Church Parking Flap: We See This As An Acceptable Cost

The Brooklyn Paper covers the ongoing bike-lane abuse, by houses of worship in Brooklyn Heights. The paper quotes the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church as saying their flouting of the law is made possible with the complicity of the 84th Precinct.

Last week, at the precinct’s monthly community council meeting, this blogger played for Captain DiPaolo this video, which I shot last fall. The captain seemed to adopt a kind of ‘surprised’ attitude, and asked if that was the case “every weekend”. I replied that not only was it the case, but last June, I had raised this issue with him at a community precinct meeting, in the very same room we were meeting in now.

He said that there “needed to be a balance”, and  I told him that I was all for “balance”, but wagered that his precinct  had not issued a single ticket to anyone for these violations. He said, “you’re probably right”, and said he would “look into this”. Apparently, that’s as much as the captain is willing to say, because he refuses to comment to both the Brooklyn Paper, and to Gothamist.’

The Reverend Phelps though, was more willing to talk to the Brooklyn Paper, and said, “we see see this as an acceptable cost, and they agree.”

Just who “we” and “they” are, is TBD; as is also if a cyclist is injured, or fire-truck or ambulance delayed, due to this “courtesy” (as it has  been described), the cost will still be deemed, “acceptable”.

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  • King Lou

    Who is driving to these churches anyway? Its annoying but for me it’s not as annoying as losing all the parking spaces they eat up during the rest of the week when no one can park there at all.

  • Andrew Porter

    I believe these are people who share the church on the west side of the street; the people going to Zion Lutheran Church on the east side don’t do this stuff.

  • my2cents

    Peter, you sure enjoy tilting at windmills. Why not enjoy your weekends instead of angrily filming parked cars?

  • fer

    yeah, get a freakin’ life.

  • Jose Uribe

    I say if these folks have decided not to observe laws that prevent them from parking in a bike lane, peeved residents should fee free to disregard laws that prevent them from vandalizing the illegally parked cars.

  • matt the new guy

    Mr Uribe’s logic is sound. I am a little concerned that two of you actually see this as a non-problem. Cars go on roads, bikes in bike lanes, subway cars on track and so forth. It’s a fundamental, straightforward component of transportation safety. And why are you lashing out at the post author?

  • x

    The church shuold pay for a shuttle bus to ferry all these visitors to and from church

  • digby

    Interestingly, if during any day of the week during business hours a resident on my street in the Heights temporarily pulls over to the side of the street to unload something out of their vehicle a la the churchgoers pictured here, I estimate that there is a 50% chance that they will receive a parking ticket. Just the other day, a guy with a mini-Uhaul pulled over for 10 minutes to unload a desk from the van into our building. Boom, an immediate ticket received – can’t remember if it was from a roaming and otherwise unoccupied street cop or the nutty traffic cop who cavorts around in the little NYPD golf cart.
    The question is why, in the case of the Fed Ex/UPS guys, movers, and the Fresh Direct guys, do we apply the same law in a completely different way? I believe the church-goers actually take this question to a much higher level (no pun intended) as they literally park their cars for hours on end!
    If the law is changed to accommodate the church-goers, then I will forever bite my tongue, but until then, I expect equal application of existing law.

  • my2cents

    For those of you against this, go re-read the last agonizing discussion. You won’t be able to make a new argument that hasn’t already been made. People just disagree about whether this is a problem.

  • WillowtownCop

    I hope those of you advocating vandalizing the cars aren’t serious. How would you like it if someone broke your window because your meter ran out 5 minutes ago? Autostripping and Criminal Mischief aren’t things you want on your record.

    Tickets aren’t the only answer. Why don’t you go to a meeting in the Church and complain to the people who are doing it? Why don’t you go to the fire station with pictures to ask if their trucks can get by?

    A couple of months ago we had a woman call every day to complain about a parking condition in Coney Island. Finally a cop went out there with 2 books of summons and wrote 60 cars that were parked at an angle where there was no sign and no lines on the street. That wasn’t the parking condition she was complaining about and her own car got a summons. She had NY1 out there because no one had enforced the law on that block for 40 years, and when the reporter asked her why she called on her neighbors she ran in her house and locked the door.

    The point is, by the criminal procedure law, all violations are discretionary and sometimes its not worth it to alienate an entire community of people because a few people are complaining. If every person who jaywalked or dropped a cigarette butt on the street or rode a bike that doesn’t have a bell on it (a criminal court summons) got a ticket everyone would hate the police so much that we couldn’t effectively do our jobs when something serious actually happened.

    I let people go all them time, usually depending on their attitude and to a certain extent who they are. I’m not going to write an old person a dog poop summons, or a bike on the sidewalk to someone who’s with their kids. I don’t bother the UPS guys either because the company factors in the cost of tickets into the cost of doing business and therefore the point of the ticket (discouraging the violation in the future) is moot.

    People want the police to use good judgment and discretion, but usually only when its in their favor.

  • my2cents


  • Jose Uribe

    Blah, blah, blah . . . these people are regularly and brazenly parking their cars for hours on end in an area that is clearly marked as a bike path. I regularly use this bike path and don’t appreciate the obstruction. I don’t see how these parking violations can be defended. I sure hope I don’t accidently slam my bike into the tail light of one of these cars.

  • WillowtownCop

    Well, if you do, your civil case just went out the window with your last post.

    Not everybody gets to be happy.

    How do you think the church people felt when a bunch of young yuppies moved into their neighborhood and demanded a bike lane be painted where they had been parking for years?

  • WillowtownCop

    Anyway, I find it a little amusing that bikers are complaining about others committing traffic violations. I’m sure not all of them do, but I routinely see bikers break every traffic rule in the book. They run lights and stop signs, they ride on the sidewalk, they go the wrong way on one way streets, they rarely signal, and god forbid you pull one over because in my experience a lot of them have a nasty, entitled attitude about it.

  • Peter Kaufman

    Willowtown Cop,
    Always good to see you here.
    I just want to make a couple of points:

    The side of the street where the Presbyterian church has ALWAYS been no-parking (except maybe on alt side of the street day), I can’t remember.

    Even so, the church has a concrete ‘yard’ that they use as a driveway/parking lot (of dubious legality – there is no curb cut), yet they have affixed to their gate an old city ‘No Parking’ sign, because they don’t want their own illegal driveway blocked.

    Lastly, cyclists should of course follow traffic regs, as should pedestrians. In 2008, 147 pedestrians and 25 cyclists were killed on NYC streets.

    I think every single one was killed by an automobile. While there have been of course automobile fatalities, how many were killed by a cyclist?

    The last I remember was on the Upper West Side, by a delivery-man, more than 12 years ago.

    So it would be good if the cops, using the good judgment you espouse, would go after the cause of the biggest harm.

  • WillowtownCop

    Just because a biker or a pedestrian was killed by a car does not mean the car was at fault- it just means that the car was bigger. Certainly sometimes the driver is at fault- drunk or speeding- but I remember a couple of years ago two young women who were drunk were running across 1st Ave by Stuy Town in the dark and were both killed by a cab. Imagine how bad the driver must have felt, yet it wasn’t his fault at all.

  • Peter Kaufman

    You are absolutely right. My point is that everyone has an incentive to have cyclist safe, and that includes obeying the law.

    When a cyclist and a car collide – for whatever reason – it’s usually the cyclist who ‘loses’.

    All the more reason for the cops to enforce the bike lane rules.

  • my2cents

    Willowtown Cop makes some great points about lawbreaking by bicyclists. I routinely see infractions every day. The irony here is that the city can’t actually apply the law harshly on the bikers because it would create a political backlash. So ironically bikers benefit from the same “look the other way” policy from cops that these churchgoers do. If cops applied traffic laws to bikers as harshly as they did to cars, you’d see 100’s of tickets being written daily for all the infractions Willowtown cop describes. Have you EVER seen a biker stop for a stop sign? Well, it’s the law, but no one does it, and no one gets fined. I almost have been hit several times by bicyclists who were riding the wrong way down the street and blowing the light I was crossing with. So please let’s not talk about uneven application of the laws here….you’ll lose that argument.

  • Jose Uribe

    WillowtownCop is clearly nuts (as is this conversation at this point). These drivers are regularly and brazenly illegally parking in a area clearly marked as a bike lane. There really is no rational argument to support this behavior. And certainly no need spin off on wild tangents about traffic law compliance (get a grip WillowtownCop).

  • Peter Kaufman

    My 2 cents – what exactly is your argument – until all cyclists get tickets, we shouldn’t ticket cars? How about we make that rule for pedestrians? Until every pedestrian gets a ticket for crossing at the red, or in the middle of an intersection, no tickets for cars.

    How about if the parishoners decided they needed to drive up the street the wrong way? Would that be cool for ‘just a few hours’ every Sunday?

  • soulman

    As an ex-bikerider (someone vandalized it in my building’s storage room) I have to agree about the terrible manners of many bikers in the Heights. My rule of thumb is that their sense of entitlement can be measured by observing the amount of special gear and clothing worn. The more spandex, the more the rider has a ‘screw you’ attitude toward pedestrians. Many bikers routinely go through lights and go the wrong way in the bike lanes, but become ballistic if someone is in their lane. I’m at the Clinton/Cadman/Tillary intersection several times a day – a spot that should have a police presence to nail a few two wheeled piggies.

  • Jose Uribe

    Soulman, what does any of that have to do with people illegally parking their cars?

  • AEB

    I don’t get it–if laws are selectively enforced/enforced at the discretion of the policeman…well, what’s the point of them?

    I do understand that there’s a realpolitik aspect to enforcement, but still, there’s a difference between not issuing a ticket to an old lady who can’t bend over to pick up her dog’s excrement, and the week-in, week-out infractions of multiple drivers who insist on parking illegally and consistently get away with it.

    If you accept that some laws will not be absolutely enforced, then enforcement should have to do with degree, no? How many people get to park illegally for how long before the “tipping point” is reached?

  • matt the new guy

    Uribe, stop talking about damaging cars. You’re making yourself and the argument supported by the facts look dumb. You are also giving ammunition to the pedaling prick stereotype. If that is the kind of biker you are, please don’t speak for the rest of us.

    This whole discussion skirts the underlying values divide between those who see bicycles as a recreational activity and those who embrace it as a primary mode of transportation – one which improves public health, the environment, and quality of life.

    Like the church, bicycling can strengthen communities. Our neighborhood is blessed with resources and a reputation for a high quality of life. We are located in a/the major global city. It looks bad when we can’t live up to the lowest standard of relatively tame progressive transportation policy. And if the policy is wrong for Henry St. on Sunday mornings — change it!

    Until then, enforce it, please. So simple.

  • WillowtownCop

    AEB- the majority of laws are routinely not enforced. I have a list of nearly 1,000 things you can be written a summons for in NYC, not to mention things that are actually crimes. Did you know adultery is still on the books? Its a misdemeanor for which the law says you can do a year in jail. The police department uses its discretion to not enforce that law because to get the circus in Albany to repeal it is a waste of the taxpayer’s money and having half the state’s population in jail is kind of silly too.

  • ratNYC

    This is definitely not about cars vs. bicycles. It is about the laws being enforced differently in equal circumstances. I live by the promenade, and every weekend tons of people drive to the promenade and park illegally in nearby streets for a few minutes while they go check out the view, and they almost instantly get a ticket. This makes me very happy, but at the same time, I can’t park my car to load or unload stuff infront of my house on a Sunday without running a big risk of getting a ticket if I leave my car unattended for a second. Listen, cops are so ticket hungry I park on the street legally and every year I get a ticket the first day my inspection ticket expires. So, why is it that every week people park on Henry street illegally for hours without ever getting a single ticket? Why the privilege?

  • Peter Kaufman

    The only reason adultery is kept on the books in New York, is because it serves a purpose in New York. New York is the only non no-fault divorce state, so it’s used as a grounds for divorce.

    I suspect, if the issue was ever pressed, the statute would be found to be un-Constitutional – on privacy claims.

    Let’s just be clear about 3 things:

    1) ratNYC asks ‘why the privilege’ – it’s because these people happen to pray in a certain way.

    If your religion has you praying in your home, or in the woods, or if you don’t pray, you don’t get this privilege.

    2) If and when someone a cyclist is hurt or killed, because of this willful non-enforcement – the city and the church will no doubt be sued for a lot of money, and maybe THEN something will probably be done. It’s like how domestic violence or drunk-driving laws used to be enforced. It only changed when people were killed, and municipalities got sued.

    3) And when that day happens, and of course, it eventually will – the people who know about, and acquiesced in it, and refused to speak up – will have it on their conscience.

  • WillowtownCop

    All of the other grounds for divorce in NY are not in the penal law statutes (cruel and inhuman treatment, abandonment, imprisonment, and conversion of a separation agreement) so I don’t see why adultery would be required to be. It’s also on the books in most states that have no-fault divorce.

    It has NOTHING to do with religion. You only have to go a few blocks over to Cobble Hill and see how people double park on alternate side days and never get any tickets with nary a church or a temple around to know that. It has to do with political clout. The church has political clout, just like the community board that worked out the alternate side agreement does. Until people who don’t want people parking in the bike lane organize and have more political clout than the church does, nothing is going to change.

    The only lawsuit I’m aware of that someone could file to compel the police to enforce a law is a Article 78 proceeding called a mandamus to compel, but that only covers the performance of an act required by law as to which no discretion is involved, and, as I stated before, the Criminal Procedure Law specifically gives the police discretion as to violation level offenses.

  • AEB

    Thanks, WC, for the explanation. You’ve supplied the real-world “justification” and a sense of what might be done to redress the situation.

    But that doesn’t make the inequality of enforcement in this instance right, in my opinion.

  • my2cents

    WC is the only person here who has a grip on the messy reality of life. Maybe because he is a police officer, and not an apartment-bound literary type. My point, Peter, was simply that you can’t stand there and scream about unequal treatment under the law when the group you are advocating for also benefits from this unequal enforcement. This is what is called hypocrisy.
    I strongly advocate the idea of more bike lanes in the city, and I think there needs to be a balance between cars and bikes. My perspective is from someone who has a car, likes to bike, and walks about 90% of the time, I can see things from each POV. As a pedestrian my biggest hassles come from bikes and taxis, not private motorists. So when I hear cyclists piss and moan about cars, I say as a pedestrian why don’t you obey the traffic laws first, then we’ll talk about your “rights.” From a common sense level, I don’t see why you all don’t just ride down willow instead. It’s a lot prettier than Henry and has waaay less traffic, no matter what time it is.