Bay Ridge

Gentile drives effort to stop T-intersection parking tickets

May 25, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The corner of Ovington Avenue and Bay Ridge Place is a T-intersection. Eagle photos by Paula Katinas

Says drivers unfairly targeted for summonses

If you’re a motorist who has been slapped with a summons for parking your car at a T-intersection in a mid-block location, Councilmember Vincent Gentile wants you to know that you can fight City Hall and win.

That’s because it’s perfectly legal to park a vehicle at many of these types of intersections, he said.

Thanks to a Department of Transportation (DOT) regulation change in 2009, drivers who park at certain T-intersections are not subject to tickets. A T-intersection can be defined as a three-way junction usually consisting of a long, two-way street meeting a shorter, one-way street.

The city’s traffic rules allow parking at T-intersections if they do not have traffic signals, all-way stop signs or crosswalk markings, even if there is a curb cut at that location, according to the DOT’s website.

But that isn’t stopping cops from issuing summonses, according to Gentile.

He is leading an effort to make motorists aware of the regulation and to encourage those who have received tickets and who have paid them to seek reimbursement from the New York City Department of Finance (DOF).

In addition, Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) is calling on NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan to retrain his officers to ensure that they are aware of the rules that were put in place back in 2009.

Gentile has sent a letter to Chan, asking that the chief “inform all traffic control commands of the correct parking rules at certain T-intersections and instruct all commanders to educate and inform their rank and file” of the regulations so that such summonses could be avoided. 

“The DOT adopted a rule change in 2009 after I had pushed for legislation to allow parking in front of mid-block pedestrian ramps at T-intersections due to safety hazards for pedestrians. Apparently, NYPD traffic agents did not get the memo,” Gentile said in a statement.

Gentile said he wasn’t sure why cops and traffic enforcement agents are still handing out tickets. Part of the problem may be that the T-intersections often have pedestrian ramps and police are concluding that the parked vehicles are blocking the pedestrian ramps, he said.

But still, cops should be aware of the rules, according to the councilmember.

“Whether this has been a ‘gotcha’ ticketing scenario, an extreme oversight or a giant mistake, all that matters to me at this point is putting cash back in our drivers’ wallets. I will be closely monitoring the situation and will not relinquish my push for a citywide refund to those affected,” Gentile said.

DOF officials told Gentile that they will review wrongfully issued T-intersection tickets going back more than a year. After the review, if it is discovered that the driver did indeed get the ticket wrongfully (and paid the ticket), then the DOF will issue a refund

Drivers who believe they were unfairly ticketed should visit NYC.gov and type Pedestrian Ramp Ticket Issue in the subject heading. Motorists need to provide the summons number or their license plate number so the DOF can accurately search for the ticket in their system.

Drivers who have recently received this type of ticket but who have yet to dispute it can visit this page.

The situation came to light when the Village Voice reported on research conducted by statistics Professor Ben Wellington of the Pratt Institute City & Regional Planning Program showing that the T-intersection ticket error has cost drivers nearly $6 million in summonses since 2013.

Wellington used NYC Open Data to pinpoint his findings.

Gentile said DOT plans to pave over mid-block pedestrian ramps at T-intersections citywide to avoid any confusion. The curb restoration work will be incorporated into other projects.

Meanwhile, police are taking steps to ensure that drivers are not being unfairly ticketed, according to an NYPD spokesperson.

“Mr. Wellington’s analysis identified errors the department made in issuing parking summonses. It appears to be a misunderstanding by officers on patrol of a recent, abstruse change in the parking rules. We appreciate Mr. Wellington bringing this anomaly to our attention. The department’s internal analysis found that patrol officers who are unfamiliar with the change have observed vehicles parked in front of pedestrian ramps and issued a summons in error. When the rule changed in 2009 to allow for certain pedestrian ramps to be blocked by parked vehicles, the department focused training on traffic agents, who write the majority of summonses,” the spokesperson told the Brooklyn Eagle in an email.

The NYPD admitted, however, that the majority of summonses written for this particular code violation were written by cops, not traffic agents.

“As a result, the department sent a training message to all officers clarifying the rule change and has communicated to commanders of precincts with the highest number of summonses, informing them of the issues within their command. Thanks to this analysis and the availability of this open data, the department is also taking steps to digitally monitor these types of summonses to ensure that they are being issued correctly,” the spokesperson said.