Today’s news:

Crowley backs flier reform

After a trio of Maspeth benevolent organizations got hit with more than $7,000 in city Sanitation Department fines last year for posters advertising a street fair, City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) is pushing a bill that would change the way the city can penalize such violations.

The Protection Against Ticket Harassment Act was slated to be introduced to the Council Wednesday.

“Too often, we witness the middle class being unfairly punished just so the city can make a buck,” Crowley said in a statement. “While these fines may not be a problem for a big corporation, they are crippling our small businesses and our community groups.”

In June 2008, the Kiwanis Club, the Chamber of Commerce and the Lions Club of Maspeth were fined $7,200 for posting fliers to advertise for their annual street fair fund-raiser on city lampposts. Much of the $16,000 the event brought in went straight to the Sanitation Department.

“The Maspeth Chamber of Commerce, Maspeth Kiwanis Club and the Maspeth Lions Club feel that we have been unjustly treated and excessively fined,” said James O’Kane, president of the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce, in a statement.

Sanitation officers currently may write multiple tickets for the same violation over a period of days or weeks, but do not have to promptly serve those tickets on residents. As a result, New Yorkers may receive multiple fines written on different days for the same violation all at one time, before they have an opportunity to correct the problem.

New Yorkers who post signs on city property are subject to one fine for each poster at $75 apiece, which often results in extremely high penalties.

Under the PATH Act, enforcement officers would be required to serve tickets to residents within five days of observing a violation. In addition, small businesses and nonprofits that receive multiple tickets for posting on city property within five days of their first violation, and who have not violated the law in the past, will be charged for just one offense and will be ensured sufficient time to correct the problem before being issued further fines.

“With the PATH Act, we’re creating a path to fairness when it comes to ticketing small businesses and nonprofits,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) said in a statement. “Presenting someone with thousands of dollars in fines before they’ve had a chance to fix the problem is simply irresponsible.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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