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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  • ABC

    I think everyone who parks illegally should be given a ticket.

  • Peter Kaufman

    Re adultery statute – it’s the divorce cause that must be proven by a 3rd party. As I think Raoul Felder said, it’s what keeps private detectives (many of whom I suspect are retired cops), in business.

    Abandonment and cruelty take longer, and/or harder to prove.

    As for whether this is about religion? OF COURSE it is. The pastor and the captain of the precinct have literally said it is. Go argue with them, if you think it isn’t.

    Moreover, if you don’t think it’s about the particular God people worship – we’ll do an experiment. I’ll go rent a car, and put a home-made sign in it that says “I’m holding a Rasta ceremony inside my apartment to venerate Hailie Sellassie” or that “I’m a Confucian, and venerating my ancestors in my living room shrine”, and go park it in a No Stopping Anytime spot. You pay whatever tickets I get.

    Lastly, it would be a civil lawsuit of course. Hopefully brought before a tragedy happens, and not by next of kin.

  • my2cents

    Just to inject some facts here, according to, which has an amazing interactive map showing pedestrian and bicycle injuries and fatalities in the city, there has not been a single bicycle injury or fatality reported on that block of Henry (data is from 1995 to 2005). There have been 2 pedestrian injuries on that block. There has been one reported bicycle injury at the intersection of clark and henry. All in all, if you look at the neighborhood data, pedestrians are more commonly injured in brooklyn heights than cyclists overall. The most interesting part of this is that as far as I know there was no bike lane there in 2005. This argument is a tempest in a teapot when you zoom out and look at the horrific body count in Park Slope and other parts of the city.

  • WillowtownCop

    I agree with my2cents, except its “she.”

  • The Where

    Bicyclists should move to China.

  • nabeguy

    Given PK’s alternate identity, it’s more a tempest in an inkpot. One word, precedent. From horse-drawn carriages to SUV’s, people have parked in that lane for Sunday services, as they do in front of every other church in BH on Sunday morning. However, I will grant you that to extend the privilege beyond the services of the Presbyterian Church is pushing Christian charity to its limits. While I admire the church for offering it’s space to other denominations who may not have the benefit of a gathering space, they shouldn’t take a position that turns its back on its local parishioners.

  • No One of Consequence

    If no one living in the neighborhood complained about the cars parking there, then I could see ignoring the fact that they do, unless they are impeding the path of travel for emergency vehicles.

    But the fact is that residents are complaining so the appropriate laws should be enforced. The church does not have any more rights than the people that live here, in fact, I might argue they have less rights as the church as an organization is not a tax payer the way a resident is.

    Hopefully Observer and newyorker will come running to the defense of fellow religions and accuse me of thinking that every church goer parks illegally everywhere they go.

  • No One of Consequence

    oh, and just WHAT exactly is “an acceptable cost”?
    Allowing parking exemptions is an acceptable cost for what? Passage to heaven? Free parking is an acceptable cost for the ire of your neighbors?
    Out of context it doesn’t make any sense.

  • AEB

    Thank you, No One…..

    The “that’s-the-way-it-is” argument usually reeks…..

  • Peter Kaufman

    To ‘No one’ and ‘AEB’,
    Exactly, and that is why I put up this post. “WE see this as an acceptable cost”?

    To quote what Tonto said to the Lone Ranger, when the latter said, “we’re surrounded”.

    Who is ‘we’?

    The arrogance exhibited by the statement is not a little astounding.

    Pure chutzpah.

  • hoppy


    “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.”

    Huh? Isn’t the point of the ticket also to get money into the City coffers? (which thought explained ticket quotas). If this company expects tickets and is writing it off the bottom line, then why not get the extra cash? All the extra revenue might theoretically prevent one or two cops from being laid off.

  • WillowtownCop


    I’m going to tow the company line on this one- you’ve been reading too many newspapers. I suspect if the point of the “quotas” that the Post has been whining about was so cops would write enough tickets to pay their own salary that the “performance objective” would be more than 5 criminal court summonses a month, which is what it has been for years. It may be different for Brownies or people in summons writing details but not for most cops. I’ll even go out on a limb and say even the parking tickets serve a purpose other than generating revenue- see the thread above in re public outrage when parking rules are not enforced. The point is not that the cop gets fired or punished for not paying her way- the point is that if she spends 8:35 a day driving around a sector in NYC for an entire month and does not find 5 people who truly deserve a summons (which is actually an appearance ticket, not an outright fine, and which probably costs the city more than the eventual possible fine if you take into account the entire adjudication process) then she is not effectively doing her job and keeping her sector safe and out of the headlines, which is actually the goal. And supervisors of course take into account who works hard when doling out the sector every morning, and who is a zero who deserves a hospital or a crime scene post. Both of the “police officers” who have run to the papers screaming about quotas in recent months were both already under suspension for unrelated matters before they came up with their stories. One of them had not written a single summons or arrested anybody in a year and a half before he was suspended for deserting his post and going home without permission, and the other one was suspended for assaulting a supervisor- not exactly the most credible and unbiased sources of info, but their stories sure did sell some newspapers. If people would like to justify the ticket they were written by telling themselves that its a hidden tax on honest citizens because the police feel like they need to pay their own salaries other than the result of their own often selfish and sometimes even dangerous behavior (double parking, not scooping poop, etc.), then be my guest if it makes you feel better, but it isn’t actually the entire truth.

  • BB

    The overall problem is that this parking abuse by churchgoers has been a pervasive blight for well over ten years and that the various commanding officers of the 84th precinct have condoned this abuse. The parishioners at the church on Henry and Remsen have parked illegally on Remsen Street and don’t get ticketed if they put a placard on their dashboard indicating they are attending liturgy. Since they got away with blocking up Remsen Street by parking on the side where parking is prohibited, and they got away with parking in the fire zones, they started parking in the bike lane and on the sidewalk on Henry Street south of Montague. It is amazing that every single Sunday morning, there are about 20 SUVs half in the bike lane and half on the sidewalk. Not only are they blocking the bike lane, but they are blocking pedestrian traffic and destroying the concrete. Everytime there is a religious holiday, the police put up signs that there is no parking on Remsen Street east of Henry so that the residents of this neighborhood must move their cars to accomodate the people who come from outside the neighborhood to attend services. This is not a question of balance-this is an issue of the police abusing their discretion to enable one group of people to blatantly disobey all the parking regulations in order to attend church. People who park illegally on Remsen Street, Henry Street, as well as anywhere else in the Heights get ticketed and/or towed. But, if you are attending liturgy, you are a member of a privileged class and are permitted to park illegally. I have personally witnessed police ticket cars without the placards while ignoring the ones in front and in back with the placards and, when questioned, say they have been directed not to ticket the cars with the placards even though they agree that the cars without them are not causing any more of a blockage than the ones with them. Only in America, where there is a constitutional mandate of separation of church and state, would the police grant a special privilege to churchgoers.

  • hoppy


    I fear that my poorly worded query may have come across as provocative. That wasn’t my intent, sometimes I think aloud as I write. Thanks though for the comprehensive explanation about quotas and such; it’s always a bonus to learn new things from those in the know.

    Anyway, what I was really wondering about is why the UPS guy gets a pass…I understand the primary purpose of the citation (disincentive) will not be achieved, but if the company will freely pay, then why pass up the money for the City? Otherwise it appears that the corporations are being excused from paying their fair share.

  • Andrew Porter

    Don’t arrest people for adultery — tax them. Boom, budget crisis solved!

  • othersideofthebridge

    Can’t the clergy bike to church?