Gary Frisch isn’t exactly an outlaw, but he doesn’t want the New York City Department of Finance reading this.
In October 2008, as the 43-year-old South Shore, N.J. resident participated in the Breast Cancer Awareness Walk in Central Park, he was slapped with a $120 parking ticket for blocking a bus zone. Frisch still hasn’t paid the fine – nor does he intend to.
“I was there for a good cause,” said Frisch, a public relations consultant. “If I can get away with not paying, I will. I don’t think they can put a lien on my house or anything.”
Ticket Toll: 30,000 a Day
Parking has long been a problem in the city, where some 30,000 tickets are given out each day. Now Mayor Bloomberg, who made his name as an efficient manager in the business world, wants to create an amnesty program to encourage drivers with outstanding tickets to pay up – to the tune of $700 million.
Other amnesty efforts report success. The town of Brookhaven on Long Island launched an amnesty program in February to close a budget gap of $1 million. So did Albany and Chicago, which raised $7 million dollars in just 10 weeks, after launching an amnesty last December that gave drivers a 50 percent discount on late tickets.
“We consider the campaign to have been a success,” said Ed Walsh, a Chicago Department of Finance spokesman. “Web payments went up 240 percent during the amnesty and a total of 135,000 tickets were paid, significantly higher than was usual for that time frame.”
In San Francisco, violators who can’t afford to pay their parking tickets can enroll in Project 20, where they work off their fines at community organizations.
In New York, $700 million worth of parking tickets remain unpaid, according to the city Comptroller’s Office. The money that could pay for 7,000 new police officers, says the mayor, or for some social service programs that have been cut in the past year because of budget woes.
Lawrence Berezin, CEO of New York Parking Tickets, a company that helps individuals and companies resolve outstanding tickets, backs an amnesty program.
“It’s a no-brainer,” Berezin said. “Nothing is working so far. Let people stop forward and do the right thing.”
Reluctance to Pay
The number of parking citations has grown in recent years, from 9.5 million in 2005 to 10.6 million this year, according to the city Department of Finance. Even as more tickets are being handed out, less violators are paying them. The implications for violators can be severe – a bench warrant could be issued.
And amnesty or no amnesty, the decision whether to pay often comes down to more than money. When Frisch, received a warning notice in the mail a few months ago, he didn’t even bother opening it. He just ripped up the envelope.
Will he pay if his late fees are forgiven?
“Not a chance,” Frisch said.
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