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Milking motorists for cash

With approximately 40,000 tickets written citywide on a daily basis, Monday through Friday, it should come as no surprise that Brooklyn residents feel they are the cash cows the city is milking to line its coffers.

The telling statistic was revealed by Glen Bolofsky, the president of parkingticket.com, during a forum on parking tickets organized by City Councilmember Vincent Gentile at the Moose Lodge, 7711 18th Avenue.

Over 10 million tickets were issued last year, said Bolofsky, who pointed out that the city had even gone so far as to hire “238 additional traffic agents this year,” whose first day of work, perhaps tellingly, was Friday the 13th of June.

“Last year, they took in $820 million because just about one percent of people are fighting parking tickets,” Bolofsky went on. “It’s rigged against us but it’s very easy to fight back.”

“There is obvious anger and frustration in this community over parking tickets, and questions over whether agents are too aggressive, or just plain unfair,” Gentile remarked.

His words were borne out by residents who said that, in their view, little consideration or discretion is on view when it comes to ticketing.

One woman spoke of her niece receiving a parking ticket when she pulled into a bus stop “for one minute” so her baby could be transferred from stroller to car. “The agents should have a little common sense,” she contended.

Hers was not the only dramatic story. Ron Galluccio said he had gotten a ticket when he had pulled into a bus stop, briefly, to discharge his wife from the car. “The punishment is supposed to fit the crime,” Galluccio remarked. “If I pull up and let my wife out at a bus stop and I get a $125 summons, how does the punishment fit the crime? The economy is in trouble. This is a time for more compassion. This is a time for you to be more understanding.”

Galluccio also said he had been ticketed during a snowstorm when, after finding his driveway blocked by an emergency vehicle, he had double-parked his car briefly to find the emergency vehicle’s driver. Even with a letter from the driver explaining the circumstances, Galluccio said, he had been found guilty when he fought the ticket.

Those who work in city government are not exempt. Mike Sciaraffo, who works for Gentile, said he had been ticketed for not having a munimeter receipt in his windshield while he was walking to the munimeter to pay. “If I have to make X amount of tickets a month, discretion goes out the window,” Sciaraffo remarked.

Many tickets are issued for what are considered safety violations, said Captain James Grant, the executive officer of the 62nd Precinct.

“My job is to reduce accidents,” Grant stressed. Cars that park in bus stops, he said, cause traffic to back up. “We need to let traffic flow,” Grant told the group. “If you have to drive around the corner, you have to drive around the corner. That’s the way it is.”

Asked why police officers and traffic agents don’t warn drivers before issuing the summonses, Grant said, “Nobody wants to be issued a summons. Nobody wants to pay. We understand the fine is a lot, but we can’t just constantly say when you pull in, you’ve got to move. We might as well put a cop or traffic agent there with a sign that says, Don’t park here. We don’t have that resource.”

But, said Bolofsky, “The law says you are allowed to be there (in a bus stop) if you are in the process of dropping off or picking up in an expeditious manner, so the people giving out the tickets don’t know the rules.”

Knowing the rules can help you get tickets dismissed, Bolofsky added, urging his listeners to fight every ticket they receive. “It always pays to fight,” he contended. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease. What would happen if every person who got a ticket mailed in a not-guilty plea? They would stop issuing bogus tickets.”

And, indeed, noted Gentile, “The most important lesson to take from this forum is that each and every questionable ticket can and should be fought. Most of the time, you’ll see at least a reduction in fines.

“For anyone who wants to educate themselves on parking regulations,” he added, “I’ll have copies of those rules at my office. This community has got to know that it’s not powerless, and the issued ticket or summons is not the final word on the matter.”

The furor over ticketing is nothing new, remarked Stanley Roher. The retired president of the Bensonhurst Board of Trade, Roher noted, “What we are talking about here has been talked about over and over again. This has been going on an awfully long time. Unfortunately, the meter maids don’t use discretion. Something has to be done to teach them a little compassion.”

Many Bensonhurst residents clearly feel their neighborhood has been targeted by ticketing agents. “The traffic agents, why don’t they like Bensonhurst?” one woman wanted to know.

The community gets no more attention from traffic agents than any other, Grant replied. He said that he attends weekly Trafficstat meetings with representatives from precincts in every borough. “They summons everywhere in the city,” Grant stressed, “not just in Bensonhurst.”

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