I don’t like to brag, but last month, I beat a parking ticket with a withering attack on the city code — and, in doing so, improved the quality of life in Park Slope by a huge amount.
The amount was more than just the $165 ticket that a hearing officer happily erased after a display of jurisprudence that should be taught in every law school in the country. And it was more than the $205 towing charge that the Department of Finance tells me it is refunding.
It is actually incalculable. Here’s why:
Back in January, I parked my old beater at the corner of Eighth Avenue and 15th Street in Park Slope. I was not parked in the crosswalk, but just outside this particular crosswalk was an unmarked curb cut.
I got a ticket for blocking that curb cut, which the officer called a “pedestrian ramp.” A pedestrian ramp outside a crosswalk? Such a ramp is so rare as to be suspect — a quirk that almost appears to be a secret revenue producer for cops and tow-truck drivers.
Naturally, I pleaded not guilty, took the requisite pictures, and showed up for my hearing the other day loaded with evidence and indignation.
“Your honor,” I said, presenting my ticket and attempting to be mistaken for a lawyer. “I’m Gersh Kuntzman. I’ll be defending myself today.”
There was one problem: The judge was unable to see.
That’s not some kind of joke about justice being blind. The judge was actually visually impaired.
So much for a case based almost entirely of pictures of what I believe to be an egregious, illegal, immoral ramp.
I pressed on. “Your honor, there’s no dispute over where I parked the car, but I will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged ‘pedestrian ramp’ is not a pedestrian ramp at all — at least not in an official capacity. And I have photographic evidence that proves that.”
On the tape of the proceedings — what? You think I didn’t slip a tape recorder in my pocket? — you can definitely hear me stumble over the next sentence.
“Your honor, as you can see—,” I started. “Er, as the first picture shows, er, demonstrates, a normal crosswalk has its pedestrian ramp within the white lines of said crosswalk. But the second, third and fourth pictures reveal that at this particular location, the alleged pedestrian ramp is outside the crosswalk!
“So, your honor, if this is a pedestrian ramp,” I continued, my voice swelling to “Inherit the Wind”-type pomposity, “the city is asking the handicapped, the disabled, the infirm, and families pushing strollers to actually enter traffic, not cross at a crosswalk, thereby putting themselves in great danger.”
Sure, I was fighting a traffic summons, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t gladly present myself as a champion of the less-fortunate. I mean, $400 was at stake here!
Sighted or not, this judge knew that I had triumphed.
After consulting with his assistant, who basically confirmed everything I said, he rendered his ruling: “Based on your evidence, I am satisfied that the ramp in question is not in a crosswalk, and the summons is dismissed.”
I was elated, but confused; if the law says that pedestrian ramps must be within the painted crosswalk, why is the city even writing tickets at the northwest corner of Eighth Avenue and 15th Street? Indeed, if you read Section 4-8, subsection 7 of the city parking violations code, it states quite clearly that “a person may stop, stand or park a vehicle in a manner which obstructs a pedestrian ramp not located within [a] crosswalk.”
So how many drivers had been hit with an onerous, immoral ticket at this very location? The Department of Transportation wouldn’t even address the issue, pledging only to conduct “a site visit” at the location.
But it’s obvious what is going on: the tickets will keep being written, and the city will keep cashing in. Few people know the law or are willing to fight for their day in court before a blind justice who sees things perfectly clearly as far as I’m concerned.
Anyone receiving a “pedestrian ramp” ticket at the corner of Eighth Avenue and 15th Street is advised to dispute the summons, citing the precedent set in Judge R. Henriquez’s notice of determination number D331473 issued on Feb. 18.