Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Brooklyn lumber store providing customers with donated Muni-Meter receipts to pay off parking tickets 

 Muni-Meter receipts are collected in a box at Boro Park Lumber & Home Center.

This gives new meaning to the concept of charity.

A Borough Park lumber store is collecting used Muni-Meter receipts from customers in a cardboard box above its checkout counter in a new scam to help scofflaws trick the cash-strapped city.

The swindle is simple.

Drivers who have been slapped with parking tickets on the streets close to the Borough Park store can search for matching receipts donated by other drivers. Those lucky enough to find one with the same block and time can then use it to challenge their ticket, falsely asserting that the traffic agent failed to see that they had actually purchased the required meter receipt.

"People come in here all the time to check it out," said an employee outside the Boro Park Lumber & Home Center at 4601 New Utrecht Ave.

Newer receipts with remaining time can also be used by customers.

A store manager Tuesday said the box wasn't setup by a staffer.

"Somebody outside the store did it. We are not involved in it," he said.

The box was initially labeled a "gmach," the Hebrew acronym for kind acts. The term is typically used for charitable loan services that include everything from cash to wedding dresses to folding chairs for people sitting shiva after the loss of a loved one.

But the box is a new take on the expanding network of community loans.

In September 2011, the Bloomberg administration took down its old pole-mounted coin meters and switched to the solar-powered Muni-Meter boxes that can handle eight parking spots.

City traffic agents issued 9,012,854 tickets and collected $513 million in resulting parking fines in fiscal year 2012, which ended in June, city records show.

"No one can dispute the fact that our city is ticket-happy," said Councilman James Vacca (D-Bronx), the chairman of the Transportation Committee, "but fraudulently helping people fight tickets when they are actually guilty is over the top."

The city's Transportation Department and Finance Department declined to comment.


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