High-paid officials using city-owned garage for free parking - New York News

High-paid officials using city-owned garage for free parking

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Parking in Chicago's busiest neighborhoods can cost hundreds of dollars a month. So imagine how nice it would be to get free parking inside a city-owned garage.

FOX 32 Investigative Reporter Dane Placko found a prime piece of city-owned property is going to benefit just a handful of top city officials.

It doesn't look like much from the outside -- an old, red brick one-story building at the corner of Superior and Sedgewick in the heart of Chicago's pricey River North neighborhood. But, what we found on the inside may not please Chicago taxpayers: free parking for nearly two dozen city officials, many of them making six-figure salaries.

The garage is located directly across the street from a block-long building that houses several city agencies, including the extremely busy Department of Administrative hearings.

Several weeks ago, FOX 32 watched as car after car pulled into the garage and a parade of top city employees made the short walk to their office across the street.

Among those parking for free: Steve Berlin, the head of Chicago's Board of Ethics, who makes $125,000 a year; Patricia Jackowiak, Director of Administrative Hearings, making $156,000 a year; and M. Faisal Khan, the City Council's Contracted Inspector General who billed the city $270,000 in 2012.

No one we saw parking there was anxious to talk about it.

Paid parking in the area is expensive. At a lot next door, which many lesser-salaried city workers use, it costs $250 a month.

And people contesting tickets at administrative hearings have to pay the meters $4 an hour.

But the bigger question might be, why does the city hang onto this old garage in the first place?

AmeriCorp real estate agent Matt Laricy says development in trendy River North is skyrocketing. A similar parcel of land nearby recently sold for more than a million dollars and is now paying the city a lot of money in property taxes.

"I don't think they'd have any trouble at all [selling the property],” Laricy told FOX 32’s Dane Placko. “It's probably going to be more like a midrise property because they want to keep that view. But it would be able to sell out in a heartbeat. A lot of people are foaming at the mouths to move over there."

In a statement, Mayor Emanuel's press office defends the free parking policy saying it's not uncommon for employers to provide parking at their facilities and points out the garage also houses a small number of city pool vehicles, which have saved taxpayers money.

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