Principals union sues Bloomberg and DOE over parking permits

The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators is suing Mayor Bloomberg, the city, and the Department of Education for refusing to restore thousands of parking permits to the union’s members.

According to the union, an arbitrator decided in August that the city had to return the permits or it would violate its contract with CSA. But that decision hasn’t ended the back-and-forth. After two weeks of discussions, the union’s legal counsel headed to court today to file a lawsuit.

“Nobody has gotten an answer from the City about why it won’t honor the arbitration,” a spokeswoman for CSA, Chiara Coletti, wrote in an email. Coletti said that the decision not to reinstate the 6,500 permits came from the mayor’s office.

Jason Post, a spokesman for the mayor, did not address whether the city felt it was in compliance with the arbitrator’s decision, but said the current system should continue.

“For most City agencies and their workers the system has worked well for over a year, yet the CSA has stubbornly tried to hold onto their perks and has refused to work with us to combat misuse and abuse. The current system for the Department of Education limits the number of placards to the number of parking spots at schools, a fair and reasonable policy that we think should continue. We have not yet received the legal papers for this case,” Post wrote in an email.

The crackdown on official parking placards, which allow city employees to park for free, began last year when Bloomberg announced a 20 percent reduction in the number of permits doled out to city agencies. This had an immediate effect on the city’s teachers and school administrators, though the latter has perused the issue more doggedly. At the time, city officials argued the number of available parking spaces around schools was significantly lower than the number of permits the city had handed out, creating a system in which city employees routinely used the placards to park illegally.

Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for Transportation Alternatives, said the group, which has fought for fewer placards, disagreed with the arbitrator’s decision.

“I sympathize strongly with where the city is coming from,” Norvell said. “These placards are simply not a perk of the job.”

He said that in the past, teachers and principals had used the permits to park illegally, sometimes in front of fire hydrants or cross-walks.

“There’s no reason that you’re different from somebody working at a hospital or a convenience store,” he said of school employees. “The idea is these placards should be handed out by merit. If someone is working obscenely late hours and the bus route they use is not in operation during those hours, that’s one thing, but there’s a great many schools in New York City for which that wouldn’t apply.”

In a statement issued by CSA today, union president Ernest Logan accused the mayor and the DOE of an “arrogant violation of law.” “Our principals, assistant principals and administrators who travel from school to school, particularly those working in the outer boroughs, could be forced to continue cruising around city streets for hours a day, polluting the environment, and sacrificing time that they need to serve our children,” he said.