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The Midwood Mensch: Saving shoppers from parking tickets

Brooklyn Daily

Meet Naftale Weill, Midwood’s senior Sabbath superhero.

Each Friday, the 72-year-old known as the Midwood Mensch single-handedly saves dozens of Avenue M motorists from unwanted tickets by posting handmade signs that point out the shopping strip’s inconvenient parking rules.

The city bans parking for street sweeping between E. 29th and E. 30th streets from 11 am to 12:30 pm and from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm between E. 30th and E. 31st streets, in the middle of the pre-Sabbath rush.

The troublesome parking ban leaves many who assume the metered parking spaces are perfectly legal with a $45 ticket on their car.

That’s where Weill — and his trusty signs — comes in.

He plasters his handwritten reminders on every pole and meter, ensuring drivers no not to park in the spaces during the sweeping hours.

“Read the sign,” Weill’s messages say. “No parking on Friday.”

And when the parking ban is over, he takes the signs down.

Weill said he’s been papering the block with his warnings since he saw a unsuspecting mother who was carrying her baby get a ticket while she was picking up a prescription at a pharmacy two years ago.

He’s been back every Friday since, with no sick days.

“I was going out to the Catskills to visit my children a week ago and my wife asked me what time we were leaving on Friday,” said Weill. “I told her, ‘After my job at 1 o’clock, then we can leave!’ ”

He even plans vacations around the parking rules: when he went on a trip to Israel recently, he made sure it was during a week the rules were suspended.

Shoppers of all faiths have thanked the Midwood Mensch for his early warning system. Some have even offered him money, which he says he always declines.

“He provides a wonderful service,” said Rivka Shapiro, who sent her daughter into Schreiber Home Style Bakery as she sat in her car — after seeing one of Weill’s signs.

Business owners on the busy strip say they have been complaining for years that street-sweeping rules should not take effect during shopping hours.

“It’s terrible having no parking here on Friday,” said Elaine Gallo, owner of the Avenue M Deli. “People can’t stop, so they don’t shop.”

And every Friday, merchants say cops prowl the block, looking for easy prey — motorists who couldn’t fathom that they wouldn’t be able to park on a metered spot in the middle of a business day.

But Weill says the enforcers don’t swarm like they used to since he started his mission.

“The meter maids used to find it the best location [to ticket],” said Weill. “It’s gotten better.”

But the Midwood Mensch says he won’t not be able to retire until the city changes the parking regulations.

“They could eliminate street sweeping and make the store owners responsible for cleaning the street,” said Weill. “But I can’t stop doing it until something is done with the city.”

A city spokesman would not say if the street-sweeping times will change, but said that the Department of Transportation would inspect the strip to make sure the signage was adequate.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/from_where_isit.

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Reader Feedback

Sam from Midwood says:
I have received a ticket on Avenue J in between 29 30 with the same confusing signs. I wish we had a parking mensch on that block as well.
Jan. 27, 2012, 9:57 am

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