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Drivers get heated over 5-year-old traffic tickets

Larry Reiff of Commack is one of about

Larry Reiff of Commack is one of about 200 people who received notices about old parking tickets issued in Great Neck in 2004. Reiff said he doesn't remember receiving the original ticket and was forced to pay $80 in accrued fines. (Dec. 29, 2009) Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Larry Reiff doesn't remember getting a $15 parking ticket five years ago, so he was surprised to get a letter from Great Neck Plaza informing him it was time to pay up.

When he went to the village's justice court to deal with the ticket, which had ballooned in fines to $120, he found dozens of angry people with the same story.

"There wasn't an empty seat in the room," said Reiff, 37, of Commack.

Court clerk Pattiann DiRosa said about 200 notice letters were delayed because the state Department of Motor Vehicles somehow sent the village drivers' registration information years later.

Court is in session on Tuesday nights and is usually uneventful, DiRosa said Monday.

But that Nov. 24 session got so rowdy that two Nassau police officers were called to help keep peace, DiRosa said, adding that it was the busiest she's seen in about a decade of working there.

"People were upset," DiRosa recalled. "They were shouting, and shouting over the judge."

Reiff went before acting Justice Richard Kestenbaum, who gave him the option of going to trial or paying a reduced fine of $80 for parking in a no-standing zone.

Wanting to just get it taken care of, Reiff said he paid the $80. "I feel like I got taken," he said. "I feel like I've been scammed."

"I guess for some reason, we weren't getting the information back," DiRosa said. "All of a sudden, we started getting addresses from the DMV again."

She said the ticket is the first notice and if it's not paid the village contacts the DMV for the address attached to a license plate.

Jesse Cohen, 61, of Great Neck, who went to justice court that night to question a 2004 expired meter ticket for his son's motorcycle, said he ended up paying a $50 fine, reduced from $105, but that if there was a DMV or village error, he shouldn't have to pay.

"It's greedy for money," he said.

Those who showed up on Nov. 24 were all given reductions, DiRosa said, adding that penalties on parking tickets max out after six months - no more than $190, depending on the violation.

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