The World Is On Fire! Quick, Throw Some More Rules On It!

Here in New York City, we’ve got more than our fair share of problems (*ahem* RAT PITS *ahem*), but get ready to cross “unemployment” and “illegal parking” off the list because there’s a new bill before the City Council that will no doubt put an end to both forever:

Yep, simply report an illegally parked car and you could net yourself a sweet 25% commission:

Under the bill, which was introduced by Councilman Stephen Levin and Council Speaker Corey Johnson, fines for illegal parking would be increased from $115 to $175.

Additionally, the person who reports an infraction would get 25% of the money, or about $45.

I feel both richer and safer already:

The hope is the proposed change would increase safety around bike lanes, bus lanes, sidewalks, crosswalks, and fire hydrants.

Predictably, local news leans heavily on the “snitching” angle:

And while this certainly would appear to provide drivers with yet another pretense for punching people:

What’s even more astounding is that the bill’s sponsors seem to think it will make some kind of a difference when there’s already an entire subculture of people in New York City who report illegal parking for free. The typical Streetsblog-reading, reusable bag-toting TransAlt member probably reports like 50 cars to 311 (that’s the city’s help line) before breakfast, and it’s such a popular pastime that there’s even an app for it:

Filled with reports such as this:

And yet, incredibly, illegal parking persists. Could it be that the reason for much of this behavior is not that the people engaging in it are morally bankrupt souls who get off on endangering cyclists and dodging fines, but rather that they don’t see any other choice? Oh sure, there are certainly assholes out there who leave their cars in the middle of crosswalks and slap a parking placard on their dashboards because they don’t give a fuck, but for every one of them there are probably 10 people who simply can’t find a place to pull over because there isn’t one. And while there are some who would argue that driving is in itself reprehensible behavior, what’s truly offensive is the city throwing its hands in the air and turning parking enforcement into some kind of scratch-off game instead of focusing on the underlying problem.

So what is the underlying problem? Well, it’s that there are too many cars–not “too many” in the moral sense, or the “climate emergency” sense, just too many in the purely objective spatial sense. There are various ways to address this, and one of them is creating certain spaces where cars are not able to go–and notice I said “able” as opposed to “allowed.” This sometimes requires making difficult decisions that are ultimately rendered in concrete and not orange parking tickets.

To be sure, the city has made some difficult decisions in this regard, but there’s still way too much nonsense involving paint and little bits of orange paper. For example, some time ago I went to a community board meeting where the item of discussion was one of those crappy white-line-in-the-door-zone bike lanes the city wanted to install. One of the local bike-haters objected to it on the grounds that it would leave double-parking drivers open to getting ticketed for blocking a bike lane, which was of course ridiculous, since double-parking itself is also illegal. The DOT’s response to this objection was, “Well, we don’t design for double-parking,” and only later did I realize this was equally ridiculous. Basically, instead of acknowledging double-parking is a problem and designing accordingly, they wanted to proceed on the basis that double-parking shouldn’t happen and so let’s just continue acting as though it doesn’t even exist. That approach doesn’t fix anything for anybody, whether they’re bicycling or driving–and nor will paying people $45 for pointing it out.

Of course, it’s not surprising that certain City Councilmembers would try to offload parking enforcement onto the citizens, since we now live in the Age of Shaming. But whether it’s victim-blaming dead cyclists for not wearing helmets, or snapping photos of Uber drivers’ license plates while they’re dropping off passengers in the bike lane, or engaging in any of the “Gotcha!” behavior that typifies social media discourse, none of it is either productive or sustainable in that it is completely at odds with our fundamental humanity. It’s why the mayor thinks he can stop a virus by fining people $1,000 and force-quarantining them for doing Thanksgiving, and it’s also why people are going to go ahead and do Thanksgiving anyway–only this year we’ll have the added bonus of illegal fight clubs, thanks to the hostile, oppressive conditions under which we live:

 If you’re found in violation of quarantine orders, deputy sheriffs will issue a mandatory quarantine order issued by the health commissioner.  A violation of the mandatory order can result in fines ranging from $1,000 to $2,000. 

“No one likes that,” said de Blasio. “No one wants to do that on the holidays, but we will do it to keep people safe.”

The city will primarily focus on large-scale gatherings including illegal fight clubs, gambling dens and underground raves, according to NYC Sheriff Joseph Fucito.

Though I guess many Thanksgiving gatherings degenerate into fight clubs anyway, so maybe it’s a wash.

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