Today’s news:

City Council approves five-minute grace period when meter runs out

Rules are made to be broken - or at least stretched a little bit.

Motorists throughout the city will soon have a five-minute “grace period” in certain no parking zones such as during alternate side parking regulations and expired Muni-Meters.

City Councilmember Simcha Felder (D-Borough Park, Midwood, Bensonhurst) sponsored the bill to end what he called ‘Gotcha’ ticketing across the city.

“Anyone with common sense and decency understands the need for a five-minute grace period to eliminate ‘gotcha’ tickets,” said Felder, adding that tickets should only be issued to promote compliance and not to generate revenue,” said Felder.

The city issued about 9.94 million parking tickets in fiscal year 2009, generating $560 million. That’s down slightly from about 9.95 million the previous year, which brought $590 million into the city coffers.

In 2007, almost 300,000 alternate side violations were issued within five minutes of the rule taking effect, according to Felder.

Of those, nearly 28,000 tickets were issued exactly on the hour that the rule went into effect, he said.

Felder said a five-minute grace period was previously in place as part of the city’s traffic enforcement policy but has since been replaced with a suggestion to agents that they use common sense when doling out violations.

Mayor Bloomberg, upon learning the City Council passed the “grace period” measure by a 47-2 vote, vowed to veto it.

“It’s a very misguided piece of legislation.A five-minute grace period is only going to lead to chaos and enormous increases, I think, in contested tickets and in arguments,” he said.

Bloomberg suggested that if the City Council wanted to change the 60 minutes on a meter to 65 minutes, it’s one thing.

“It’s just not a great idea. You can have 65 minutes for your whatever you put in the meter, but to have 60 minutes and a grace period doesn’t make any sense to anybody,” he said.

Also supporting the mayor is the bicycle advocacy organization Transportation Alternatives (TA).

““This is irresponsible pandering that will lead to more arguments at the curbside, and a profusion of illegal parking,” said TA Executive Director Paul Steely White.

Despite Bloomberg’s opposition, the Council appears to have the 34 votes needed to override the veto.

Separately, the Council passed a related bill that parking restrictions cannot be altered without prior notification to the affected communities, resulting in confusion and unfair parking tickets.

Under the legislation, drivers who receive tickets within five days of the Department of Transportation’s posting of permanent parking changes have an affirmative defense that he or she was parked in compliance with applicable parking restrictions that were in effect prior to the change.

“It is unreasonable for the City to change parking regulations and restrictions without letting the public know first,” said Felder.

“Simple notification would ensure that drivers park safely and would reduce the number of unfair parking tickets,” he added.

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