Officials: City should punish LICH developer Fortis for illegal parking tickets in Cobble Hill
Residents: Don’t make us ‘jump through hoops' for refunds
Cobble Hill car owners are still waiting on refunds for parking tickets issued after a developer planted bogus “no parking” signs at a former Long Island College Hospital (LICH) development site.
They are also questioning why they have been stuck with fines while the developer gets away scot-free.
The bent, poorly displayed “no parking” and “no standing signs” appeared on Henry Street between Amity and Pacific streets in January. They were illegally put up by Scala Contracting Company, a contractor for Fortis Property Group, which is developing the former hospital campus.
In the latest attempt to make things right for constituents, local elected officials sent out a letter on Monday to the commissioners of the city’s Departments of Finance and Transportation urging them to rescind the fines and hold Fortis liable.
While the Department of Transportation (DOT) sent out a Notice of Violation to Fortis, it does not come with penalties.
“We are deeply disturbed that, unlike our constituents, Fortis will not be held financially liable for this illegal action,” state Sen. Daniel Squadron, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon and Councilmember Brad Lander wrote in the letter.
“We urge that any additional request for parking restriction on behalf of Fortis be denied. Further, we urge that the city change its policy so it can hold violators like Fortis accountable,” they wrote.
Squadron told the Brooklyn Eagle on Monday, “Fortis’ phony parking signs are another in a long string of offenses against the community — from moving forward with a bad development plan where a hospital once stood, to unsafe construction practices and beyond. It’s important fines be refunded and reversed, and Fortis be held accountable.”
This situation “has called up many issues,” said Amy Breedlove, president of the Cobble Hill Association (CHA), which has been working on behalf of the ticketed car owners.
“CHA has been working closely with our elected officials since the state of New York took over, mismanaged and sold LICH,” she said.
“In addition to the reimbursement of paid fines and dismissal of outstanding tickets this has highlighted a much larger issue, which is the process by which developers and contractors can erect signage based on permits granted by the DOT,” she said. “It seems that neighborhood advocacy groups and local residents are left to ensure that permits have been obtained and that proper installation occurred.”
In April, a Fortis spokesperson told the Eagle that if it was determined that the signs were illegally placed by their contractor, “we will of course reimburse anyone who received a parking ticket.”
Ticketed Cobble Hill resident Dorothy Siegel, however, said her feeling is that victimized parkers should not have to pursue a refund from the city or Fortis.
“The city should ‘make us whole,’ as they say, and refund fines paid for legally parking in a bogus no-parking space, without making us jump through hoops,” she told the Eagle. “The city should also sanction Fortis in some way; otherwise they and other developers will continue to break the law at will, as there is no cost to them.”
Squadron’s spokesman Zeeshan Ott said that even if Fortis does reimburse residents for the fines, they should still be held accountable.
“If Fortis were to pay the ticket fines, it remains important the city take enforcement action against Fortis for the underlying illegal signage,” he said.
Not the first time
The illegal parking sign incident is just one more time Fortis has “completely disregarded the community,” officials wrote in their letter to the commissioners.
They listed several other offenses, including Fortis’ abuse of after-hours variances that allow evening and weekend construction. After complains by residents and intervention by officials, the Department of Buildings halted these variances at the LICH site.
Fortis has also failed to safely secure its worksites, officials said, and has “employed unsafe work practices resulting in dangerous conditions, including plywood and sandbags falling from the roof of nearby sites, causing damage to cars and surrounding buildings.” These conditions have resulted in stop work orders issued by DOB at Fortis developments across the LICH site.
Finally, officials, say, these actions all compound the fact that “Fortis is moving forward with an out-of-context plan for the LICH site, having eschewed good faith community engagement.”
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