Bill Would Halt Towing for Unpaid Parking Tickets in NYC


nyc-parking-meterIt’s good news for parking ticket scofflaws. A little-noticed bill now headed for Gov. Paterson’s desk would let people who fail to pay their fines park on city streets without fear of their cars being towed. The measure could cost city taxpayers $50 million a year, Mayor Bloomberg says, and seriously harm public safety as more drivers boldly flout parking laws.”Once it becomes common knowledge that most vehicles will be completely exempt from scofflaw towing, collection rates will drop,” Bloomberg wrote Paterson last week, urging him to veto the bill.

“With the loss of towing as a deterrent, the change is also likely to increase illegal parking, endangering public safety.”

The possible parking free-for-all comes from a bill sponsored in the Senate by Attorney General candidate Eric Schneiderman, a Manhattan Democrat.

The bill aims to protect people in bankruptcy or financial crisis from losing their last dollar to creditors, putting items out of creditors’ reach like homes worth less than $150,000 and wedding rings worth less than $1,000.

The measure drew scant attention when it passed the Assembly and Senate by large majorities several weeks ago.

When city lawyers reviewed the bill, they discovered it would also bar creditors – including cities – from seizing vehicles worth $4,000 or less.

That’s $4,000 after outstanding loans, so even luxury cars – Lamborghinis and BMWs – would be protected from towing if they’re heavily financed.

City officials say the rules would virtually end their practice of towing cars whose drivers have racked up more than $350 in parking tickets.

“It is impossible to expect marshals and sheriffs in the field – even if they had a Kelley Blue Book – to be able to determine the value of a car after loans and other liens are considered,” said a furious David Frankel, the city’s finance commissioner.

“This bill tells New Yorkers it is okay to break the law. They can obstruct traffic and hinder public safety.”

The mayor’s office says it’s working with Schneiderman to alter the bill, but the senator defended it yesterday.

“This legislation will ensure that, in these tough economic times, low-income working families who go into debt do not become destitute and entirely dependent on state aid,” said Justin Berhaupt, Schneiderman’s legislative director.

Gov. Paterson will receive the bill for consideration in the next few weeks. His spokesman said he will review it when it arrives.

{NY Daily News/ Newscenter}