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Bad 18th Ave Parking Ticket Sticks to Motorist Like Glue

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The last thing that Sandra Munson expected, when she parked her car in front of 624 Bay Ridge Parkway last November 18th was a parking ticket. She had, she believed, parked legally. The alternate side sign hovering over the spot prohibited parking at the site between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Tuesday, and Munson left her car there on a Friday. But, the traffic enforcement agent who left the ticket behind clearly thought otherwise, citing Munson for having parked at a bus stop, despite the fact that the bus stop was, in fact, a full half a block away. While it may seem at first glance a simple mistake, Munson has had incredible difficulty in getting it rectified, and has found herself embroiled in a sequence of events that eerily resemble those of a Franz Kafka novel in which the unlucky protagonist finds himself pitted against a nameless, faceless bureaucracy. First, she tried fighting the ticket on her own, sending photographs of the location to the Parking Violations Bureau through the Hearing by Mail mechanism. But, the city Department of Finance (DOF) adjudication division upheld the fine, said Munson, contending that her photos which showed the location of the summons did not show the block’s street sign – a bit of a quandary since she had parked toward the middle of the block. Munson then appealed the decision, enclosing both a letter from Community Board 10 supporting her position and a printout from the city Department of Transportation (DOT) indicating that the curb in front of 624 Bay Ridge Parkway was not a bus stop. In order to appeal, however, she first had to pay the $115 fine. That she did in the middle of January, but has still gotten no satisfaction, and her fine has not yet been refunded. “One hundred and fifteen dollars may not be a lot of money, but if you are not working, it is,” remarked Munson, a senior citizen who is retired. “At first I said, I’m not going to pay it, because I don’t owe it. But, then I said, let me pay it. It’s better they owe me than I owe them. I was so flabbergasted – all these letters and they’re telling me I’m guilty.” “It’s outrageous,” remarked Josephine Beckmann, the district manager of CB 10, who had written DOF’s adjudication division on Munson’s behalf. “The bottom line is that this resident received a summons for being in a bus stop, and she wasn’t. “She attempted on her own to demonstrate that she was legally parked, but the administrative judge didn’t feel her photos were enough so he found her guilty,” Beckmann went on. “We were able to obtain from DOT a printout of signage on the block, and we were hoping that would be enough, but she was told that in order to appeal she had to pay the summons. “We feel, in this case, that it was unfair,” Beckmann continued. “This is so cut and dry. The summons was issued in error. It should not be a problem. She was parked in the middle of the block, not even near the bus stop.” In the most recent developments in her case, Munson reported that while her check paying the fine had cleared her bank, DOF had claimed that they did not receive her appeal. City Councilmember Vincent Gentile then intervened on her behalf. “On January 17th,” he wrote in a January 30th letter to the Parking Violations Hearing by Mail Unit, “Ms. Munson sent this letter from the community board as well as her appeal forms and check for one hundred and fifteen dollars. “Her check cleared the bank on January 24th and Ms. Munson was informed that the department received her payment,” he went on. “However, while the department received her payment, they claim that they did not receive her appeal form and therefore closed her case. As all of Ms. Munson’s papers were mailed in the same package, it is unjust that her case has been closed.” According to Owen Stone, a spokesperson for DOF, in fact it hasn’t been. In an e-mail sent in response to a request for information on the circumstances of the summons, Stone wrote, “On November 18, 2005, Ms. Sandra Munson of Brooklyn received this summons in violation of Code 19 (no standing, bus stop). When she did not answer the summons in a timely manner, the first penalty of $10 was added to the base fine of $115 on December 16, 2005. “On December 28, 2005,” he went on, “she received a hearing where she was found guilty with a reduction to the base fine. She had 30 days from the hearing date to pay the fine or forfeit the reduction. An administrative review was held on the evidence she presented on January 23, 2006 but her claim was denied. She paid the reduction in the mail on January 20. 2006. On January 3, 2006, she requested an appeals review. It has not been held yet.”

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