Assemblyman Colton Calls System Unfair to Motorists
By Mary Frost
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Wondering why all those bright orange cones have been popping up on sidewalks throughout Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights and other neighborhoods?
The cones signify the end of a 60-year era: Traditional single-space parking meters in Brooklyn are being yanked out and replaced with Muni-Meters, which control many spaces and accept quarters, dollar coins and the city’s new Parking Cards.
Muni-Meters have already taken over Manhattan, and now it’s Brooklyn’s, Staten Island’s, Queens’ and the Bronx’s turn. All remaining single-space meters outside of Manhattan are scheduled to be replaced by June 2012, according to the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT). DOT plans to install more than 7,000 new Muni-Meters across the city.
Never used a Muni-Meter? Here’s how it works: After you pay for a certain amount of time, Muni-Meter machines will issue a receipt indicating the time purchased to park at that location. Most meters require you to display the receipt on your vehicle’s dashboard, so that enforcement officers will be able to see the parking expiration time. One dollar buys you one hour of parking.
Specific neighborhood installation start dates include: Oct. 1 for Downtown Brooklyn and Boerum Hill; Oct. 12 for Bay Ridge; Oct. 17 for Bensonhurst and Borough Park; and Oct. 19 for Dyker Heights.
DOT is changing parking meters in Park Slope to expand and make permanent the PARK Smart peak-rate pricing pilot. These changes — setting a rate of 50 cents for 15 minutes — are based on the recommendations of Community Board 6 and on consultations with resident and merchant associations in the neighborhood.
City Ripping People Off?
The city says that the Muni-Meters will actually increase the number of parking spaces, adding additional capacity for parked cars in the same curb space.
But Muni-Meters are not without controversy. Brooklyn Assemblyman William Colton says the city is ripping off motorists trying to legally use up the parking time they paid for. According to DOT, drivers can buy time from a meter on any street and use up the remaining time on another street as long as they keep the receipt. But officers are issuing tickets to people for doing just this, says Colton, and judges are enforcing a non-existent law.
“If you have unexpired time left, nothing in the regulations says you can’t use the time at another Muni-Meter spot,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle yesterday. “311 is telling people that it’s not permitted. But when DOT is pressed on the law and regulations, they say you are permitted to use the remainder of the time.
“People are being put into a Catch-22 situation,” Colton said. “They’re afraid to use their legal right — they may get a $45 ticket. And many judges don’t care what DOT says. They’ll find you guilty regardless.
“DOT should make it clear to the other city agencies that they should enforce the regulation the way DOT has written it,” he said. “The critical thing is there’s a perception that the government is not looking out for people’s interests; they’re only trying to get as much money as they can.
“I want to combat that perception. The regulations should be based upon the good of the people — how to help business, improve the flow of traffic and have a uniform system of parking — not how to catch people to extract the most money. People worry about being ripped off. Government should not be contributing to a shell game.”
Colton, who represents Bensonhurst and Gravesend, said one of his constituents bought parking time at a meter, “got a haircut, then went to her next stop at on 86th Street and Bay Parkway to get donuts at Dunkin’ Donuts. There she got a ticket. She said that next time she won’t go to Dunkin’; she doesn’t want to pay extra money the law does not require. This hurts local businesses.”
Colton says he’s introducing a resolution to clarify that people are purchasing an amount of time at the meters, not a location. “That will encourage people to patronize local businesses,” he said.