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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Traffic Officer Accused of Writing Phony Parking Tickets

The NYPD says it’s investigating, but residents who’ve been burned by a rogue ticket agent insist she’s still on the job.

By Megan James

When the judge asked Charles Weintraub for evidence proving he did not deserve the parking tickets he had come to contest on Monday, all he had to do was point out the name of the traffic enforcement agent at the bottom of each of the three tickets.

“Oh,” he recalled the judge saying. “T. Flight? This is Riverdale? Dismiss them all.”

The word is getting out.

At least nine people — mostly North Riverdale residents — have come forward with bogus tickets issued by rookie agent Terri Flight since the summer, and they all come with rocksolid defenses. .

The NYPD’s Department of Internal Affairs says an investigation is underway, but so far only two of the people reporting bogus tickets have been interviewed, and the department has not confirmed whether Ms. Flight is still on duty in Riverdale.

The issue drew a standing-roomonly crowd to Community Board 8’s traffic and transportation committee meeting on Monday, including Diane Riback, who explained how she knew the ticket was bogus — her car had been involved in an accident on Riverdale Avenue, leaving it inoperable, three hours before she was issued a ticket for double parking in front of Riverdale Neighborhood House on Mosholu Avenue. Her ticket was dismissed.

Cynthia Dickstein and her husband, Robert, spent four hours in court on Monday, they said. Their four tickets were dismissed, but they regretted the time they lost fighting tickets they never should have been issued in the first place.

“Why do we have to go through this?” Ms. Dickstein asked.

One woman, who did not give her name, said she had a face-to-face confrontation with Ms. Flight the day in July she was issued her bogus ticket. Since then, she has kept an eye out for the agent, watching her cruising the streets of North Riverdale, down West 254th Street and then north on Riverdale Avenue every afternoon. According to this woman, Ms. Flight is still on the job.

The meeting even drew Jimmy Justice, an advocate for victims of the city’s traffic enforcement agents. There’s a name for what Ms. Flight has been doing, he said, “Phantom Ticketing.”

It’s more common throughout the city than most people think, said Mr. Justice, who spends whole days videotaping traffic agents throughout the city. He said agents have to fill a quota each shift — 26 tickets if they’re on foot, 35 if they’re in a car. Mr. Justice asserts there isn’t much supervision on the job, so he often finds agents issuing all their tickets early in the shift and taking it easy in the afternoon, he said.

Traffic and transportation committee chairman Tony Cassino said he was committed to getting Ms. Flight off the streets.

“We’re not going to let this drop,” he said. “The stories are so rock-solid. These tickets are illegal. This person should be arrested.”

This is part of the October 30, 2008 online edition of The Riverdale Press.