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Prospect Park West ticket

War of words: Driver fights PPW parking ticket over meaning of ‘to’

The Brooklyn Paper

Justice is blind — and it doesn’t understand English very well, according to one angry Park Slope motorist.

Tenacious driver Mark Vincent is battling the courts after two judges refused to overturn a parking ticket and towing fees leveled against him by the city after traffic cops penalized his vehicle for parking beneath a vague “No standing” sign on Prospect Park West last fall.

Vincent claims he parked his red Honda on Prospect Park West near Ninth Street on Oct. 3 near a sign reading: “No Standing, 8 am–10 pm, April to October.”

Traffic enforcement officers interpreted the word “to” to imply that parking was barred through the end of October — not the start of the month — then towed his car and several other vehicles.

The Department of Transportation has since replaced the signs on the roadway — where drivers lost a lane of traffic and 22 parking spaces to make way for a contested two-way bike lane — with ones indicating the rule is only enforced through Sept. 30, evidence that Vincent claims proves he was in the right.

But the motorist says justice still hasn’t been served, even after two appeals and numerous hours spent compiling evidence, writing letters, and making phone calls to judges.

“It’s obviously and egregiously unjust,” he said.

Vincent first appealed the $125 citation — which doesn’t include an additional $225 he shelled out in towing charges — in December.

He then sent a package containing photos, newspaper clippings, and forms explaining the mishap to Deputy Chief Administrative Law Judge Brian Keneey.

The following month, Keneey denied his appeal without explaining why, the driver said. Keneey did not return calls seeking comment by press time.

Vincent’s fight didn’t stop there. He sent a second appeal to Judge Virginia Hollingsworth — but she rejected him too, explaining drivers should simply assume the worst if a street sign isn’t clear.

“If there is no specified end date indicated, the regulation should be read to include the entire month,” she wrote. “Summons is sustained.”

Vincent says Hollingsworth’s reading of the law borders on illiterate, but interpreting the word “to” can be tricky when describing a time frame, according to Harvard University English professor Joseph Harris.

In some cases, “to” doesn’t imply the full duration of both dates (a hotel stay from March 5 to March 9, for example), but other times it does, Harris said.

“There’s no ultimate right and right and wrong; it’s a matter of custom and interpretation,” he said. “Ultimately, the most important interpretation comes from the guy writing the tickets.”

Needless to say, Vincent disagrees. He now says he’s considering a third level of appeal called an article 78 proceeding that would bring the case to a higher court.

The filing fee for such a procedure is roughly $310 — more than twice the cost of the ticket itself — but Vincent said it’s not about the money.

“It’s the principle,” he said.

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

Updated 2:37 pm, April 11, 2012: Story has been updated to include a better quote from Mark Vincent.
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