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Ghost hydrant haunts local man - $200 ticket turns into long fight

Simon Belsky says he gets no respect. And he may just have a $200 ticket and the pictures to prove it.

Though he sports an uncanny resemblance to late comedian Rodney Dangerfield (with the voice and shtick to boot), Belsky isn’t laughing about the summons he received over a year and a half ago, which he has been fighting ever since.

In November 2006, the lifelong Sheepshead Bay resident discovered a $115 ticket on his car that claimed he was parked “0 feet from hydrant” in front of 2909 Avenue U.

But a simple check of the premises shows that there is no pump in front of that address; it’s next door at 2911 Avenue U. So Belsky pleaded not guilty citing the discrepancy.

“How could I be zero feet from a hydrant in front of a building with no hydrant?” he asked. With a guilty verdict from an administrative law judge that claimed insufficient evidence to have the ticket dismissed, Belsky rather crassly answered his own question:

“This is an abuse of the public and worse than organized crime,” he charged. “They’re $115 prostitutes, every one of ‘em.”

Insistent upon his innocence and refusing to pay the ticket, Belsky was told by the Department of Finance (DOF) that he has exhausted his options through their office. All fees included, the most recent total is $193.48.

He’s even had City Councilmember Michael Nelson and State Senator Carl Kruger more eloquently go to bat for him, but neither could get the ticket dismissed or even reduced.

“Clearly there is no hydrant in front of this location,” read a letter from Nelson to the Parking Violations Hearing Unit.

And even more to the point was Kruger’s letter to the same office: “Although there is no way to prove where Mr. Belsky was parked, there is an error on the written violation.”

But even in light of the ticket’s defectiveness, the court upheld the guilty verdict. Sam Miller, a DOF spokesman, explained that the markings on 2911 Avenue U are not well displayed so his guess is that they wrote down the adjacent building for lack of an exact address.

“Is it possible that the hydrant is more in front of 2911 than 2909? Yes. If it was 2909 versus 2932, it's different,” said Miller. But the lack of pictures with the first not guilty plea was crucial.

“Mr. Belsky did not submit evidence in his original hearing, and the photographs he submitted as part of his appeal were not enough to overturn the decision that he parked too close to a hydrant at that location,” Miller said.

He explained that the appeal is for the judges to see if the law was applied correctly. It is not an opportunity for the defendant to present a new case. Since Belsky didn’t make his case clear enough the first time, the ruling was sound.

Senator Kruger was not so convinced.

“It epitomizes the stupidity of government. A man gets a ticket he doesn't deserve, doesn't follow the protocol and then loses in court on a procedural issue,” he said. “Rather than chastise him, they should be sending him a letter of apology.”

But a thoroughly frustrated Belsky may be looking for more than just words. He intends to take the DOF’s advice, file an Article 78 and sue the city for restitution.

Now what began simply as a questionable parking ticket has become a sort of personal crusade for Simon Belsky. The former executive for a local electronics distributor has even begun looking into launching a grassroots campaign for elected office.

“I’m just one of many that they have taken advantage of,” said Belsky. “I want this to be so loud that it shakes the trees.”

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