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The Cops

A Cyclist Tried to Stop the NYPD From Illegally Parking on the Sidewalk. The Cops Wrote Him a Summons

"Get a job man," one cop told the cyclist. "Some of us actually have to go to work."

An NYPD SUV attempts to park on the sidewalk outside of a police precinct while an NYPD officer tells a cyclist to get out of their way so they can illegally park.

NYPD Officer Luilly Baez instructs cyclist Louis M. to get out of the way so that his colleague can park illegally on the sidewalk. (Screenshot courtesy of Louis M.)

The Adams administration has pledged to address the widespread problem of cops illegally parking on sidewalks outside of police precincts. "It drives me insane," NYPD Chief of Department John Chell told the City Council earlier this year. But when one Brooklyn cyclist recently stood in the way of two NYPD officers who were trying to park on the sidewalk, it was the cyclist—not the scofflaw cops—who walked away with a citation. 

Around 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning, cyclist Louis M. spotted an NYPD SUV attempting to park on the sidewalk across from the 78th Precinct in Brooklyn. He dashed over on foot, pushing his Citi Bike, to prevent the officers from parking there, right in front of a fire hydrant. The entire incident is captured on video, which Louis provided to Hell Gate.

"Sir, it's police parking," a voice booms over the vehicle's loudspeaker. Louis refuses to move. NYPD Officer Luilly Baez gets out of the car. "It's police parking," Officer Baez says.

"It's not police parking," Louis replies.

"Remove yourself and remove your bike."

"I absolutely won't."

After some more confused back and forth, in which Officer Baez says "you're not allowed to be on the sidewalk," Louis insists that he isn't moving, because he has a right to be there. "If you wanna write me a ticket, write me a ticket, and I'll win," Louis says. Officer Baez takes him up on the offer. 

"You are getting a summons." 

"For what?"

"For riding the bike on the sidewalk."

The encounter goes on for another 11 minutes. Officer Kevin Vargas, who was attempting to park the SUV on the sidewalk, double parks in front of the precinct while Officer Baez writes out the civil summons. While waiting for his summons, Louis reads the officers the section of the NYPD patrol guide that prohibits parking on the sidewalk, he quotes Chell from the City Council hearing, he calls the cops "fucking idiots," all to no avail. "This is intimidation. You are attempting to use your position of authority to attempt to silence me from stopping you from doing something illegal," Louis says.

Several times, Officer Baez implies that Louis is unemployed. "I don't know why you gotta be like this," the police officer says. "Get a job man, some of us actually have to go to work."

Hell Gate sent the video of the incident to the NYPD, along with a list of questions about Officer Baez and Officer Vargas's behavior. The NYPD sent us this statement in response: "Parking around precincts is a persistent challenge due to our thriving, complex city and the limited space we all must share. But the NYPD strives each day to achieve balance as we continue to work toward common-sense solutions."

Representatives from the Mayor's Office have not yet responded to our request for comment.

The problem of NYPD officers illegally parking around police precincts is so endemic, it was the topic of an academic paper published this past spring, which showed that cops parked illegally at 91 percent of the NYPD's 77 precincts across the city. New Yorkers who attempt to call 311 to report this illegal parking are ignored, or worse. The City's Department of Investigation confirmed earlier this year that one person who frequently complained about illegal parking received menacing phone calls from a police officer.

In his testimony to the City Council in April, Chief Chell said that he was taking the issue of cops illegally parking "very seriously," and that he had issued 39 "command disciplines" and even more lesser penalties to scofflaw officers. Chell urged the media to keep drawing attention to cops parking on sidewalks.

"I welcome these blog sites, when I catch wind of something, I am on it," Chell said. "I understand what the issue is. And I'm definitely dealing with it and I am not treating it like a joke."

Louis, who is a 32-year-old teacher at a school in Downtown Brooklyn, told Hell Gate that he became concerned with the issue of cops illegally parking a few years ago. He noted that he has filed hundreds of 311 complaints and that they were all closed without being addressed. Physically blocking cops who are attempting to break the law is a recent escalation of his tactics. 

"I can't make the cops move, but if they are doing something I can put my body in the way of, and stop them from doing something wrong, that's sort of the only power that I have," Louis said. "I'm also a white guy. I recognize that I can get away with yelling at the cops in a way that a lot of other people can't, so this feels like a relatively safe way for me to do it."

Louis said he physically blocks illegally parking police vehicles with "some regularity," but he's never been ticketed before—the cops usually just circle the block and wait for him to leave.

Louis acknowledged that he is a grating presence on the street. "I know I'm being annoying, and I know that it doesn't make a difference like 90 percent of the time when I do it," he said. "I think that it's a civic duty to remind the police that they are not all-powerful. Like, they say they have better things to do? I agree. They have a sub-30 percent clearance rate on general crime in New York City."

Asked what he would like to come out of this incident, Louis said that he'd appreciate it if the NYPD disciplined the cops, if only so they wouldn't write bogus tickets in the future. He has filed a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, and plans on fighting the civil summons.

"I'm a relatively small fish. I'm in a stable financial situation. If I don't win this case, then I'll pay the fine and I'll be annoyed, but my life will go on," he said. "But if someone else gets sort of railroaded by the police, and they don't have the resources, that could really drastically alter someone's life."

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