Legislation would ease ticket harassment

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City Councilmembers recently introduced a bill that they say would prevent excessive ticketing and unreasonable ticketing practices by city agencies.

The legislation, the Protection Against Ticket Harassment (PATH) Act, would require 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.

“Too often, we witness the middle class being unfairly punished, just so the city can make a buck,” said Councilmember Elizabeth S. Crowley who was a primary sponsor of the act.

“I’ve heard countless testimonies from small business owners who have been blindsided by numerous fines for the same issue all at once,” she said.

According to Crowley, these fines can be crippling for small businesses and community groups and the PATH Act will protect them by holding the city accountable for how it enforces its authorities.

Currently, Department of Sanitation (DOS) 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. Before New Yorkers have the time to correct the problem, they may receive fines – written on different days for the same violation – all at once.

New Yorkers are subject to one fine per poster that is placed on city property, which often results in high fines when multiple signs are posted. The resulting fine can be unfair to small businesses and non-profits, which as first-time offenders may be unaware of the law, according to Queens Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Jack Friedman.

“It’s the humane way of treating small businesses,” Friedman said. “It will give them a break.”

Friedman said this act could particularly benefit Queens businesses in the immigrant communities because “they are not familiar with the laws.”

“They don’t mean to break them; they’re just unfamiliar with them,” Friedman said.

Under the PATH Act, introduced on October 14, enforcement officers will be required to serve tickets upon residents within five days of the observed violation. Small businesses and non-profits that receive multiple tickets for posting on city property within five days of their 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.

When reached on Friday, October 16, a DOS spokesperson said they would not comment on the issue until there is a hearing in the Council on the proposed bill.