to exacerbate an already sensitive issue and potential political landmine.

“The police have to be able to do their job,” one Upper West Sider mused, “And of course, everyone should be able to observe their religion. We are all entitled to pray… but we are also all entitled to safety.”

NEWS | 30 comments | permalink
    1. upperswestsideguy says:

      Once again we get to pick and choose which laws we break and which are enforced. Same for parking for any other religious holiday anywhere else.You break the law you get a ticket. If you are too lazy to plan ahead you deserve the rewards you reap. Change the law if you like but until then stop complaining that you broke it. You are not victims and you made a hazard for everyone else, oh shucks, too bad.

      • Nelson says:

        Im with you. There shouldn’t be anything “dicey” about it. Double park, get a ticket. And if your taxi driving gig interferes with your schedule (religious, family or otherwise)… change your schedule.

      • TFJWM says:

        So you are ok with the police ticketing every car that double parks during street cleaning too?

    2. C says:

      Forgive me if I am missing what is “dicey” about any of this. It is just another example of allowing some perceived group of people to avoid being subject to the same laws the rest of us have to obey every day. You double park, you are creating a safety hazard for pedestrians, other cars and buses. Therefore you get a ticket.

      This is not very complicated. Let me ask a question: if a bunch of wealthy parents were getting ticketed because they were leaving their SUVs double-parked outside the Collegiate School on 77th and 78th in the morning, while they kiss little Muffy and Pemberton goodbye for the day, so you think there would be any discussion of whether such a thing was dicey? No.

      • Lmr says:

        The point is that those wealthy parents do double park….all the time… and DO NOT get tickets. The notion that double parkers get ticketed is just a complete fallacy!

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        Muffy and Pemberton?

    3. Shopper says:

      Just wondering why NYPD simply doesn’t assign a couple of officers to help direct traffic around so they can pray. Lord knows every time there is a Christian funeral NYPD is right there to allow double, sometimes triple, parking for funeral goers. And I can name half a dozen churchs where I see double parking on Sundays so parishioners can access the church easy. Seems a double standard.

      • Chris says:

        A funeral is not the same as a call to prayer. And every Religion has the same rules regarding Funerals in NYC.

        • Shopper says:

          Hmm. So what about the church parking on Sunday? Again, we are selective on how these tickets are given out. Show me one instance of Sunday church goers getting ticketed for double parking. This Sunday, stop by 86th and Park and tell me what you see.

    4. Kenneth says:

      Yet somehow the trucks that double park on both sides of Columbus and occupy the No Standing 7am -10am curb space on the west side of Columbus between 96th and 72nd violate the regulations with impunity and, from my observation, receive no tickets.

      • david says:

        And why don’t the cops seem to mind the Fresh Direct truck that blocks the right lane of Amsterdam and 88th all day, every day?

      • pub says:

        sorry, but your personal anecdote claiming those violators are not being ticketed is not backed up (here at least) by any evidence. Please provide some empirical evidence for this claim or else your comment adds nothing to this discussion

    5. bravo says:

      I, for one, will work to encourage residents who are affected by this traffic law violation: SUE THE ISLAMIC CENTER on 72nd. If they cannot park they cannot park, plain and simple. We have the hypocritical politics shoved down our collective throat, and this must stop. I’m on my way to Ms. Rosenthal office.

      • Gretchen says:

        I’m with you Bravo!

      • Jeff says:

        Oh look, fragile UWS busybodies are still wringing their hands and clutching their pearls because of the abject horror that is *gasp* double parking.

        Lighten up, people. It’s Ramadan and a little leeway is in order. By all means, educate the cabbies and remind them to be cautious. But I live at 72nd & West End, and I’m at Riverside Park almost every day, and the situation really is not a problem.

        • Gretchen says:

          Well, ok. The next time I get a ticket for double parking, I’m gonna plead innocent and tell them I was praying to the parking goddess and expect a dismissal.

          • dannyboy says:

            This remark is very disrespectful to an entire religion. Your analogy brings transparency to all anti-Islamic commentors.

    6. Chris says:

      If they are allowed to double park I will start a new Religion based on legal double and triple parking. 🙂

    7. Scott says:

      Ugh. Go back to Karachi already. Yeah Bruce, that was indirectly aimed at you!

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        wtf?! how did i get into this?

        but you deserve some points of creativity… telling a 3rd generation New Yorker, a Jewish-AMerican, to “go back to Karachi.”

    8. guy_on_the_corner says:

      A little courtesy goes a long way. I live very near by and it really doesn’t affect me any more than all the guys who block in cars during the 11-12:30 street sweeping regulations. If I’m not legally parked, I can’t even find a space to double park after 11:15 and this is by the residents of the neighborhood.
      During alternate side double parking by residents, most people put a phone number on their dashboard so people aren’t completely blocked. If the cabbies can’t get phone calls during services, perhaps the islamic center can devise some sort of system like this where if someone is blocked in, they can get the car moved by the owner or someone from the center. Of course if the cab is posing a risk to pedestrians or blocking other vehicular traffic they should definitely get ticketed. Just a little common sense and courtesy.

    9. James says:

      Generally I’m quite proud of my home neighborhood – We Upper West Siders are a proud bunch and we value tradition. We New Yorkers in general are typically progressive thinkers.

      But all I can say to the comments above (and below) which lack any sense attempt at understanding the dynamics of this situation is:

      “Judge not, that ye be judged. For with what judgment, ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

    10. J Weidenaar says:

      My beef is with traffic cops who, rather than pulling over, double park and block traffic while issuing parking tickets. Not criticizing the ticketing, but why make things worse? Invariably there’s a hydrant or other opening within feet of the ticketed car. I’ve commented to the officer in real time but this has been met with frightening response so I learned not to do that.

    11. Jean says:

      The headline and article are inaccurate. The issue is not double parking, it is failure to enforce laws about parking in “no standing” zones. In addition, the cabs are double and triple parked in the “no standing” zones and across crosswalks.

    12. Sylvia says:

      Why is itLEGAL to double park for street cleaning on the Westside but not on the Eastside

    13. Pedestrian says:

      What’s dicey. Double parking is illegal! Relgious exemptions shouldn’t be given.

    14. Elizabeth M. says:

      I respect other people’s religions, but that doesn’t include breaking the law. Practice your faith & pray, but have regard for others. If you know you have to pray at a certain time, plan ahead so you don’t inconvenience everyone else.

    15. stuart says:

      No one has discussed the double parking of unoccupied (no driver inside the vehicle) school buses on West End Ave waiting for the Manhattan Day School on West 75 between West End and Riverside to dismiss their students. These buses are blocking vehicles that may want to leave their parking spots, or vehicles that want to park or drop off passengers. The buses show up much too early and block the normal flow of traffic on the newly narrowed West End Ave.