Protection Against Ticket Harassment

Published on October 07, 2009, 3:42 pm
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Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Council Member Elizabeth S. Crowley, Council Member Letitia James, small business owners and advocates today announced the Protection Against Ticket Harassment (PATH) Act, a new bill that would prevent excessive and unfair ticketing practices by the Department of Sanitation.

The legislation would require the Departments enforcement officers to provide prompt service of tickets to residents after a violation is observed, and would limit fines for small businesses or non-profits that receive tickets for posting flyers on City property and have not received tickets for a similar violation in the past. Council Member Crowley will formally introduce the legislation at a Stated Council Meeting on Wednesday, October 14th.

Too often, we witness the middle class being unfairly punished just so the City can make a buck, said Council Member Elizabeth S. Crowley, primary sponsor of the PATH Act. Ive heard countless testimonies from small business owners who have been blindsided by numerous fines for the same issue all at once. While these fines may not be a problem for a big corporation, they are crippling our small businesses and our community groups. Under the PATH Act, we are trying to protect small businesses and non-profits against ticket hoarding by holding the City accountable for how it enforces its authority.

With the PATH Act, were creating a path to fairness when it comes to ticketing small businesses and non-profits, said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. Presenting someone with thousands of dollars in fines before theyve had a chance to fix the problem is simply irresponsible. With this bill, well prevent small businesses from facing excessive penalties that can be particularly devastating in these tough economic times.

Currently sanitation enforcement officers are allowed to write multiple tickets for the same violation over a period of days or weeks, but are not required to promptly serve those tickets on residents once they have observed the violation. As a result, New Yorkers may receive multiple fines written on different days for the same violation all at one time, before they have an opportunity to correct the problem.

In addition, New Yorkers who post signs on city property are subject to one fine for each poster, which often results in extremely high fines where multiple signs are posted. The resulting fines can be particularly unfair to small businesses and non-profits who, as first time offenders, may be unaware of the law.

Under the PATH Act, enforcement officers will be required to serve tickets upon residents within five days of observing a violation. In addition, small businesses and non-profits that receive multiple tickets for posting on City property within five days of their first violation, and who have not violated the law in the past, will be charged for just one offense and will be ensured sufficient time to correct the problem before being issued further fines.

I became disappointed in the Sanitation Department when a small a pet store in my district received 116 City summonses last year in one day! said Council Member Letitia James. This is ridiculous and unreasonable, and New Yorkers have heard the anti-small business message being sent. As the chair of the contracts committee, one focus of the committee has been to assist small and minority owned businesses, and I am therefore proud to support the Protection Against Ticket Harassment (PATH) Act along with Speaker Quinn and Council Member Crowley.

Council Members continue to hear anecdotal evidence from small businesses about egregious ticketing for this type of violation. For example, in June 2008, three Maspeth-based organizations, the Kwanis Club, the Chamber of Commerce and the Lions Club, were fined excessively for posting flyers to advertise for their annual street fair fundraiser. While the groups raised $16,000 at their street fair, $9,600 of those funds went to the Department of Sanitation for every flyer Published on city light poles. Each fine was worth only $75 but the Department of Sanitation fined all three organizations, and the printer, 32 fines each or $2,400 each, adding to a grand total of $9,600. In October of 2008, a Brooklyn pet store received 116 tickets in one day for posting flyers on city property. They ended up facing a total of $8,700 in fines, a crippling amount of money for a small business.

The Maspeth Chamber of Commerce, Maspeth Kwanis Club and the Maspeth Lions Club feel that we have been unjustly treated and excessively fined, said James OKane, President of the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce. The New York City sanitation department has taken an extremely harsh position against the three fraternal organizations, fining us over $7,000 for the boy scouts installing posters at our June of 2008 Street Fair. This is why we support and congratulate Council Member Elizabeth Crowley and Speaker Christine Quinn for this legislation.

Additional Support for the PATH ACT:

We applaud the City Council for looking for ways to reduce financial burdens on an already overly strained business community, said Nancy Ploeger, President of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. In this economic climate in particular, it is great to see the Speaker and Council Member Crowley identify and attempt to rectify onerous city laws and regulations. The PATH Act is a step in the right direction!

The PATH Act is a bill that all businesses in the Bronx will undoubtedly welcome and support, said Lenny Caro, CEO of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce. The Bronx Chamber acknowledges and supports this bill, which gives businesses an opportunity to prevent excessive fines for their first posting offense on city properties.

With pressures continuing to grow on New York Citys small businesses every day, any effort to ease regulatory burdens or reduce unfair fines are greatly appreciated, said Carl Hum, President and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. After all, it has been and will continue to be the small business community that will lead us out of the recession and into recovery.

The Queens Chamber applauds the efforts of Speaker Quinn and Council Member Crowley, said Jack Friedman, Vice president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. The Protection Against Ticket Harassment Act is consistent with other recent initiatives by the City Council to make doing business in the City a little fairer and more compassionate to the plight of small business owners.

There is no reason a business or not for profit should receive numerous tickets for the same issue before even being informed they have committed a violation, said Linda M. Baran, President and CEO of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce. Dealing with unnecessary fees and penalties costs time and money. Im glad to see Speaker Quinn and Council Member Crowley supporting legislation such as this. It is definitely a step in the right direction. I hope to see more initiatives directed toward helping small businesses introduced by the City Council.

This legislation will allow small business owners who receive a first time violation the opportunity to comply with regulations without the excessive financial hardship that is caused when ticketing agents do not process and deliver violations in a timely manner, said George Dougherty, President of the Forest Avenue BID. We are encouraged that the Council of the City of New York is addressing this problem.


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