Back in February, a few people took it upon themselves to install two signs in the Key Food’s parking lot on Fifth Avenue underneath the handicap parking sign in an effort to help reserve these spots for those who need them.
The two small signs, which were installed without Key Food’s permission, read:
“Taking my spot? Take my disability.”
And although the message was clearly to help prevent non-disabled drivers to take the spots reserved for disabled ones, the Fifth Avenue store chain’s management took it down after noticing it a month later.
The people who installed the signs without explicitly asking permission to do so are employees of a company called MyParkingSign.com, which makes signs to help provided businesses with the tools they need to be ADA compliant.
One of the employees who installed the sign back in February, said that they put up 24 other ones throughout Brooklyn to help tackle an issue they believe in:
“We know that parking fraud is an issue that many people with disabilities have to deal with, we wanted to do something about it,” Alex Roitman said, who works for the company based out of Brooklyn Heights and posted signs in Bensonhurst, Sunset Park, Gowanus, and the Fifth Avenue Key Food near Baltic Street. “So we made these signs, grabbed screws and drove around Brooklyn posting these to raise awareness about this issue.”
And how were these quirky signs, which were put up in a guerrilla-act-of-advocacy for the disabled fashion, received by the public?
“It’s a good way to spread awareness,” said the Key Food parking lot security guard, who could only speak with anonymity, explaining that he patrols the parking lot and enforces the handicap parking rules. “In the past month, I caught one person trying to park in the spot who was not disabled, but they moved right after I told them they couldn’t park there without a placard.”
Herb Oestricher, an 85-year-old disabled veteran who served in the Korean War with the Marines, said he thinks the sign is a good addition to the regular handicap parking spot sign.
“I like the sign, and to tell you the truth I couldn’t say it better myself,” Oestricher said, who was sitting in a car with a handicap placard in one of the handicapped spots in the grocery store’s lot. “We got a lot of people who just park in the handicap spot and I can’t do anything about it.”
Oestricher said that he has been blocked out of a handicap spot a few times recently in the Key Food’s parking lot.
“I’m an injured veteran, I need access to the handicapped spot,” Oestricher said. “Here’s not the only problem, it happens everywhere and it’s about time someone did something about it,” he concluded.
But the Key Food management said that the sign had to be removed.
“I’m going to take it down right now. I won’t throw it out and they are welcome to come by and pick them up, but they have no right to put it up in our property,” a manager said, who refused to give his name but said he has been working at Keyfood for 25 years. “Even if it serves a good purpose, which it does, the company needs to approve everything.”
The manager promptly went outside and removed the signs. He explained that their security guard patrols the handicap spots and if need be, they call the police to issue a summons to a non-disabled driver who takes a handicap spot.
Although the signs have good intentions, not everyone agreed they were needed.
“I didn’t see a necessity for a second sign, everyone knows not to park there if they’re not handicapped,” said Victor Logan, who was sitting in his car next to the two reserved spaces. “A second sign is not going to stop anyone from parking there and Key Food has the right to take it down.”
But Roitman was not bothered after finding out the signs were removed.
“I think we all understand that, we’d like to see them up and love to work with them in order to get it back up,” Roitman said. “We are all fans of marketing in the office, and it was all in good taste.”
He said that they did not install them while wearing “a ski mask in the middle of the night,” but it was rather an operation done during the day, explaining that they also installed signs in Ikea and Home Depot in Red Hook.
The idea came about after a fellow employee saw a similar in France. And at the end of the day, Roitman was glad that the signs stayed up for as long as they did.
“We’re glad they’ve been up for so long, we thought they’d be taken down immediately,” he said, explaining that while they were screwing the signs to the pole that a driver parked in the handicap spot illegally. “We’re a sign company, and it’s an interesting way to market.”
So why install a sign that would be taken down anyway?
“We wanted to give owners the opportunity to see the sign up and see reactions from customers before making a judgment,” Roitman said. “These signs are put up with two screws and a bolt by hand, so they are very easy to remove. Worse comes to worse, they take it down, but get a free sign.”
But Roitman said that the gimmick was not just a creative marketing ploy. He said it they started the campaign to help the disabled keep their spots:
“Lots of businesses will post a "fine: $200" sign to warn against unauthorized parking, but no one notices that anymore - whereas a catchphrase is going to stick out and advocate for the importance of accessibility to everyone, not just the driver who's contemplating breaking the law,” he said.
What do you think: Should Key Food have left the sign up? Or did MyParkingSign.com overstep boundaries by not asking permission and you just see it as a marketing ploy to get attention? Let us know in the comments below!