Parking scofflaws beware. If you have $350 or more in outstanding parking fines, red-light camera or bus-lane tickets that are in judgment, the city will be looking to boot your car.
The Department of Finance recently rolled out its new state-of-the-art wheel-booting pilot program in Brooklyn. The three-to-six month initiative is expected to be expanded to Queens and the other boroughs later this summer.
City DOF spokesman Owen Stone said that booting may be more efficient for the city with greater convenience for everyone involved. He said there is a total of $300 million in outstanding parking fines owed to the city by parking scofflaws, but noted, however, that 91 percent of people pay their tickets or successfully challenge them at a hearing.
DOF Commissioner David Frankel, in recent remarks to the City Council’s Finance Committee, said, “Booting allows people to put their vehicles back on the road within minutes. It also allows people access to personal belongings left behind in the vehicle.”
He added, “This pilot program will help us determine whether and how to implement booting as an additional tool to enforce parking judgment debt.”
PayLock of New Jersey was selected by the city to work with the city sheriff on the program. Under the new program parking scofflaws’ cars will have a tire lock, called a boot, affixed to the rear wheel of their car, immobilizing the vehicle.
The scofflaw can “self-release” the boot with an access code obtained after paying all fines and penalties with a credit, debit or gift card by calling PayLock’s 24-hour call center, or in cash at one of the DOF payment centers. If the motorist is unable to release the boot, PayLock will provide assistance within two to four hours of a request, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
To find boot eligible vehicles, DOF uses vans with license plate recognition technology traveling throughout the city reading license plates. The LPR matches plates with a database that tells it which vehicles are boot eligible. When the system finds a match, it alerts a deputy sheriff, who determines if the vehicle can be booted. If the vehicle is boot eligible, the sheriff will authorize the booting of the vehicle by the PayLock employee.
According to the Finance Department, booting allows the DOF to enforce parking judgments by affixing the 16-pound yellow boot to a car’s rear wheel instead of towing the vehicle, although it can still be towed if the fines are not paid within two business days of being booted.
If a car is booted it will be expensive to get the boot released. In addition to the parking fines, there is a $180 fee for the boot and a $70 sheriff’s execution fee as well as a 5 percent surcharge on the entire bill. There is also a fee for paying with a credit card.
After bailing out the vehicle, a motorist has 24 hours to return the bright-yellow SmartBoot to a PayLock drop-off site. After that, additional fines will begin to accrue at $25 per day, up to a maximum of $500.
A representative for the city marshals’ association criticized the plan.
Michael Woloz, spokesman for the group, said the marshals are not participating in the city booting program at this time because in their view there are several unresolved issues that relate to everything from liability to public safety to payment procedures.
“There are just a number of issues that we don’t have a comfort level with yet to be a part of their program, so we are not participating in the program at this time,” Woloz said.
Woloz also questioned if it is wise to leave a booted car on the street for two days.
He noted that when a city marshal tows a vehicle, the individual goes to the marshal’s office to pay the fines and fees as opposed to going to the desolate location of a city payment center with cash to pay for the boot.
Commenting on the city’s efforts to collect the $300 million in outstanding parking fines, Woloz said, “We are certainly not convinced that this is the way to collect those fines.”
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) also had some reservations about the city’s booting program.
“My concern with the boot is due process,” said Addabbo, explaining that when a person gets a parking ticket there is a process by which he can appeal the ticket at a hearing before he is required to pay.
“With the boot, you can’t get the boot off your car until you pay,” said Addabbo. “What happens if they’re in an emergency situation and they go to move their car and there is a boot on it?”
Commenting on booting as a way for the city to collect the millions owed for unpaid parking violations, Addabbo said, “This is one way of addressing it, I don’t know if it’s the best way.”
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Howard Beach) appeared to be taking a “wait and see” approach to the city’s booting program.
“This program is intended to be a deterrent for scofflaw motorists who do not pay their fines and makes it more convenient for people to get quick access to their cars as opposed to towing,” said Goldfeder. “This is only a pilot program and we have yet to see the effects that it will have on motorists.”
Several Queens residents expressed varying thoughts about the city’s booting program.
Simcha Waisman, president of One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center, said had the program been started a long time ago, the city would be in better financial shape. Waisman said the money the city will be collecting from the program should be put back into the community.
Richmond Hill resident Joann, who did not give her last name, said the program is a good idea, “As long as [the ticket] is legit,” she said.
She added that individuals who don’t pay their tickets harm everybody.
Woodhaven resident Richard Smith, who also agreed the program is a good idea, added, “Anything that can bring in money to the city right now, they need.”