Wednesday, August 27, 2008

City taking back 82% of placards for educators


Wednesday, August 27th 2008, 2:34 AM

The city is slashing the number of parking permits it gives education employees by 82%, leaving staff to scramble for 11,150 spots outside of schools across the city.

Mayor Bloomberg had vowed in January to trim the number of placards by 20% - a cut of 12,600, considerably less than the the 52,240-placard hit educators now will be taking.

The original plan was drastically altered when city officials found that the number of placards given to teachers and other school staff outnumbered the spaces by a ratio of six to one.

"That creates a situation where you are asking for problems," said Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler.

Instead of towing and ticketing cars when school starts next week, the city is giving people until Oct. 1, he said.

Of the remaining permits, 10,007 will be for parking around the schools, and the remaining 1,142 are reserved for staff who travel, such as home instruction teachers.

Only one placard with unlimited time restrictions is available to the Education Department, and that goes to Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, officials said.

The dramatic drop angered teachers, who were already peeved by a 20% threat.

"I don't know what is going to happen, but it's not going to be pleasant," said Charles DiBenedetto, a teacher at Richmond Hill High School.

"Parking is atrocious. There are a thousand driveways," he said of the neighborhood around his Queens schools. He estimates his commute on public transit will hover at an hour and a half.

The nosedive in school placards brings the overall reduction of placards in the city to 54%, or 78,026, nearly 50,000 more than the mayor's original goal.

Skyler said the teachers union has been "very reasonable...a pleasure to work with" on the placard issue.

Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, had been prepared to go to court to block the reductions but said she was relieved that the number of spots remains the same. It's simply fewer placards.

"This was at least a rational way of dealing with this," Weingarten said.

The principals and a UFT rep at each school will determine who gets the placards. Skyler said they will consider a pool of placards, a technique used in the NYPD and FDNY so that when one employee is out, another can benefit from the placard.

By cutting the number of placards, City Hall hopes to encourage more employees to take public transportation and reduce the city's carbon footprint.

The number of placards each school gets will be based on how many spaces the Department of Transportation reserves for the area.

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