This gives a whole new meaning to the term “ticket blitz.”
Months after the city activated surveillance cameras to ticket drivers who used the dedicated bus lanes created for the new B44 Select Bus Service, the tickets are finally arriving in the mail — shocking some drivers with thousands of dollars in fines.
Aron Rosenbaum of Williamsburg has received 25 tickets so far, at one point getting eight tickets in one day.
“It’s a very bad feeling,” said Rosenbaum.
The dedicated lanes were painted along the B44 Select Bus route stretching from Sheepshead Bay to Williamsburg in late November last year, but drivers were allowed to continue using the bus lanes consequence-free for nearly four months before the city switched on a series of cameras on March 17 to start photographing license plates and automatically issue $115 tickets for each violation.
But the process wasn’t quite automatic enough, since the first tickets only started arriving in late June — about three months after enforcement quietly began.
Many drivers are stunned by the staggering fines they’ve racked up for their long-forgotten infractions — and they’re crying foul over the long delay. Rosenbaum said that if he had gotten his first ticket sooner, he would have known enforcement had started and he would have avoided the lane before his fines mounted.
“If I got the ticket a week later — or even a month later — I’d stop right away,” said Rosenbaum. “All of a sudden, I have already more than three grand in tickets.”
Yelena Vasilenko of Sheepshead Bay, who received a ticket dated March 19 at the end of June, also complained that she didn’t know that the city had started issuing tickets until her family had accumulated months of violations.
Making matters worse, drivers are fined by each camera along the borough-spanning route, so many of Vasilenko’s tickets are just minutes apart. With thirteen tickets already and more arriving every few days, she said her husband dreads checking the mail each morning.
“He does not want to open the mailbox,” Vasilenko said.
David Oliel of Coney Island said he didn’t drive the route often, but he lets his friend borrow his car to drive neighborhood kids to a yeshiva in that area — and as the owner of the vehicle, Oliel is responsible for all tickets. He went through the calendar and counted up all the carpool days to calculate how many fines he’ll be liable for.
“I know it is going to be 50 or 60 tickets — maybe more,” said Oliel, who has already paid around $700 of the nearly $7,000 in tickets he expects to receive. “They’re still coming.”
Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D–Sheepshead Bay) said he has asked the Department of Transportation to void the months-old tickets because of their delayed arrival.
“It is common sense they should do it,” said Deutsch. “Getting summonses three months later is not normal.”
But a spokeswoman for the agency said the Department of Finance handles disputed tickets on an individual basis.
“Motorists who believe they received one in error can look to have it adjudicated through the Department of Finance,” she said.
Unfortunately, a three-month lag in issuing a ticket apparently is not enough of an error to sway judges in traffic court. Both Oliel and Vasilenko say they’ve tried to fight the tickets, but were summarily rebuffed.
The Department of Transportation could not explain why the tickets were delayed for so long, but the agency nonetheless insists that the fines must be paid on time
“The 30 day period begins the date the Notice of Violation is issued, not the date of the violation,” she said.