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As Bronx residents suffer from the MTA’s bus service cuts, one entity not feeling the pain is the NYC Department of Finance.
Residents are finding that at their nearest stop, the bus may no longer come, but parking tickets still do.
Once a bus stop is no longer active, it becomes legal to park there. However, at a defunct Bx5 stop in front of 3305 Bruckner Boulevard, at Coddington Avenue, traffic enforcement just didn’t care.
The MTA discontinued the stop on June 27, but throughout July and the beginning of August, residents were ticketed and some even towed for parking there. ‘No standing, bus stop,’ was the violation cited on the summonses.
Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, who happens to live right by the stop, fielded complaints for weeks and called all the various agencies, with no response or help. Finally, he called a press conference to discuss the issue with those affected.
Ironically, just the announcement of a press conference did the trick. Benedetto and his staff, as well as Assemblyman Michael DenDekker from Queens, came to the stop on Friday morning, August 13, only to find that the bus stop signs had been taken removed the night before.
But that did not make up for the wrongful parking tickets.
“The problem has been resolved at this spot, sure, but there were victims who had to pay unlawful tickets,” Benedetto said.
The assemblyman mentioned that stops along Layton Avenue had been shut as well, but those signs were removed promptly. “It’s a bureaucratic mistake,” he said. “Agents issuing tickets should have been alerted that this was a dead stop.”
Rraine Semaj, of Co-op City, said that DOT must have only taken the signs down in the last twelve hours because at 7:19 a.m. on August 12, she received a $115 parking ticket for blocking the bus stop.
It was one of three tickets she has received at the stop, totaling $345 in unjust fees.
“One agency is not talking to the other agency,” said Semaj. “It’s just outrageous.” She held off on paying because she believed they may be overturned if she appeals.
Indeed, she’ll be successful, if she’s willing to put in the time waiting in line downtown. The NYC Department of Finance said that drivers who received a ticket at a defunct bus stop will get the ticket dismissed if they appeal.
Jose Arroyo, who lives near the stop, already paid his ticket. “I was afraid,” he said. “What else could I do?” Arroyo, too should be able to get his money back, according to the Department of Finance, which said those who already paid should contact them to get a refund.
Assemblyman DenDekker accompanied Benedetto to the event because he said that this issue is a citywide problem, and not limited to the Bronx. In his district, a discontinued QM22 stop at 77-01 31st Avenue still had signage on Friday and had resulted in summonses for scores of drivers.
“They haven’t rectified the problem there,” said DenDekker, “and they’ve only fixed it here because they heard about the press conference.”
Benedetto agreed. “When this stop was closed,” he said, “the one silver lining was that we got some extra parking spaces. But they took away that small pleasure by issuing tickets.”
Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who had also fielded complaints from constituents ticketed at closed stops, said that the mistake “adds insult to injury,” and that, “the last thing we need is people getting ticketed for blocking bus stops to nowhere.”
Monty Dean, a spokesperson for DOT, said that all remaining bus stop signage on defunct routes in the city was taken down over the weekend, by Sunday, August 15.
At 2 p.m. on Monday, August 16, DenDekker’s chief of staff Maureen Allen said the signage at their problem stop was still there.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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