The city must create harsher penalties for contractors who illegally put up unauthorized Department of Transportation signs reserving street space around construction sites, the leader of a Cobble Hill civic group demanded this week.
Members of that group have been battling for weeks with the builders of controversial luxury apartment at the site of Long Island College Hospital who they say are scarfing up spots they have no right to with signs given to them by the city for previous jobs while car-owning residents up getting tickets for parking in spaces that were rightfully theirs.
“It seems like there’s a process there by which parking spaces can be taken illegally by construction companies and unknowing and law-abiding parkers are getting tickets and really have no recourse,” said Amy Breedlove, who is the president of the Cobble Hill Association.
Since Builder Scala Contracting Company — the contractor hired by the project’s developer Fortis Property Group — put up two “No parking anytime” and “No standing” signs on Henry Street between Pacific and Amity streets earlier this year, approximately 80 people received $115 tickets — $9,200 in penalties — for parking in two spaces the signs affected.
The Department of Transportation inspected the signs in March and slapped the contractor with violation that came with two $150 fines — one issued when the illegal signs were first discovered and the other a week later when they weren’t taken down, said an agency spokeswoman.
The signs were then dismounted, but people who have already paid their tickets have no way to get their money back, according to Breedlove.
“I asked ‘What about the people who have already paid their tickets’ and we were told “There’s nothing really you can do about it,’ ” she said.
And those who haven’t paid up have to go to traffic court and provide evidence to get their case dismissed, something that isn’t even guaranteed and depends on the judge said Breedlove.
A coalition of local pols including state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Cobble Hill), Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon (D-Cobble Hill), Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Councilman Brad Lander (D-Carroll Gardens) sent a letter to the departments of transportation and finance — the agency in charge of parking tickets — on May 8 demanding they rescind the fines and refund those who have paid.
The city has not responded, according to a rep from Squadron’s office.
A Fortis spokeswoman told the Brooklyn Eagle in April it would “of course” reimburse anyone who received a ticket if the signs were deemed unauthorized in April, but a rep refused to say whether it would follow through on its promise when contacted for this article.
Instead, a spokeswoman disputed the legitimacy of the complaints, referring to the signs — which she claimed Fortis knew nothing about — as “allegedly non-permitted” and argued coverage of the issue had been exaggerated.
“The reporting on this matter is inaccurate and has been blown out of proportion,” said rep Lauren Hovey.
But the city has already spoken by issuing the notice of violations, and its denial of the signs is just making residents suspicious of other issues the developer might lie about throughout its construction of several towers, said Breedlove.
“They’ve been found guilty by DOT so I’m trying to understand why they’re not taking responsibility for what was done and that then draws a question as to what else are they not taking responsibility for?” she said.
Contractors buy the “no parking” signs from the Department of Transportation, which then issues a permit to the builders to put them up. Scala received authorization for the placards on two other streets. But contractors don’t have to return the signs when they complete construction, said a transportation department spokeswoman and could theoretically put them up around the city until they get caught, worries Breedlove.
“Does that mean there’s a lot of signs out there than can be erected anywhere if they choose to do that?” she said. “The only way there’s recourse is having the Cobble Hill Association receive all the complaints from neighbors.”
The association head honcho said she’s waiting to hear what the city has to say to the politicians’ letter before making her next move.
Scala did not return a request for comment.
©2017 Community News Group
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