By Gus Saltonstall
Those familiar with Columbus Avenue in the low 80s are well aware of the double-parked cars that add to the street congestion in the area. It turns out the preponderance of double parking is tied to the location of the NYPD’s 20th Precinct on West 82nd Street between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues.
“All of those [double-parked] vehicles are personal vehicles of the officers assigned here,” the 20th Precinct’s traffic sergeant told Community Board 7 at a Transportation Committee meeting last week. “As you guys are well aware, parking around the precinct is very limited. Unfortunately, we have an influx of officers with limited parking space.
“We try to talk to officers, they most often move their vehicles,” the sergeant added. “But it’s simple. It’s us’.”
Members of the board mentioned that the stretch of Columbus Avenue is sometimes reduced to just one moving lane as trucks also need to park adjacent to the dozens of businesses within the blocks from 81st to 83rd.
The sergeant pointed to outdoor dining sheds, trucks, and residents parking in police designated spots as reasons for the jump in double-parked officer’s vehicles.
“I know this is a hot topic, but If some of these outdoor dining sheds could be taken down, we could open up some more parking, some more space for trucks to discharge their equipment,” the sergeant said. There is one outdoor dining shed along the avenue on the west side of 82nd Street and Columbus, and one on the 20th Precinct block itself.
A Department of Transportation (DOT) map shows nine parking spots designated for 20th Precinct officers, the majority of which run west to east along 82nd Street. None of them are on Columbus Avenue from north to south.The sergeant explained that the nine dedicated spots do not equate to single parking spaces, and the officers are allowed to park within a radius of those designations.
“While it is nice and we’re grateful that those spots are saved for us, it can’t hold personnel,” the sergeant said.
The suggestion from a board member that officers park slightly farther from the precinct was quickly shot down. “That is not a risk we’d be willing to take,” the sergeant explained, while pointing to examples of people damaging police vehicles that have NYPD plaques.
Nicole Paynter of the Columbus Amsterdam Business Improvement District was the next to offer a possible solution for the overcrowding of vehicles.
“Why does everybody need to drive in? Can they take public transportation?” she asked.
“I can’t tell all the officers they need to take mass transit,” the sergeant responded. “I’m sure just like you, everybody has a family, some have childcare issues that after work they have to drive and pick up their children, so I can’t say why they’re all driving into work.”
As shown by data presented during the meeting, many of the officers that work in the 20th precinct live in upstate New York or Long Island, while 53 percent live in the five boroughs.
“I would give them [officers] the best directions for mass transit,” one Community Board 7 member said with a smile.
To make the congestion situation worse around Columbus Avenue and West 82nd Street, 20th Precinct officers have to store vehicles that are seized as part of investigations in the surrounding area. Those vehicles, sometimes with broken widows and dents, remain for extended periods because the precinct is only able to send two vehicles a month to the NYPD car pound.
One board member suggested being more aggressive with handing out tickets and towing cars or trucks that are double parked or parked in police designated spots.
The sergeant added that it would go a long way if the DOT was able to dedicate several spaces along Columbus Avenue exclusively for trucks to load and unload supplies.
The discussion ended with CB 7 saying they would look into getting more dedicated personal parking spaces for the 20th Precinct officers.
You can watch the full discussion below.
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