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Great Neck Plaza old-ticket notices swell to 1,000

At the Justice Court in the Village of

At the Justice Court in the Village of Great Neck Plaza, a crowd of people complain about receiving parking tickets from as far back as 2004 that they knew nothing about. Penny Besso of Woodmere shows her $110 parking ticket. (Jan. 5, 2010) Credit: Kathy Kmonicek

Great Neck Plaza's village justice court clerk said Thursday that notices of outstanding parking tickets dating to 2003 were sent to about 1,000 people - five times as many as reported previously.

Angry people who received the notices in November continue to show up at Tuesday night court sessions to complain that they have no memory of receiving the tickets. This week, about a dozen gathered in the cold an hour before doors opened.

Leah Falco of Flushing, who pleaded not guilty last month to a parking ticket the village says she got in 2004, has been going weekly to pass out fliers urging others to fight their tickets and sign her online petition.

And Penny Besso of Woodmere was surprised to learn she wasn't the only recipient of a ticket that she doesn't remember getting - in 2004. "We're all here for the same reason," she said. "It's unbelievable."

Court clerk Pattianne DiRosa had said last month the Department of Motor Vehicles took years to send registration information for about 200 outstanding tickets. Thursday, she said the figure is closer to 1,000.

Some 30,000 tickets are issued yearly in the small, square-mile village, DiRosa said. Great Neck Plaza has a busy commercial area with a lot of meters and is near a Long Island Rail Road station.

"We handle more parking tickets than other municipalities," DiRosa said.

When the DMV information arrived in November, the village sent out notices about fines, which carried penalties that maxed out after six months. A typical fine of $15 with penalties had grown to $110.

On Nov. 24, the first court session after the letters went out, extra police were called to help with the large crowd.

This week, the crowd was much smaller. Acting Justice Richard Kestenbaum explained again that there had been a "computer glitch."

Before court opened, those who showed up early vowed to plead not guilty and sign Falco's petition, which had 15 signatures Thursday afternoon.

But most, like Besso, ended up paying reduced fines just to get it done. Besso pleaded guilty and paid the reduced $75 fine.

Margarete Becker of Glenwood Landing, who says she had never been to Great Neck Plaza before Tuesday and had to use GPS to get there, had planned to do the same.

"We originally said our time is valuable. Let's just pay it and end it," said Becker, 70. But after about an hour of waiting in the courtroom, she decided, "This is wrong. . . . You have to stand up for what's right and wrong." So she pleaded not guilty and will return for a trial.

Carlos DiPardo will also go to trial to fight the five tickets the village says he got in 2005, which now total $550.

"The thing is, I've never been to Great Neck," said DiPardo, 26, of Flushing. "How am I supposed to prove I was never there? But at the same time, how are they going to prove where that officer was when he gave me the tickets?"

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