An outraged Westville writer succeeded in getting the parks department to follow parking laws in the wake of last week’s snowstorms—for a little while.
Call it the case of Oppenheimer v. Parks, a tale for our snowbound times.
“Oppenheimer” is Westville writer Mark Oppenheimer . After the latest snowstorms, Oppenheimer got hit with a ticket for violating a new state law ordering people to get all that snow off their vehicles before driving them.
Grumbling about the ticket, he kept noticing that around the corner from his house, a staffer at the parks and rec office avenues was keeping a department vehicle parked right in the bike lane on Yale Avenue near the corner of Edgewood. (Plowed snow was covering the shoulder where cars usually are parked.)
The car was there Friday. Saturday. Sunday. No ticket.
Oppenheimer took to YouTube to post a video editorial condemning the hypocrisy. Click on the video to watch.
The Independent followed up with acting parks chief Rebecca Bombero, who also lives around the corner from that parks office. She referred the inquiry to mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer.
Grotheer Monday morning said the car’s illegal parking caught city officials by surprise. They weren’t pleased.
“It’s a pool car. It’ll be harder to fix responsibility,” Grotheer said. “The good side of that is it will be moved promptly. The city’s inquiry into this is already underway.”
At 9:40, the Independent saw parks department recreation supervisor Felicia Shashinka (pictured) enter a second illegally parked department vehicle. She said the department had just “gotten a call” to move its vehicles out of the bike lane. She said another staffer would be out momentarily to move the other car, the one Oppenheimer had spotted.
Shashinka said until recently staffers were parking vehicles in the office’s lot behind the building, off the street. But “we we were having a lot of vandalism. So we were not parking there.” For now, she said, “we’re going to move them back there during the day” and find somewhere else to park after hours.
Oppenheimer passed by the office on his way downtown around 12:30 p.m. Monday. That original vehicle was gone. Three new parked parks and recs vehicles were now blocking the bike lane on Yale. He posted a new video; click on it to watch.
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posted by: Nathan on February 24, 2014 2:22pm
To his credit, Mr. Oppenheimer admits the validity of the ticket that seems to have pumped him up into enforcement mode. His observations are correct and the city should be leading with compliance, not following (and only partially) when chased by residents. Of course, the root cause for this specific situation is the ineffective snow plowing efforts, a disaster that continues to have secondary impact as shown in this story.
posted by: Joe City on February 24, 2014 2:53pm
NHI, please explain your use of the word hypocrisy as it applies here?
posted by: flyingace15 on February 24, 2014 3:13pm
So, let me get this straight—this guy is mad that the bike lane is blocked in the middle of one of Connecticut’s worst winters? The cars have their own lane on the side of that building, clearly from the videos it appears that those lanes weren’t plowed out. Causing staff to park the cars on the side of the building. From Ms. Shashinka’s comments, it also appears that the Parks Department is having a problem with vandalism. The logic here seems to be that we please this one tax payer to have the rest pick up the tab for the cars that get vandalized from parking in the back lot.
posted by: Carl Goldfield on February 24, 2014 3:53pm
Make it two taxpayers. I run down Yale in the morning once a week. There are no sidewalks on the eastern side which runs along the park and the sidewalks on the western side are often poorly cleared and icy. That leaves the bike lane (which I have always understood to be designed for biking and running.) When the bike lane is blocked by the Parks Department I’m forced out into the street into traffic. It is dangerous and really annoying.
posted by: the_regular on February 24, 2014 4:05pm
Hope Archie the Dog is properly licensed with the city…would hate to see any retaliation directed at the Oppenheimers’ canine companion…
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 24, 2014 4:30pm
Do like they do in New York.
In New York’s Strictest No-Parking Zones, Not Even the F.B.I. Is Exempt
posted by: flyingace15 on February 24, 2014 4:37pm
@Carl Goldfield, bike lanes are a localized issue. From my understanding, they are intended just for bikes, but like I said that varies from place to place. Might want to check the New Haven Charter on that one. The root of the problem seems to be the poor job that NH Public Works did in clearing sidewalks and the street. The “annoying” thing about this issue is that the city is facing far greater problems like gangs, high crime rates, poverty, failing schools and yet we are concerned with ONE city car illegally parked? #firstworldproblems
posted by: NewHavenCorruption on February 24, 2014 4:38pm
I am also a fellow westville resident who uses this bike lane to commute to and home from work in downtown new haven, and I’ve seen bikes parked in the bike lane on a regular basis, not just in this spot but all over the city. the town of new haven does supports cyclists but their employees and the general public are not informed enough about bikes and safety. Give everyone in New Haven a tax break for riding their bike to work and people will become interested in being informed, until then people will park in bike lanes because they are simply uninformed.
posted by: Shaggybob on February 24, 2014 5:37pm
Make that 3 taxpayers. I agree that the City should be setting the example and not park illegally, BUT he should be filming all the cars that WERE NOT TICKETED during the snow ban. There are multiple out of state cars still parked in the snow that haven’t moved in months- he should be filming those and putting Traffic and Parking on the spot. Not the Parks Department- I understand the point, but the Parks Dept.? I know the newly appointed Director (Doug) hasn’t even had time to get a handle on things during all this chaos, but he needs to take a crash course on how to get his staff to enforce parking violators outside of the downtown area. I saw three meter people on Whitney today, yet in Westville there are at least a dozen cars still buried in the snow in non-residential parking areas. Most from out of state. I was told last Wednesday a supervisor from T & P would call me back to advise me on why multiple reports on see click fix were not being attended to and do you think I got a call ?? Not holding my breath. If Doug wasn’t new at this I would be out taking pictures of cars in snow banks without tickets. Although on second thought it may be time for that.
posted by: Mark Oppenheimer on February 24, 2014 5:49pm
Another issue is that the city employees should be modeling law-abiding behavior. They should be the last people to park in bikes lanes. Just as police officers should be the last people to speed up through red lights, or roll through stop signs. If you want a culture of obedience to our laws, then city employees should see themselves as beholden to the laws, as much as the rest of us, if not more so. But what happens with parking issues is that they know they won’t be ticketed, and so they are the least compliant New Havenersm, rather than the most. That’s a poor precedent, and it makes us all less safe.
Also, there is plenty of free and legal parking on side streets within 1/8 mile of the Parks dept. The only reason you’d park right next to the dept, if they rear of the building is problematic, is to avoid a very short walk. Some of my daughter’s public school teachers park all up and down West Rock Ave and walk 1-5 minutes to school, and that’s just fine and legal.
“bikes parked in the bike lane”? How long did they stay there?
posted by: flyingace15 on February 24, 2014 6:12pm
@Mark Oppenheimer—so the solution to keeping all of New Haven safe is making city employees park 1/8 of a mile down the street from the office. Not sure how that is going to help me when I’m walking downtown at night. As for city employees being the least compliant of laws, pretty sure city employees don’t hold people up at gun point or commit any of the other heinous crimes that are going on in this city. The fact of the matter is, if you are going to hold one person accountable, hold them all. There are spots on Broadway that you can’t even park on. Don’t punish people because the city can’t handle plowing outside of their own departments. Hold Public Works accountable not the Parks Department, they seem to be doing their job unlike other departments in the city.
posted by: Westville voter on February 24, 2014 6:51pm
The failure to plow and the use of bike lanes for parking have other consequences as well. For example, today on Yale Avenue, parents were parked in the bike lane on the park side to pick up children after school. School buses were queued up in the travel lane on the other side. The narrow remaining passage obstructed an emergency vehicle from passing. If this is happening on a wide, heavily traveled street in front of a school, you can imagine how bad things remain on narrower streets. The snow removal failure continues and still endangers all of us, bikers, pedestrians, school children, and whoever was waiting for the paramedics today. Waiting for the remaining snow to melt is not good enough.
posted by: Mark Oppenheimer on February 24, 2014 11:26pm
@flyingace15—I’m not really sure what we’re disagreeing about. Obviously this is a problem that goes beyond Parks, and involves other city agencies—as well as thousands of private citizens, myself included sometimes, who don’t obey the laws. We’re all accountable, and we should all do better. But why do you get so angry at the idea of holding Parks employees accountable for parking illegal? Why won’t you stand with me on this modest request? I say, “They should obey the law,” and you get all riled up. Why?
There’s a category for Traffic Safety and one for Parking Violation.
You can attach the youtube url as well as a photo.
posted by: TheWhitePowerRanger on February 25, 2014 2:32am
Hey but Mark, Why didn’t you just ask nicely to one of the workers inside. You don’t need to go up to people who just get to the building and automatically look for a fight. You were not representing a good neighbor when you did that or a model citizen. I am sure that the park department people would of kindly and easily moved that car if you were nice enough to ask. Going out to the press about it is kind of ridiculous in my eyes.
Also you shouldn’t go off taking your anger on a department that all they do is try and help people. Just because you got ticketed for something illegal you don’t need to go out as the man who cried “illegal” to everything.
posted by: flyingace15 on February 25, 2014 10:14am
@Mark Oppenheimer because rather than going to the source itself, Public Works and Mayor Harp, you’re filming outside of the Parks Department. There are a number of businesses downtown who are losing customers because meter spaces aren’t plowed out yet. As @TheWhitePowerRanger said, maybe if you just asked nicely the vehicles would have moved, but instead you’re creating a hostile environment with numerous videos and calling the Press. Completely unnecessary. You want to be an investigative reporter? Go take your camera outside of Public Works and see what they’re doing. I’m sure the whole entire city will be grateful rather than just Yale Ave.
posted by: Shaggybob on February 25, 2014 1:02pm
Venture outside your neighborhood and take video of all the cars that have been parked for MONTHS that still remain on the street, follow a Parking enforcement officer (at a distance) and see how well they can overlap downtown, but can’t ticket long term offenders. Take pictures of inaccessible streets, cars parked in the middle of the road. Ask Mayor harp how she wants to raise taxes and buy herself a new car when we are in desperate need for new plowing equipment- why do you think everyone only saw small trucks that one storm??? There are much more productive ways to “vent” your anger and you should have cleaned off your car- my biggest pet peeve is drivers that are so lazy they can’t take 3 minutes to clear your car off so the people behind you are not blinded or impaled.
posted by: Mark Oppenheimer on February 25, 2014 2:35pm
@shaggybob My whole point was that, yes, I should have cleared off my car, and that’s because public safety matters. You and @flyingace15: Will you simply join me in agreeing that city officials should not park in bicycle lanes? That’s all I ask.
posted by: Westville voter on February 25, 2014 7:27pm
I find the vitriolic responses to Mark’s suggestion that city employees and officials should be expected to follow the rules quite disturbing. Why shouldn’t we expect those who work for us, the taxpayers and residents of New Haven, to follow the rules? Why shouldn’t we complain when they don’t? Rules aren’t just suggestions, after all.
On another note, the excuse about vandalism raises another question that remains unaddressed: where are the police around Edgewood Park? If it’s not safe for city vehicles there, it’s obviously not safe for city residents either. Another example of how New Haven is failing its citizens.
posted by: Shaggybob on February 26, 2014 5:28pm
Mark I absolutely agree, but I also agree that ALL CITY EMPLOYEES should be setting the example. I was just pointing out that the Parks Dept. is usually one of the better example setters and choosing to stick them out, but not the other departments, wasn’t the most fair play, but it’s your battle and you seem to have conquered this one. Best of luck and buy yourself a snow brush if you haven’t already (LOL)