Pole vault! Woman hit for thousands in fines for one illegal act

The Brooklyn Paper
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A Brooklyn Heights small business owner faces thousands in fines — even though she only posted one thing on a Court Street lamppost.

The owner of the design firm Sketch & Hammer, Susan Hager, freely admits that she taped an envelope containing 15 of business cards for her custom deck and garden company on that lamppost back in April.

But she is fighting the decision by the sanitation worker to write separate summons for each of the business cards rather than for the one envelope that contained them.

“It said I’ll be paying a minimum of $75 for each card, and I could ultimately pay up to $3,000 for the whole deal,” said Hager, who received the summonses in the mail last week. “I don’t mind paying $75, but $3,000?”

Small businesses say that such overzealous enforcement of sanitation and other “quality of life” crimes is the norm under Mayor Bloomberg, whose third-term re-election effort was frequently dogged by charges that he isn’t doing enough for Mom and Pop.

That sense trickled up to the City Council, which passed a bill in November to give drivers a grace period on parking tickets — on the grounds that Bloomberg’s meter maids were handing out too many “gotcha” tickets just seconds after the time expired.

Despite that context, Hager did break the rules and the summonses against her were legitimate, said Sanitation spokesman Matt LiPani.

“It’s illegal posting,” he said. “If you post 20 cards on one pole or multiple poles, it’s 20 different infractions.”

A scofflaw has no idea that he or she has done anything wrong for months, because the Sanitation Department sometimes mails the summonses well after the alleged infraction, tracking down the violator through information on the fliers themselves.

In Hager’s 26 years in business locally, she said she’s never seen a fine so outrageous, so she’ll fight the charge at her first court hearing on Dec. 11. Until then, she’s warning other small business owners to find a different way to promote their companies.

“Post inside of restaurants,” she said. “Or they will track you.”

Updated 5:15 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

EAbramson from Clinton Hill says:
She should make some money just on the publicity from this article. Good Luck with court.
Dec. 3, 2009, 9:50 am
Ally from Clean Lampost-ville says:
She's an evil witch, and she deserves worse. You don't know her like I know her, and believe me, it was more than just one. you can't believe one word that comes out of her hot, cheeky mouth.
She was fully aware of what she was doing and is just trying to get attention.
Anyway, seriously, why does it matter who she is? The law is the law, don't break it.
Dec. 3, 2009, 10:19 am
George Earl from Brooklyn Heights says:
Get out your purse, woman. The city is completely right in fining you for this growing trend of store owners. That is having somebody who'll work for virtually nothing go 'round and tape store promo items up on poles, on building exteriors, even shove them under private home front doors. Hey, this ain't the kind of neighborhood from whence you might have come. It still has a reputation to live up to. Think of how this news item is going to put a bad image on your own business. I already am walking right past it. And yes, I did have money to spend there, especially at this gift-giving time of year. Think again, woman.
Dec. 3, 2009, 10:23 am
anonymous from brooklyn heights says:
This woman is a notoriously inconsiderate about her advertising.
Years ago, she hogged a local bulletin board with 4 separate
advertisements, while other small businesses had no room to post. When I moved one of her huge signs, she threw a fit and left me an irate message on my business line.
Dec. 3, 2009, 12:01 pm
brooklyn boy from prospect heights says:
and go after campaign posters while you're at it DSNY!
Dec. 3, 2009, 12:10 pm
Ed from C Gardens says:
I'm on the Sanit Dept's side -- and it doesn't matter what fine she "doesn't mind" paying (that's arrogance!). She surely knew better, she screwed up, and the landscape doesn't exist for p.r. purposes.
If the per-item fine weren't enforced, lampposts would be buried in envelopes full of business cards and flyers.
Dec. 4, 2009, 12:21 pm
Oh Please from Park Slope says:
Can they tack on a surcharge for her whining?

Stop crying, pay the fine, and keep your blight off public lampposts. Next time buy an ad in The Brooklyn Paper.
Dec. 4, 2009, 2:05 pm
jeff from Park Slope says:
This is an absurd fine. What about freedom of speech and/or the press? All those boxes with "newspapers" that litter the landscape are an eyesore. And the laws of the city are so obscure who knows...even walking on the sidewalk could be a fineable offense.Further, what about all those other postings...lost dogs and cats, stoop sales, aren't they much the same?

I applaud Susan for fighting this petty law.
Dec. 6, 2009, 10:23 am
Paul A. Toomey from Bay Ridge/Ft. Hamilton says:
Pay the fine and learn a lesson on how to advertise a business. Why is it that she is now receiving free publicity?? If you walk around my neighborhood you see plenty of notices posted on light poles, fences & even trees that are on peoples property! All have a phone number advertising the usual man with a van bull——.Why doesn't the city get after these people as well? The ads are fixed to the poles etc. with clear packaging tape that is very hard to remove.
Dec. 7, 2009, 12:32 pm
Will says:
Geez! I wonder how all those political campaigns that put posters up on every conceivable pole in Bklyn and the rest of NYC afford all the fines they must get. They do get fined, don't they?
Dec. 8, 2009, 9:36 pm
Harry from Heights says:
jeff from Park Slope says: 'This is an absurd fine. What about freedom of speech and/or the press?'
What about the fact that public property isn't a free billboard for private businesses? How is this ban unreasonable, or discriminating against a particular viewpoint (since all such ads are banned)? And are you saying that this is this woman's *only* "speech" outlet, and that gov't is stifling her?
Seriously - most businesses pay for ads. But perhaps you wouldn't mind if every business in town papered public property with freebie ads - and made you pay for maintenance and cleanup.
Dec. 9, 2009, 4:20 am

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