A City Council member is opening a new front in the battle concerning the illegal parking habits of diplomats, calling on the police department to tow cars belonging to repeat offenders.
Under the plan proposed yesterday by Eric Gioia of Queens, police officers would tow vehicles affiliated with U.N. missions that have more than $5,000 in outstanding fines. Mr. Gioia also is asking the city to shut off utilities to missions that are not paying their property taxes, an issue on which New York has already won several legal victories over the past year.
The proposal follows news reports noting that the top 10 offenders owe the city about $18 million in unpaid tickets. Foreign missions also still owe nearly $60 million in property taxes for residences used for "non-consular" purposes, Mr. Gioia said, despite a federal court ruling in March ordering them to pay up.
"Seventy million dollars goes a long way toward funding city services in vital areas," Mr. Gioia said at a press conference near the U.N. headquarters. "These countries have deep pockets, and nobody seems to be asking for the money."
The city's response has been tepid so far. Mayor Bloomberg said last week that since most of the outstanding parking ticket fines were levied years ago, it would probably cost the city more to recoup them than to ignore them.
But Mr. Gioia said his plan could have an added impact by putting pressure on the federal government to take action on its own. In 2002, he noted, the State Department stripped license plates from 185 delinquent diplomats representing 30 countries.
A spokesman for the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, Wiley Norvell, said that historically, illegal parking in New York has been successfully curbed only through towing policies.
State Department representatives did not respond to requests for comment, nor did representatives for Egypt, Kuwait, and Nigeria, the countries that owe the most in parking fines.