Gowanus Lounge: Serving Brooklyn

Boerum Hill Resident Says Screw “Just Shut Up and Pay It”

November 15th, 2008 · 4 Comments

“Just shut up and pay it.” How many times have we heard this? It’s a long standing concept the government thrives on, understanding that it actually costs us more to go down to the prospective governmental office or courtroom and contest said fines and defend ourselves than the cost of the fines. So, contesting the $100 summons turns into more than a $100 in lost pay, subway fare, etc. Okay, now that we’ve gotten that long winded complaint out of our system, here’s the story of one one Boerum Hill resident who got a ticket for litter outside her house and who didn’t shut up and pay it:

I live on Bond Street where a good many passers-by throw a good amount of litter on the sidewalk pretty much all the time. Is there any point in fighting this ticket, or is it simply my turn to cough up $100 for the benefit of our city’s coffers?

Guess what the majority of people who responded to the Boerum Hill listserve said: “Just shut up and pay it.” But here’s what she did:

I wrote to the Environmental Control Board on September 19, and pointed out:
– busy area
– no trash bins nearby
– I pick up trash mornings and evenings
– $100 penalty is excessive
– routing hours are from 8 to 9 and from 12 to 1. Ticket was issued at 6:15 PM
– less than a handful of items when violation was issued

Furthermore, I wrote: Many of us have lived in Boerum Hill for decades. We moved here with our families and raised our children in a neighborhood that was impoverished, gritty and dirty–but we loved living in Brooklyn, and we still do. It should follow then, that we care too much about our neighborhood to thoughtlessly allow our sidewalks to be strewn with litter. Picking up and sweeping in front of our house is something we do routinely, not just to avoid a $100 Sanitation ticket. But it just cannot make up for the constant littering of passers-by and for the wind blowing trash down the sidewalk.

And what do you think happened? She shut up and paid it, right? Wrong! She got a response from a judge dismissing the fine:

“The foregoing sets forth a meritorious defense. I find that under the circumstances herein (…) once at 9 AM and once at 6 PM constitutes reasonable efforts to clean the sidewalk in a routine manner. It should be noted that effective December 26, 2007, residential routing hours are 8 to 9 AM and 6 to 7 PM.”

GL Analysis
What does this tell us? Screw “Just shut up and pay it.” Stand up for yourself if you think you’ve been unfairly fined for something you know you’re not in the wrong about. Write. Email. Voice yourself… reclaim this place as a democracy where you have the right to say No and not waste your time or hard earned money because some governmental employee who barely makes enough to support themselves whose job is threatened in this stressful economy if they don’t make their quota gives you a lousy ticket or fine. Congrats to this resident!

Tags: Boerum Hill

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jamie // Nov 16, 2008 at 12:54 am

    This is exactly what I always do: fight tickets I feel are unfair or capricious. And yes, you usually win if you make a sincere argument. Even better if you look up the relevant code and find problems with your ticket. I’ve won that way, too.

    I hate people I know that project their own feelings of helplessness and attack other people for standing up for what’s right. In fact, I find as a general rule, I get as far away as possible from people like that. They’re hopeless and think everyone else should just give up and eat shit just like they do.

    Screw that!!!

  • 2 arkady // Nov 16, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    What is “residential routing”?

  • 3 Jack // Nov 17, 2008 at 12:53 am

    Arkady, I’m going to guess that “residential routing” means when crews come by those streets? I dunno.

    But one thing: I never ever heard of anyone say “Just pay it!” ever. In fact I’ve always said appearing to contest a ticket is the best thing you can do. Yeah, you might have to take a personal day. But if you’re truly in the right, it works for you in the long run.

    Keep on fighting!

  • 4 Jim // Nov 17, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Good for the Bond Street resident for fighting this unfair ticket. On the whole, however, I believe keeping residents and businesses responsible for trash infront of their property is the best way to keep the streets clean. It just needs to be enforced sensibly and fairly.