If the man was giving gifts, you must acquit.
So goes the logic of Santa Claus, whose alter ego, Chip Cafiero, recently entered a “Not Guilty” plea to a parking ticket he received last month while delivering toys to Bay Ridge children.
On the day after Thanksgiving, Cafiero – a retired schoolteacher known in Bay Ridge for his active role in community events – was making his way south on Third Avenue with a horse-drawn carriage and an SUV full of elves behind him. With the convoy stopped in between 96th and 97th streets around 1:30 p.m., a traffic enforcement agent emerged and slapped the SUV with a $115 ticket for double parking.
At a press conference on Christmas Eve, Santa stood with State Senator Martin Golden and Robert Howe of the Merchants of the Third Avenue Civic Improvement Association to contest the ticket, which has made national news and caused much of Bay Ridge to rally around St. Nick.
“Santa encountered the Grinch, i.e. the NYC traffic enforcement department agent, who promptly issued him and his entourage a double parking ticket,” said Howe.
“We think the officer should have taken in the whole scene, realized what was going on, and showed some discretion.”
Golden said ticket agents were overzealous in New York.
“They need to teach the word ‘discretion’ at the police academy,” he said.
“Most summonses are given within the first five minutes of alternate side of the street [parking]. That’s a perfect sign: The agents are just out there to get their summonses, get out of there, go have their coffee and that’s the end of the day. That’s what’s bad about this — you have to know the word ‘discretion,’ especially in these tough [economic] times.”
Golden said traffic enforcement agents targeted Bay Ridge in particular. Last year, more summonses were issued in Bay Ridge than in any other part of Brooklyn save for the Court Street area. Citywide, Bay Ridge ranks seventh in traffic tickets issued.
“I would imagine it’s because we’re easy pickings. There are no garages here, there’s no parking here, and a lot of people come here to shop,” he said.
“So what do you do? There’s no place to park your car sometimes, and you let your mother out or your husband out to go to a doctor or a store, and then BANG! You get a summons.”
The Police Department had no comment on the issue. Two weeks ago, James Huntley, head of Local 1182, the union representing ticket agents, defended the agent in a newspaper article, saying she was just doing her job of keeping the streets unobstructed and safe.
“We want to make sure if there’s EMS or police action, they can get by. It’s not like we don’t have a heart, but we’re just doing our job,” he said.
In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Santa had threatened to put the agent on his “Naughty” list. But he has since softened his tone.
“Santa bears no ill will against the enforcement agent,” said Howe. “He will visit the agent’s home this evening to spread good cheer to her and her family.”
The gift-giving event was sponsored by the merchant’s association along with the office of Borough President Marty Markowitz as part of the “Shop Brooklyn” program. On Black Friday, Santa was being enlisted to kick-start the holiday season.
Because the merchants association has offered to pay the $115 ticket, Santa has vowed to pay it forward in the form of a donation to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“Santa asks all those good boys and girls who offered to pay this ticket for Santa should do the same thing,” said Kringle/Cafiero.
“Then they will truly understand the joy that Santa gets out of giving a gift, because they will be giving the gift of life.”
©2009 Community News Group
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