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Vacca bills aimed at stopping ‘gotcha’ tickets

Councilman Jimmy Vacca is sponsoring two bills now before the City Council to add more accountability and equability in the process issuing out parking tickets.

Vacca co-sponsored legislation several weeks ago that would require pictures of certain parking infractions be taken every time a ticket is issued using readily-accessible, new camera technology.

Vacca is now also co-sponsoring another bill with Brooklyn Councilman Simca Felder further regulated the process of issuing parking violations by reinstating a five minute grace period for certain parking violations, including no-parking zones (such as alternate side) and expired muni-meters and parking meters.

“This bill aims to add a dose of sanity to a traffic enforcement system that too often focuses on doling out the most tickets, rather than punishing the most egregious offenders,” Vacca said. “When drivers overrun a Muni-Meter by a few minutes, or leave their car in a street sweeping zone for a moment too long, they deserve a little discretion before facing fines that now run well over $100.”

The five-minute grace period was something that was once in the parking violations code and something that most meter maids and traffic agents followed. At some point though, the common courtesy disappeared.

Last fiscal year, 10% of the tickets for alternate-side violations – a total of 276,000 tickets – were issued within two minutes of the rule taking effect. Of those, nearly 28,000 tickets, or 2% of the total number, were issued exactly on the hour that rule went into effect.

Overall, since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in 2002, the number of parking violations has risen by 42%, according to published reports.

Vacca and Felder also co-sponsored the bill requiring pictures be taken when several different kinds of tickets are issued last December, all in an attempt to rein in overzealous ticket agents and give motorists a break.

In the coming weeks, the City Council’s Transportation Committee is expected to hold hearings. The community is enthusiastically awaiting the results.

“I think this is a fantastic piece of legislation,” said Community Board 11 district manager John Fratta. “It would really help if someone is just running into a store to pick up a newspaper and is ticketed. Also, what we are seeing now is people parking their cars and going over to a muni-meter station to pay, and in the meantime getting a ticket. It would prevent incidents like these from occurring. This legislation is something we would support.”

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