Archive for the ‘New York’ Category

It’s been an odd week in parking news, mainly because of two six figure stories on opposite ends of the spectrum. In Chicago, we finally have a resolution to the car that accrued more than $105,000 in tickets at O’Hare airport; and in Buffalo, NY we have a meter technician that was caught stealing $210,000 in quarters over 8 years. First, let’s take a look at the Windy City.

As some may recall, a car owned by Jennifer Fitzgerald of Chicago was left in the O’Hare International Airport employee parking lot for more than three years, accruing 678 tickets totaling $106,000 during that time. She filed a suit with the city, showing evidence that while the car had been in her name, it had belonged to a now-ex boyfriend for all intents and purposes. He worked at O’Hare, and was the one who abandoned the vehicle in the lot, refusing to have the car signed over to his name. With the car in an employee lot where she was not allowed to go, Fitzgerald was unable to retrieve it. On top of that, after a vehicle has been deemed abandoned for two to three months, by law the city is supposed to tow and impound the vehicle, but parking enforcement workers at O’Hare never did this. Instead, they continued to ticket the vehicle for years, not just fining it for parking violations but also for having illegally tinted windows or out of date city tags and registration. While parking enforcement denies having quotas, it’s fairly obvious that employees were ticketing this car again and again instead of towing it to boost some kind of metric that they’re evaluated on.

Yesterday, Ms. Fitzgerald’s suit was dismissed and a settlement agreed upon with the city. She would pay a total of $4500 to clear the tickets and fines, with a $1600 down payment to be made by her former boyfriend and the rest to be paid off by Fitzgerald in monthly installments of $78 for the next three years. While being less than 5% of what was owed, this seems like a fairly equitable settlement; the majority of those fines shouldn’t have been there as the vehicle should have been towed, the ex boyfriend is taking care of a big chunk of it, with the rest on Fitzgerald (who missed an earlier court date related to the tickets, thereby increasing them all exponentially). Still, the fact that it took more than three years to even notice this is alarming, and just goes to show just how lax city oversight of parking enforcement and operations usually is.

That said, Chicago is still ahead of the game compared to Buffalo, NY where city meter mechanic James Bagarozzo was sentenced to two and half years in prison for stealing more than $210,000 in quarters from city meters between 2003 and 2011. Using his position and technical skills, he rigged about 70 parking meters so that he could collect from them undetected. He would then go to the bank on his lunch hour and roll and exchange the coins. I once had to roll nearly $50 in quarters and other change, and that took hours; Jimmy Bagz (that’s what I’m calling him now) rolled more than 10,000 pounds, that’s five tons, of quarters! Jimmy Bagz had one co-conspirator, a co-worker named Lawrence Charles who helped with the scheme for five years and stole $15,000 in that period.

So how did they get caught? Well that’s the beauty of this story, one that just drives home the point I make again and again in so many of these stories: a little attention and oversight by the city’s parking management will save money and keep most parking abuses from happening. You see, Buffalo parking commissioner Kevin Helfer noticed that the digital meters in the city were making significantly more money than the old mechanical meters, which is odd. He had an investigation launched and using video surveillance they were able to discover that Jimmy Bagz had been stealing fro the old meters daily. When the FBI was called in and they confronted Jimmy Bagz, he admitted to the thefts (which are considered a federal crime). Since this debacle, the city has switched entirely to digital meters that take both credit cards and coins and are next to impossible to rob. Since making these changes and ending Jimmy Bagz’ scheme, city parking meter revenue is up $500,000 annually. With that kind of improvement, you have to wonder if there might have been others skimming off the top as well. Regardless, the city and it’s citizens are all benefitting from this wannabe Stan Smith finally being caught, and all thanks to a parking official that actually took their job seriously and paid attention to what was going on.

As of yet, there is no word on whether Kevin Helfer looks like Forrest Whitaker, but I find the story far more amusing to imagine he does.

Officials in Britain’s National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as well as local governments and businesses are considering raising parking rates in an attempt to force people to walk more and get more exercise. The goal is to curb the rising obesity rates in Britain’s population which have increased nearly fourfold over the past 30 years to 24% as of 2009. Still, the UK pales in comparison to the US which still holds the number one spot for fattest asses on the planet with a whopping 36% obesity rate. NHS research has shown that Britons are walking less and less, which is one of many contributing factors to the rising UK obesity rate (McDonald’s is undoubtedly taking a top spot on that list of causes though).

So how do you get people walking more? Apparently, NICE decided to go with “Make them!” as an answer. The idea is that by raising parking rates they will effectively price people out of driving unless absolutely necessary. On paper, this could almost make sense. After all, many cities are adopting demand-based electronic parking meters that change prices based on availability, raising rates as available parking fills up so that there’s almost always open parking in a given area. The success of using a free-market system like this for parking to meet both consumer and municipal goals (convenient parking and positive revenue flow respectively) has been well researched and documented; in fact, nearby San Francisco has implementing this system with great success as part of a case study run by Professor David Shoup (and as all you Shoupistas know he is THE authority on parking systems and economics). And there’s no denying that folks aren’t getting enough physical activity these days. But once you look beyond the surface, the gaping holes in this idea become clear.

The first logical fallacy in this plan is the idea that many people are CHOOSING to drive rather than NEEDING to drive. It’s the same type of thing that happens when celebrities talk about how everyone can take a little time out of there day for yoga or a workout or a colon cleansing or whatever, they have no concept of how much easier having an army of servants and personal assistants and personal trainers and nannies make the minutia of life, and how much harder it is to find not just the time but the mental energy and motivation to put some time into yourself during the day. It’s the same thing for many people that are driving, particularly those who are working class. It’s been proven that the poorer you are, the farther away you’ll be from fresh sources of food such as a grocery store; for example, there are no actual grocery stores within the city limits of Detroit! So there really is no other option for many working class folks than to drive to get their groceries. Same goes for a lot of other everyday things; a significant amount of people have to pay their bills in cash for instance, or don’t have buses that can take their kids home, or are working two jobs and simply don’t have the time to walk somewhere. For these folks, who don’t have the luxury to forgo driving as part of their day to day routine, this parking hike is going to place an undue burden on them, essentially just making it more expensive for the less affluent to go through their day.

This will also hurt businesses anywhere a policy like this is in place. When a parking market system is used to raise or lower parking rates so that there is always available parking in a commercial area, this benefits everyone. Businesses make more money because their customers can always find parking to reach them, and customers are only looking at paying a little more for convenient parking if it’s a busy day. By contrast, the NICE plan of essentially pricing people out of parking so that they have to walk will leave numerous empty spaces in front of businesses that won’t get filled, thereby driving away customers that might have shopped there. Which ironically will lead to people shopping at home online more, and only increase their lack of physical activity. And of course on top of all of that, the truly obese will hardly be affected by this at all because they’ll still have access to convenient handicap parking and rascal’s waiting for them at the entrance of the grocery store.

So at the end of the day, all this policy would do is make life harder and more expensive for the working class while having virtually no effect on the wealthy or those who are desperately in need of more exercise. And let’s not forget that all these parking rate revenues go into government coffers, making this yet another way that big government is trying to pay it’s bills by taking money out of the back pocket of the working class. But hey, what are they supposed to do, actually provide basic nutritional education to children in school and revamp the school lunch program to have healthier, balanced meals?

Now, those of you reading this who are stateside like myself may be thinking “Why should I care about the British nanny state?” Well let me tell you why. As you may or may not know, New York city mayor Michael Bloomberg passed a ban on sodas larger than 16 oz a little while ago, in the interest of combating obesity. Some have been calling for Mayor Bloomberg to implement a similar parking program in the projects of New York, both by raising rates and literally eliminating some parking spaces in the projects and reducing the number of NYCHA issued parking permits. So we could be seeing these same misguided, nanny-state policies coming to the U.S. because apparently government, not willpower and motivation, is the solution to too many people being fat and lazy. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely think that Americans are way too fat and need to exercise more, but that will take a concerted, across the board effort that addresses the many root causes of the obesity epidemic in this country, not by trying to price our waistlines into shrinking at the meter.

Such a tragedy, my condolences to the Victorino family.

BY BARRY PADDOCK , CORKY SIEMASZKO AND FRANK MILLER / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 2012, 11:06 AM

MARCUS SANTOS FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Parking-lot attendant Victor Victorino was killed by an SUV that fell from a lift in a Barclay Street garage on November 26.

A Manhattan parking attendant was crushed to death Monday morning when an SUV slipped off a lift and fell on him.

The worker, identified by colleagues at the downtown garage as 45-year-old Victor Victorino, was pinned by the weight of the vehicle at 8:12 a.m., police said.

“It’s tragic,” said Faisal Choudhury, who learned of the accident when he came by to pick up his car from the Icon 24 Hr. parking garage at 21 Barclay St.

“He was a very nice man, a perfect gentleman. He always said, ‘Good morning, how are you?’ He always treated me with such respect.”

Kim Lurie, another regular at the garage, said she spoke to Victorino a few minutes before the accident “and he seemed fine.”

“He was always very friendly with me,” said a shaken Lurie.

The victim’s frantic relatives arrived at the garage a short time later and were ushered into the nearby Woolworth Building.

Friends said Victorino was a father of three and a cancer survivor who lived in Washington Heights.

Police said the doomed attendant was operating a device that raises vehicles to allow another car or truck to be parked below it when the SUV toppled about 6 feet onto him.

While cops were investigating, an Audi parked just 6 feet away from the garage suddenly burst into flames.

“Someone yelled from the street, ‘Hey, buddy! Your car’s on fire,” said the car owner, Cesar Callan, a personal injury lawyer who had been waiting to park in the garage. “Of course, I didn’t believe that so I jumped out of the vehicle, looked underneath, and the car was on fire.”

Firefighters quickly doused the flames.

With Marcus Santos

bpaddock@nydailynews.com

via Parking garage worker crushed by falling SUV – NY Daily News.