Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column
A Bethpage woman parked on a street in Queens and returned to find a ticket on her car for having parked in a bus stop zone. But she told us there was no bus stop sign in sight.
"There's no indication this is a bus stop in any way, shape or form," Jacqueline Peiffer said. "There was another car in front of me and one [parked] behind me."
Peiffer has been fighting the ticket -- it's for $115 -- since it landed on her windshield the afternoon of Dec. 18. She's been to traffic court in Queens and then to the adjudication division of the NYC Department of Finance. In her defense, she offered photos she took the day she got the ticket of the streetscape in Astoria, at 40th Avenue near 12th Street: The photos show a Stop sign and a nearby pole, but no Bus Stop sign.
When the photos got her nowhere she turned to Watchdog, hoping we could help.
Watchdog doesn't often pursue queries involving the far side of the Nassau-Queens border. But once we saw Peiffer's photos, we couldn't resist. So we called the Department of Finance and sent along a number of her photos for support.
We didn't get far, either.
"From the photos, the [traffic court] judge could not tell if the bus stop sign was on the pole," department spokesman Owen Stone told us in an email. In one of the photos, a case could be made that such a sign, if present and positioned parallel to the street, might have been obscured by the pole. But the Bus Stop sign now at that location is attached to the pole at an angle pointing away from the street.
The judge had also reviewed Department of Transportation records, Stone wrote, "which indicate a sign is there and [she] checked online maps and saw it.
"Like I said on my [earlier] voice mail, You see the sign online [on Google Earth]. We see the sign online. DOT records indicate there is a sign there, and the agent who wrote the ticket saw it there."
Did the court check the Department of Transportation records for reports that the sign had been missing or if a new one had been installed after the date the ticket was issued? "The DOT records indicate there was a sign on that street on the date in question," Stone wrote in response.
So we turned to the Department of Transportation to ask if a missing sign had been replaced and, if so, when. We received a response but not an answer.
"The motorist should submit the FOIL [Freedom of Information Law] request to DOT for the posted regulations at the date and time the ticket was issued," department spokesman Scott Gastel wrote in an email.
She has done so. Watchdog has, too.
Peiffer marvels at the events that started with a seemingly invisible Bus Stop sign. "Is this just absolutely outrageous?" she asked in disbelief.
John Zammillo Sr. of Dix Hills was surprised to find a ticket on his windshield when he returned to his car in front of the IGA supermarket in East Northport. His license plates permit parking in spaces reserved for the disabled, and on the night in question he parked directly in front of one such blue sign.
But the ticket cited him for having parked in a "transfer zone," the phrase for the area marked by diagonal blue stripes next to such a parking space.
The ticket carried a fine of $230.
When his son Richard Zammillo visited the shopping center on a recent Saturday night, he wondered how any driver guided by the sign could be expected to notice that it wasn't aligned with an actual parking space, especially after dark.
"My father is 89 years old and for him to pay this fine for something that is so egregious is deplorable," he said in an email to Huntington Town. "Please investigate this matter and rescind this violation and return my father's money."
Richard Zammillo, also of Dix Hills, sent us a copy of his correspondence along with photos he took during the visit to the parking lot the night of March 2. By the time we visited three days later, the sign had been removed. One other sign remained aligned with a transfer zone.
So we asked the town about the ill-placed signs and whether the ticket would be dismissed. Richard Zammillo got a response before we did.
"Handicap Parking Enforcement was notified to NOT issue a summons for Transfer area in front of IGA," Mary Davis, a supervisor in the Department of Public Safety, wrote. "They contacted the [shopping] center and are removing the signs that are conflicting."
She added that the property owner would be contacted to bring both the signs and pavement striping "up to code."
And John Zammillo will be getting a $230 refund.