PEF steps in to resolve parking issues for Brooklyn’s parole officers
By DEBORAH A. MILES
Most state employees who work in a city, whether it’s Albany, Buffalo or Manhattan, often experience the frustration caused by a lack of parking spaces. But PEF-represented parole officers who work at 15 Second Avenue in Brooklyn, have not only felt the angst of driving in and out of neighboring streets, white-knuckled from holding the steering wheel, but have had their vehicles damaged.
One incident occurred in February when Parole Officer Shawnte Moore glanced out the office window and saw her car was at an angle, not the way she parked it legally and correctly.
“After I checked on the vehicle, I called the police. Surveillance showed the man who owns the bus company across the street, Jack Mermelstein, was responsible. It was a rental car, and he agreed to pay for all the damage. Now he is denying that he did the damage. That is an issue. If I didn’t have insurance coverage on the car, I would be paying the bill out-of-pocket,” Moore said.
Three months later on May 19, Mermelstein again hit another vehicle, this one owned by Parole Officer Veronica Vazquez. The damage was estimated at $7.607.
“It was not only that my car was hit, it was the manner in which it was done,” Vazquez said.
“I pulled the surveillance video and you can clearly see Mermelstein hit my car twice. You see him exiting the bus with total disregard for the vehicle that he hit. Officer Moore and I are not the only ones. When we first moved here, another PO got his car hit by the same person.”
There are approximately 150 parole officers who work in the building with no assigned parking areas. Another caveat is the community’s ordinance for resident-only parking that encompasses a three-block radius around the parole office.
One recommendation was made to the parole officers to park their vehicles in a Lowe’s parking lot.
“If officers are out doing field work, issuing warrants or doing some sort of surveillance, we don’t get back to the office till 1 a.m., sometimes 4 a.m. The Lowe’s lot closes at 10 p.m., so any officer who has a car in that lot has to take a train, bus or cab to get home, and then find transportation the next day,” Vazquez said.
Along with the parking situation and issues with Mermelstein, the Brooklyn parole officers encounter flooding from the murky wastewaters of the Gowanus Canal.
“When it rains hard, the Lowe’s lot gets flooded. The water can rise to a foot and a half, and even an MTA bus is unable to drive through it. One officer lost a brand new vehicle. She had it one week, and it got flooded. It was destroyed, and she had to purchase another vehicle. That happened about a year and a half ago.
“The sewer system doesn’t work properly. Whether it is a light or heavy rain, we have to go out and move our vehicles because of flooding. Now we feel as if we should purchase flood insurance just to come to work, to further protect our vehicles from water damage when it rains,” Vazquez said.
PEF President Wayne Spence recently became aware of the parking and flooding issues and said these working conditions are “unacceptable.”
Spence sent a letter to the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations at the end of May outlining the problems and requesting a resolution to better enable parole officers in this area to focus on their many duties, and not be distracted by where they park their cars.
“I have respectfully asked the governor’s office to look into this situation and to offer the union a solution, so our members do not have to park in areas where damage may occur to their vehicles,” Spence said. “We need ample and safe parking for all staff at the Brooklyn location.”