When Morris Park resident Christina Bonelli received a $115 parking ticket on April 30, she just knew it wasn’t right.
Bonelli’s ticket was for obstruction of a driveway in front of 1568 Colden Avenue, across from her home on the same street. But she noticed that there was no drivewy at that spot, so she challenged the ticket.
“I knew it was wrong because even the person who was with me said, ‘Send in a Not Guilty right away because there’s not supposed to be a driveway here.’ Many houses that used to have gardens in the front, they have curbs that were cut, but shouldn’t have been. And with this spot, there was a tree in the middle of the parking space, so I was parked in front of a legitimate spot, where there couldn’t possibly be a driveway.”
Bonelli, 57, who works for the Board of Education, recruited her son to take photos of the location, and she wrote a detailed complaint letter with bullet points outlining her certainty that the curb should not have been cut because there was no driveway there, and thus her spot was a legal parking space.
Bonelli received word back from the NYC Department of Finance that she could pay a reduced fine of $59 — about half of the original ticket price, if she pled guilty.
“That still wasn’t fair,” she insisted. “I felt I should get the whole ticket waived.”
Bonelli took her problem to Senator Jeff Klein’s office. After some calls, they learned that if Bonelli appealed the summonsand lost, she would also lose the reduced fine offer and would have to pay the full amount.
It was a risk she was willing to take, because she felt sure she was right. Klein’s office helped her obtain copies of the property’s Certificate of Occupancy, which showed there was no legal driveway at the location. Her photos also helped.
Finally, this summer, the Department of Finance sent a letter to Klein stating that Bonelli’s ticket was dismissed completely.
Bonelli is elated to have avoided the ticket, but says her experience is a sign of a larger problem.
“My biggest gripe was that when the traffic agent was called by someone and came and saw my car, he should have said, ‘There’s a tree here, so there can’t be a driveway.’ But nope, they still issued the ticket.”
“The ticketing that is going on in our area is out of control,” she continued. “I’ve seen cars towed away unfairly. You can’t even step out of the car and they put a ticket on your windshield. It’s crazy that the Mayor got rid of cops and teachers, but hired 750 new traffic agents.”
“This was obviously a case in which the traffic enforcement officer was unfamiliar with the area and issued a summons for something that appeared illegal,” said Klein. “However, Ms. Bonelli was well within her right to take this parking space.”
“Thank goodness the senator helped me on this one,” she said.