A ticket that wouldn’t die

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It’s a scenario straight out of Kafka.

On June 2 of last year, Bay Ridge resident Eric Rouda got a parking ticket for, ostensibly, violating alternate side parking regulations.

However, the sign on which those regulations were posted was west of the spot where the car was parked, on Senator Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues — with an arrow indicating that the regulations applied only east of the sign.

It should have been a quick and easy dismissal, thought Rouda, who forwarded photos indicating the placement of the sign relative to the location of his vehicle to the Parking Violations Bureau with his not−guilty plea. In addition, he pointed out that the ticket erroneously indicated that the car was parked across from 416 Senator; that, he noted, would have put his car in the middle of a curb cut leading to a commercial parking lot, where it was not, in fact, parked.

Unfortunately, however, Rouda appears to have underestimated the ability of a bureaucracy to reaffirm even its most obvious mistakes.

Last September, Administrative Law Judge Richard Friedman upheld the ticket, noting that the photograph included with the not−guilty plea, “Gives no indication as to where it was taken and it does not clearly show the placement of the signs on the block, from corner to corner. This is not a persuasively presented defense.”

Not surprisingly, Rouda appealed. This time, he included several other photos showing the sign and the parking lot curb cut opposite 416.

That didn’t help either. On October 8th, Rouda’s appeal was denied, whereupon he turned to Community Board 10, which asked the Department of Transportation (DOT) for documentation proving that the portion of curb where the car had been parked was not governed by alternate side parking rules on the date of the summons. That documentation was forwarded by CB 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann to the Department of Finance (DOF) in January.

Beckmann also included a memo from DOT indicating that the agency had “submitted a work order on November 14th to have the ‘No Parking 8:30 − 10 am’ with a single arrow changed to ‘No Parking 8:30 to 10 am’ with a double arrow, indicating no parking 8:30 − 10 am in both directions,” a clear indication that existing alternate side parking signage did not govern the entire length of curb. Beckmann also reminded DOF that the car had been parked “before the sign signaling the beginning of alternate side parking.”

That effort, too, was rejected. On April 30th, DOF’s Laurie Kilpatrick sent a letter to Rouda again turning down his appeal −− though she did include an alternate side parking suspension calendar −− and telling him that his only remaining alternative would be an Article 78 hearing in state Supreme Court.

In a stunning display of the absence of logic, Kilpatrick wrote, “From the letter that you submitted, you indicate and the date on the letter written by The Department of Transportation shows that they received a request to change the signs on or about December 2008. As of that date, the signs in question had not yet been changed.”

Then, in the next paragraph, Kilpatrick refutes her own argument, noting, “At the time the summons was issued, your vehicle was not in compliance with the parking laws of New York City and as such, was cited correctly. The traffic agent and the hearing and appeals panel judges had no way of knowing that over six months later, these signs would be found defective and would be changed.”

“It’s so ludicrous,” a frustrated Rouda told this paper.

“The signs were clearly wrong,” Beckmann added. “If the alternate side parking regulations were for the whole block, the signs didn’t indicate that. DOT wouldn’t have made that kind of change (in the signage) if there weren’t an error. The ticket should never have been issued, but they didn’t see it that way.”

By press time, DOF did not respond to a request for comment.

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