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Drivers with handicap permits protest tickets for parking out of bounds

Kenneth Wilkinson's ticket cited

Kenneth Wilkinson's ticket cited "handicapped parking out of stall" on May 12, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Judy Cartwright

Here's a new twist on an old annoyance: parking tickets.

And if there's a lesson to be learned from two readers' experiences, it's this: Stay between the lines.

Which sounds obvious until we consider the circumstances: Each was parking in a space reserved for people with a disability.

These weren't the infractions typically associated with those spaces, when they're occupied by able-bodied drivers. And, to be clear: We're not a fan of sloppy parking.

But in each of these situations, the driver didn't know he had crossed not only a striped boundary, but a legal one as well.

The first example is from Kenneth Wilkinson, whose car windshield has a blue handicapped-parking tag. In March he parked in a designated spot at an office building in Great Neck and was stunned to find a ticket when he returned.

The violation? The vehicle straddled the line between the parking space and the striped pavement known as a transfer zone. That area, required under the Americans With Disabilities Act, is intended to accommodate vehicles with ramps or lifts and provide sufficient space for transferring to or from a wheelchair.

Wilkinson knows what transfer zones are for. But he had no idea that, when his car encroached on that area it qualified as a violation.

Neither did Dan Tuttle, who parked in a similar fashion at a Home Depot parking lot in Commack. And based on what we've seen recently, neither do most drivers; when we met Tuttle in that lot on a recent afternoon, four of five vehicles in handicapped spaces extended over the line into the transfer zone.

Wilkinson, who lives in Queens Village, told us he received the ticket during a visit to a doctor's office.

"The Village of Great Neck has something new," he wrote in a letter. "Instead of a speed ticket trap, they have a 'handicap parking trap.' "

The office building's parking area has "nice wide handicap parking spaces identified by signs," he wrote, but those spaces are in a dark section under the office building and the "lines were so faded and covered with dirt, they were hardly visible."

A No Parking sign is positioned at the head of the transfer zone. Still, Wilkinson hadn't anticipated it could apply to the way his vehicle was parked.

We asked the village about his ticket and if it signals a newly aggressive approach to parking enforcement. We wouldn't be surprised if it were, as some municipalities have touted their stepped-up parking enforcement efforts and resulting revenue.

"There has been no change in enforcement," village spokesman David Chauvin said in an email. "The ticket in question was for parking beyond the parking space line."

Even so, we were puzzled because the ticket cited a section of village code that didn't seem to apply. The printed text, "Handicapped Pkng Out of Stall," was coupled with a section of code that instead forbids parking "within 20 feet of a crosswalk at an intersection . . ."

The village concedes the wrong section of code was cited and blamed a glitch in the village's ticket machine. "The machine prints a violation of [section] 537-23d rather than [section] 537-23a (parking out of stall)," Chauvin wrote. "It is being corrected (reprogrammed)."

But the error won't negate the ticket. Chauvin said the fine would be the same regardless of which code violation was cited: $35.

That's small change compared with the ticket Huntington issued to Tuttle, whose pickup truck has a tag in the windshield: It carries a fine of $200.

The ticket was issued because transfer zones "must be kept clear," Huntington spokesman A.J. Carter said.

A Q & A on the town's website puts it this way: "At no time is any vehicle permitted to occupy the Transfer Area and any vehicle that does occupy this space is subject to a ticket, with or without a Handicap Parking Permit or Symbol of Access Plates displayed."

Tuttle, who lives in Northport, is contesting his ticket, which was issued several months ago.

His pickup truck crossed over the boundary, he said, because a rack of shopping carts on one side forced him to swing wide to pull into the space. That context should have been considered before the ticket was written, he said.

Wilkinson mailed in his check for $35. He hopes his experience will be useful to the rest of us: "If you don't park within [the lines], you are in violation."

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