It may be all right to play tennis in Great Neck Estates. Just don't park there without an escort or a pass.
Mark Kosofsky of nearby Great Neck learned that the hard way, and now he's facing a fine of up to $2,500 and 15 days in jail.
While the police chief says such tickets are issued all the time, Kosofsky and his law partner -- who specializes in fighting tickets -- think the policy is outrageous. And they vowed to fight it vigorously when it lands in court at 7 Friday night.
"It's completely unconstitutional," Kosofsky said. "It's absurd."
His trouble, Kosofsky said, started on April 16, when he drove into the Great Neck Estates village park to visit a public tennis facility. There were signs at the park entrance warning that the park is only for village residents. But Kosofsky said he had repeatedly played tennis there and parked in the same area -- undisturbed. He said he was never informed that he needed a parking pass.
Kosofsky said that shortly after he parked his car, the person he was talking to noticed that his car was being ticketed. "I figured it's just a parking ticket," he said.
But when he telephoned the village, seeking to pay the ticket, he said he was told, "Tell it to the judge."
Kosofsky then realized it wasn't a parking ticket, but a summons for violating a village code that says: "The use of the park and its facilities is limited to residents of the Village of Great Neck Estates," and a resident must accompany guests.
Great Neck Estates Village Police Chief John Garbedian downplayed the maximum penalty, noting the violation for being an unauthorized person in the park did not carry a specific fine.
In cases when a nonresident uses the parking lot for the tennis facility or a vehicle does not carry a resident sticker while in the park, Garbedian said the judge would have the discretion to dismiss such violations.
"The judge has latitude." Garbedian said, adding that "numerous" such summonses have been issued in recent years. A full fine of $2,500 has not been ordered by the court, "as far as I know," he said. "It's basically treated as a parking fine."
Several other Long Island municipalities limit their parks to residents. Bellport restricts the village beach on Fire Island to permit holders, who must be residents or their invitees. The maximum fine for violating Bellport's code is $1,000.
The village of Bayville limits its beaches to property owners, residents and their guests, with a maximum penalty of $250 or 15 days in jail.
Kosofsky's partner, Michael Palumbo, promised to "zealously defend" Kosofsky in court. "This is basically a criminal statute where there's been no identification of the defendant," he said. "It's not a parking ticket or a red-light ticket, where you can hold the registered owner of the vehicle responsible."
But Garbedian said the law is clear: Village residents who are not part of the Great Neck Park District "aren't allowed to go to any of the Great Neck Park District" facilities. Great Neck Estates has its own waterfront park. "Our park is just for residents only, and it's clearly marked with a sign at the entrance, and unauthorized vehicles do get tickets down there."