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Opinion: Norwalk Parking Authority is a tad overzealous

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Lucky me, I met this Norwalk Parking Authority guy.

NORWALK, Conn. – Some people are just too sensitive about having their picture taken.

OK, I run into that a lot with members of the public. But when you work for the city, you sort of have to expect that people might take your picture.

This particular city employee seemed to take exception.

Seems I had the audacity to take a photograph of a Norwalk Parking Authority officer after he had given me a ticket.

“You can’t do that,” he said, standing in the public parking lot at the corner of Washington and North Water. “Yes, I can,” I said, handling my camera in the manner that unintentionally annoys some Norwalk politicians – click-click-click from the motor drive.

“No, you can’t,” he said, and began dialing on his cell phone.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

I said, “Yes, I can. I know the law,” and he gave up dialing.

When I left a few minutes later, he followed me up Washington Street, writing on a notepad that was perched on his steering wheel – while driving, I might add. I concluded that he was writing down my license plate number, but he already had that from writing the ticket. So what was his deal?

OMG.

So what happened was I was driving over the Stroffolino Bridge at about 5 p.m. Wednesday when I spied something eminently noteworthy – they had taken the wrapping paper off Ironworks SoNo. The plastic was no longer covering the building and we could all see the final results of the attempt to emulate the façade of that old building that had been there.

f you haven’t been in SoNo lately click on this for a splendid view of the Ironworks SoNo building. It's beautiful isn't it? I only wish I hadn't paid $25 to take this photograph.
If you haven’t been in SoNo lately click on this for a splendid view of the Ironworks SoNo building. It’s beautiful isn’t it? I only wish I hadn’t paid $25 to take this photograph.

 

Yes, by the way, it replicates the shapes of the old Norwalk Compressor Company.

Anyway, I was on the bridge and I could see the heads turning in the cars in front of me. They were noticing it, too. It was a newsworthy event. I figured, what could it harm, I will park at the Maritime Aquarium for a minute – just a minute – and take a picture. Didn’t know what I’d do with it for sure, but I was (at that point) planning another SoNo story and you all know I am an addict when it comes to shooting photos.

I got a few. I should have stopped, gotten back in the car and driven away. But…

My head got turned by one of the first nice days of the spring. The photo addict in me – expensive hobby I guess – thought, “Hey, I was looking for a picture of the railroad bridge yesterday and there it is. Maybe I’ll replace the one I posted.” Then, “Hey, there are rowers. If only I could get a photo of the rowers coming under the bridge while a train is going over the bridge.” And, “Gee, it’s finally nice out, the sun is shining, it’s warm and the sound of that woman’s voice is neat, with her thick accent (is she Russian?). The way she is handling that little boat is interesting, and look how young those rowers are. I guess that must be their last run of the day.”

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Nope, didn’t get that cool picture. Maybe I will go back. But I won’t be parking there…. Sorry, need my money for journalism, they can finance the Maritime Garage without me.

Then I thought, “Wait a minute…”

Sure enough, there was a Parking Authority guy at my car. He seemed puzzled by the open windows of the vehicle – I wasn’t going to be gone long, remember?

I have no idea of why he was looking inside.

So I thought if I caught him, maybe he would cut me a break, and I headed over there. No such luck – the little slip had already printed out from the little machine in his hand by the time I got there.

I was angry. Oh, well. I protested. He didn’t like that, but what did I have to lose? There was a little back and forth, and he said “Do you think the rules don’t apply to you?”

Didn’t take him long to get to that line. I’m thinking he’s used it before.

So has my husband. (By the way, if you want proof my husband edits my stories, here it is. I did not write that line.)

I think I said something about only being there for a minute, and he said, “Once I write a ticket I can’t do anything about it.”

OK, I backed off. My reaction was rather like a cat licking itself after having done something stupid.

So my parking was paid for, I figured I might as well get more photos of the big new building. Then: Hey, what an opportunity, a chance to get the perfect photograph for the next (inevitable) story about SoNo parking.

That led to the photo you see above. He was checking out the New York plates on an SUV, when the woman inside said, “I’m here!” So I took the photo. We — the parking guy and I — had our little discussion about the photo. I am sure the whole thing made a great impression on the woman in the car.

How ironic that this all took place in the lot the SoNo Task Force is thinking about making free for half an hour. And I am rather happy that I finally got the chance to help the Parking Authority pay the bonds on the Maritime Garage.

Someone at our latest fundraiser said she missed my little first-person attempts at humor. I should do another one, she said. So here we go: Ha, ha, ha, I got a parking ticket, a $25 act of stupidity. I had my back turned for two minutes — literally; the time stamps on the photos show that. Doesn’t take long to screw up in SoNo, I guess.

The ticket is paid, by the way. Or at least I think it is.

We mailed them a check. We wanted to pay it online but, two days after the ticket had been issued, there was no record of it in the system yet. Apparently it can take up to a week to show up. We suppose that if the ticket were not paid on time, that would not be an acceptable excuse. I am a little nervous about the check in the mail. What if it gets lost? How do we prove we sent it?

I suggest a public art project to spruce up South Norwalk: Let’s decorate the Parking Authority trucks. You know those pesticide mobiles with the rat’s ears? I suggest something like a cat’s tail for the back of the truck and cat’s whiskers for its sides. Cat’s ears on the roof. Not a friendly little housecat, though. Let’s make it a tiger – a true predator. Orange fur and stripes.

The color on the streets will be nice!

So here’s a question: Do predatory parking enforcement practices produce profitable businesses?

OK, let’s rewrite that in honor of one of our faithful commenters. “Do predatory parking enforcement officers issuing punitive penalties produce profitable businesses or do they help continue the cycle of stagnant property values in a city with the fifth-highest paid teachers and only the 19th-highest average income?”

I did it. I got eight “p’s” into the sentence. Insiders know that it’s really nine”p’s,” given who the commenter is.

Anyway, I don’t know the answer to the question. I just know I’ll go back to parking where it’s free and walking the distance to get to SoNo. If there’s no snow on the sidewalks, it’s not a problem.

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He also didn’t like me taking this photo. I don’t know, I guess I wouldn’t like being a Norwalk Parking Authority officer, either.

Comments

48 responses to “Opinion: Norwalk Parking Authority is a tad overzealous”

  1. John Hamlin

    If they keep at it, eventually there will be just the parking authority officers and all those other high paid Norwalk public employees coming to SoNo — and of course they all probably live out of town!!

  2. Bryan Meek

    Some other 16,000 tickets written by the NPA were done without someone instigating them.
    /
    I’m not sure how many of the 70,000 tickets written in Greenwich last year, or the 13,000 written in New Canaan, or 125,000 in Stamford were done with a camera in their face.
    /
    I bet if you explained your mission you might get some consideration, or if you bothered to ask you’d know the parking ambassadors are also taking soft security measures for our customer’s safety. But then that wouldn’t help write a story would it?
    /
    There are better ways to improve your standing above the other 2.6 million web sites that drive more traffic.
    /
    http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/nancyonnorwalk.com

    1. Mark Chapman

      @bryan meek

      One of the ways to improve our traffic would be to expand our coverage area beyond Norwalk like most of those 2.6 million sites. That was a disingenuous cheap shot well beneath you. Perhaps th e authority should train its “ambassadors” not to overreact when a person, incredibly, is upset about a parking ticket. If I were on the authority I would be
      More concerned about an “ambassador” (ironic title, isn’t it?) who, despite having all the vehicle info in his computer, follows a woman up the road, writing on his pad . What was he doing?

  3. Lifelong Teacher

    Stories and experiences like this are why I just don’t go to SoNo. Period. I will spend my money shopping and dining at businesses where parking is free. Many people feel this way.

  4. Oldtimer

    At some point, long ago, Norwalk decided to require each new commercial building to provide it’s own parking and. at pretty near the same time, installed parking meters to limit parking time in the older business sections of town. The result was predictable. Over time customers flocked to stores that featured FREE parking and drifted away from neighborhoods where there was little or no FREE parking.
    Now this system of pay-to-park or else, has evolved to the point where parking management is a business, outsourced to a for-profit company, and we wonder why we can’t keep other retail businesses alive in SONO. Already, the City recognized the bad effect lf everybody pays to park in the uptown area and removed a lot of meters. It seems the meters were removed, and the enforcement relaxed a little too late. It may be contracts with a for-profit parking management company prohibits removing meters and relaxing enforcement in SONO. If so, eventually there will be no customers coming into SONO to support retail businesses there. The meter man featured in this story needs a lot more customer relations training to go with his make as much money as possible training. It would be interesting to see who he was calling after telling Nancy she could not take his picture.

  5. EveT

    If people are supposed to be able to pay a ticket online, the ticket should show up online right away. Even a 24-hour delay in this day and age is ridiculous. People can’t park for 2 minutes without getting a ticket? Then NPA should post said ticket online within 2 minutes.
    BTW, on the subject of “I know the law,” isn’t there a state law that a certain proportion of free handicapped spaces must be provided? Norwalk seems to be the only town in the area that does not have these. See http://www.cga.ct.gov/2010/rpt/2010-R-0293.htm

  6. Leslie Yager

    One thing I do NOT miss from the days I edited Norwalk Patch is the overzealous parking enforcement. I live in Greenwich and I would return to SoNo for some of the restaurants in fell in love with, but that last ticket outside Sweet Lucy Lynn’s left a bad taste. Rip out all the meters. Welcome shoppers and diners. Make the parking free, but limit the time. Mark the tires with chalk.Just like Port Chester, the hyper vigilant parking enforcement makes a city look desperate. – Leslie Yager, Greenwich Free Press

  7. Bryan Meek

    @Mark. Your concern is valid, but I highly doubt the individual here was doing anything other than patrolling his zone. Funny how you never report on the times these guys are assaulted by lunatics.
    /
    My point about your website traffic coincides with my opinion that your reporting anecdotal information like this is destructive to the district that might otherwise help your publication. Or is journalism cherry picking incidents to support your opinion? And for the record, the writer was parked illegally, no?

    1. Mark Chapman

      @ Bryan

      Yes, the writer was parked illegally, as she clearly admitted. Cherry picking? Yes. We tend to write first-person accounts (and this one was fairly self-deprecating) when we experience something, especially when it is a situation that is a hot topic. And it is funny you should mention the enforcement personnel being assaulted by lunatics, as I was in the process of adding to my response and I mentioned that, but decided to just drop it (the entire addition to the response). Yes, I know traffic and parking enforcement personnel are attacked by lunatics. There seems to be an uptick in police officers being shot at traffic stops by people who just think the government has no business enforcing laws. And there is also a disturbing trend of people in uniform assaulting journalists because they don’t like their pictures being taken. Nancy could have explained, after she took the photos, what she was doing — I told her as much — but she pointed out that, on public property, anyone is free to photograph anyone and especially public employees doing their job. The woman from New York in the other car could have taken his photo, too. Curiously, he also took exception to Nancy shooting a photo of the ticket on her windshield. Again, some training seems to be in order. We discussed the incident here and how it could have been handled better. Perhaps your successor on the authority might insist on the same for the “ambassadors.”

      And as for what is destructive or helpful is not on our minds hen we do our reporting. We are not an arm of the Chamber of Commerce, nor are we secretly employed by competing districts in Westport, Darien and Greenwich. We cover Norwalk, and parkinng is a topic of concern in Norwalk. Perhaps parking enforcement is given too much blame for the business climate — I tend to believe it is a small piece of the puzzle — but it is something being debated. To ignore it, to not report anecdotal incidents that could be indicative of a greater problem (“ambassador”-public interaction), would not be in the city’s best interest.

  8. Bryan Meek

    @Leslie Yager. Someone from Greenwich wants free parking in Norwalk. That’s rich.
    .
    You can’t even park at city hall in Greenwich without paying. Train station monthly permits there start at $370. Who looks desperate again?

  9. Mike Mushak

    Hysterical story! The GOP are begging for Bryan Meek to be reappointed as Chair to the Authority which he has served as for many years. I wonder how they can all explain the need for the […] workforce hovering over cars of visiting business patrons all over Sono, just as they were a couple weeks ago when I went to Strada 18 on a rainy weeknight and parked in the same Water St lot you write about. We paid our money for 2 hours, and returned to a mostly empty parking lot with about 5 minutes left around 10 pm. There was a parking authority truck parked illegally on an angle two spaces down with its headlights aimed on my car, just waiting for the moment my time limit was up to write me a ticket. It was disgusting to witness. The truck sped away after seeing us, with the driver obviously disappointed at its loss of a good catch.
    .
    Why give tickets late on a rainy weeknight in an empty parking lot, except to harass the public and make a quota? It’s tragic, yet Norwalk GOP leadership thinks this is just great. Meanwhile, real quality of life ordinances that can clean up the city and improve property values and neighborhood stabilization dealing with trash, sidewalk conditions, and zoning violations like dangerous illegal apartments and parking on front lawns are left unenforced! Thanks for nothing.
    .
    But the GOP thinks this anti-business policy should continue, wanting an endorsement from Mayor Rilling of the current Parking Authority leadership. Why would he when there is almost universal opposition to the current policy? Can they please explain how this current policy is good for business?
    .
    Nancy, I love how you wove in the 20 North Water St. unveiling. The building does look better than I expected, and in the zoning meeting last week when I stated that for a moment while on the Striffolino bridge I thought I was actually looking at the old factory, a Spinnaker partner yelled out “bingo!” I wish them the best, as SoNo needs this project badly. Good brickwork too considering it is a composite facsimile of real brick. Ironically, the Waypointe project is a huge disappointment in one major aspect, aesthetically speaking, with the thin phony brick that eliminated all the depth and shadows that the renderings showed that we approved.
    .
    When I brought it up recently in a zoning meeting, about how the buildings sadly lost the three dimensional quality shown in the renderings, the GOP commissioners jumped all over me as if I had somehow broken some rule about discussing architectural quality which we have always had the power to do as every zoning commission in America does. In the next meeting, I proved we have that power of architectural review based on precedence and many past examples.
    .
    I went back to Stamford to look again at the buildings the same developer built there a few years ago on Main. The applicant had suggested we look at these buildings in the approval process as examples of their quality. Ironically, they are covered in full-depth real brick and look like real solid buildings instead of the flatter thin facades of fake brick Norwalk is getting on Waypointe. I voted for the project including the brick but expected the buildings would look like the renderings we approved and the fake brick would look as good as 20 North Water’s does. Silly me! As one Zoning Commissioner said, I was being so unreasonable to think the renderings we approved would match the actual buildings that were built! I wondered if she would feel the same if she was building her dream home and the builder didn’t match the renderings her architect showed her in the planning process. Somehow that’s different I guess.
    .
    All that said, I do like most of Waypointe overall and am sure the abundant large street trees when planted will mitigate it’s less appealing qualities.

    This comment was edited to remove a potentially offensive word.

  10. EastNorwalkChick

    So a Parking Authority Enforcement Officer is now called a “Parking Ambassador”….well that’s rich.

  11. Bryan Meek

    @MM. Why must you make everything about partisanship? A democrat mayor made a good decision to create the NPA. Under that mayor a terrible decision to put in toll booths at Webster lot was made. Under a republican mayor a bad decision was made to tear out the wall street meters which made the parking issues more difficult. Under the same mayor the toll booths at Webster were ripped out and the situation is much better. There is still room for improvement and the NPA is the most flexible entity to change policy and configurations for the better. Tenants come and go and the NPA is very mindful to work with them and make adjustments based on the changes in usage.
    .
    My interest in the NPA ends with being a concerned taxpayer in the town where I grew up and decided to buy my home and raise a family.
    .
    FYI…our vendor is actually incentivized in their agreement with us to not write too many tickets. Trust me, with 1000s of spaces and only a few people to monitor them, it is only coincidence that someone happened to be right where you were.

  12. Bryan Meek

    @Mark. I’ll give credit where it is due. You had one good story on the new restaurant moving into Black Bear and how Iron Works is already booked. I haven’t seen any stories about the grocery store or other new tenants that seem to be moving in rather quickly. I don’t expect a puff piece on parking, but there are some positives here and you wouldn’t have to look too hard. As for sensitivity training, our vendor did have a session last year and I attended and addressed the group. I’m sure there is more than one side to this story, but I won’t guess. I will just say that everyone is entitled to have a bad day once in awhile. We aren’t robots.

  13. Norwalk Spectator

    @Mark or Nancy Chapman

    I’d be interested to know when the Parking Authority was created and when the parking meters were put in. I think I know the answer, but can’t seem to verify it. I did check the agendas, but they start in 2008 and I’m pretty sure the Parking Authority was in existence before then.

  14. Leslie Yager

    This is a great hyper local news story! Love it and the conversation it started.
    @Bryan Meek. I don’t like to pay to park. Even in Greenwich. The difference is that Port Chester and Norwalk have meter maids and men ready to pounce. Fact. In Greenwich on many occasions my meter has expired and, no ticket. In decades I’ve never gotten a ticket here. But my comment wasn’t meant to compare 2 towns. Just that I loved SoNo but not the overzealous parking enforcement.
    I tend to shop and dine where the parking is easy, if not free. The entire village of Old Greenwich has free 2-hour on street parking and a vibrant mix of restaurants and shops. It’s very inviting.
    Lastly, yes, I did appreciate free parking at City Hall in Norwalk.

  15. Bryan Meek

    @Leslie. NPA wrote 16,000 tickets last year. Greenwich almost 70,000. You got lucky. In the near future, NPA will have some technology in place that monitors how many are parking over time. The goal of the tech plan is to better monitor system usage so they can optimally predict demand, zone, price, and enforce. The revenue neutral project will also allow patrons to view real time information on availability thru their mobile devices and in dashboard navigation systems. There have been measured results in other cities that demonstrate reduced traffic and pollution from cars circling around looking for a space. I used to work on Greenwich Ave and my experience is that they wallpaper that district with tickets. Not just cars, but for crossing the street when you aren’t supposed to. The free parking you cite in Old Greenwich is a different story…more like our Wall Street area now. You just reminded me to drop in at MacKenzie’s some day soon.

  16. Tom Keegan

    I happened to notice today that a Norwalk Parking Authority vehicle had the word Constable marked on it…are Norwalk’s Parking ” Ambassadors” sworn constables in the State of Ct. a position defined and regulated by State Statute and P.O.S.T.(Police Officer’s Standards & Training).

  17. Joe Espo

    Mike Mushak has an enlightened way of lobbying for the GOP votes he needs for re-appointment to the Zoning Commission. Give’em the finger first, then smile and beg later.

  18. spanner

    Odd how some of those white trucks have Norwalk plates on them like the one at the Norwalk Hospital giving out tickets.In fact the little white pickup at the Hospital sports Norwalk official plate.What kind of deal is the Hospital working with the city?

  19. Oldtimer

    Are the parking enforcement people working for the parking authority or are they LAZ employees ? Anybody doing any kind of law enforcement is, first and foremost, a representative of the City, an ambassador. When we lose sight of that, we drive people away to someplace where parking is FREE. If even a few of the stories we hear about parking enforcement people waiting next to a parked car for a meter to run out are true, we are doing it wrong. There are plenty of parking violations that endanger or inconvenience the public that need prompt enforcement, such as double parking, blocking fire hydrants, parking too close to an intersection, blocking a driveway, etc. Are these violations ticketed by the same enforcement people ? In a case where a driver believes no law was violated, is there a reasonable appeals process ?

  20. Oldtimer

    Bryan:
    “assaulted by lunatics” ? I would like to know exactly when, and where, one of the Norwalk parking enforcement ambassadors was assaulted by a lunatic, or anybody else. It makes me wonder if that was an accurate statement, or one of those statements people make to make a point with no regard for accuracy, or what Colbert calls “truthiness”

  21. Bryan Meek

    Oldtimer. This was just the most recent one. The NPA plows Webster lot.

    http://m.thehour.com/mobile/news/norwalk/norwalk-police-man-attacks-plow-truck-with-shovel/article_3dae4411-28e8-58d6-a7fe-4300e69e8e90.html

    The worst one in my 5 years was a while ago where someone tried to run our guy over with his car after he was written a ticket for a violation.

    The subject of this article takes quite a bit of abuse on a daily basis. People would not address a police officer the way they do him which is sad commentary on some of those who make it so we have to enforce. It is a thankless job although very essential to ensuring good traffic flow for our shops and restaurants that need the spaces to turnover. Every business / patron who uses the area pays to park and the press is a business just the same. At least next time he’ll be mindful that the person taking pictures is looking for a story and he won’t take the bait.

  22. Jlightfield

    So much fodder here to sift through.
    .
    The parking authority was re activated (it existed in the 1970s) in 2003 by a vote of the common council who failed to then ensure that they had representation on the board. Unlike the WPCA. No council since has challenged the premise that the NPA is functional as is.
    .
    @mushak I agree that the aesthetics of a building are the purview of zoning and I’ve been dismayed at the uninspired look of recent buildings.
    .
    @meek the highly coveted permits at other train stations like Greenwich net the driver special parking areas. For the rest of the mere mortals we pay $5 a day to park and if it is after peak hours they don’t collect fees.
    .
    Wall Street does not have a parking problem it has, like SONO, a zealous enforcement problem. The businesses fought against meters and were successful despite repeated attempts by the authority to reinstate them. For all council peeps reading, we would welcome divesting the NPA of any parking assets or responsibilities in our district. For our special services seeking friends, acquiring the municipal lots and garages in your district would be a great way to fund your district while providing direct services to the area businesses.
    .
    And, absent of context the number of enforcement tickets written says nothing without a comparison against number of oarking transactions. With less parkers you will get less opportunities for enforcement. And while cities like Stamford may write more tickets, the $5 ticket they write is a far different experience than the 25 and 60 dollar tickets that the NPA routinely writes.
    .
    Finally, yes it is a thankless job to be an enforcement officer for the NPA. People do get heated and are our of order. Even a former chair of the BOE would admit that they was wrong to threaten assault towards parking employees. However, the enforcement policy and it’s implementation have been and continue to be an issue. The solution is simple, enact a policy that requires enforcement officers to only write tickets if the expiration time exceeds one hour. A little more work for the officers but then if the NPA were truly interested in being “friendlier” they would try out a more relaxed approach to enforcement instead of reflexively defending the revenue goals. Ever wonder what would happen if the NPA gave free monthly permits to the retail businesses on S & N Main plus Washington street at the Maritime Garage? I do. I wonder if all the worries about the sidewalks being “unsafe” would disappear because people would be on them at various shifts. I wonder if the small business owners who have struggled with a horrid winter might appreciate a gift to their employees and perhaps make it easier to set a value on parking as part of a compensation package. Only one way to find out.

  23. Laura Lamorte

    You’re spot-on to call it a predatory parking Authority. I was issued a ticket last Thursday evening when I ran into Kazu for – I kid you not – no more than 5 mins to pick up my takeout meal en route home from he train after a late night at work in NYC. I didn’t think it was fair to park across the street in front of Dunkin’ Donuts as I often do when I’m running in & out, made the extra effort to drive around the block when I saw one free space a couple doors down from Kazu, sat in the car for maybe 10 minutes listening to the radio waiting for the food to be ready, then ran in and out. Sunuvabitch, a ticket was on my windshield when it returned. looked around and saw no parking police before I left my car or after I returned. Honestly, 5 minutes. Are they watching on monitors waiting to swoop down on those of us who are patronizing local businesses? I HAD NO CHANGE! Really, do you not want us to support local businesses, ‘cos I can guarantee you I will avoid SoNo at all costs in the future. It’s predatory in the worst way and this practice needs to be curtailed soon.

  24. Suzanne

    Wow! A big whine from Nancy on Norwalk. Whatever the “predatory” policies are, this guy was just doing his job and, yes, as efficiently as he is supposed to under the current policies as possible. Because he is doing his job, he gets full coverage and quite a bit of “column” space, hardly fair. If you don’t like how tickets are issued take it up with the authority that governs the ticketing. Picking on a guy doing what he is supposed to do is just bad form, especially in writing.

  25. Norwalk Spectator

    @ Jackie Lightfield –
    .
    Thank you for confirming what I suspected. The Parking Authority was re-activated under the Knopp administration.
    .
    @ Mike Mushak –
    .
    “The GOP are begging for Bryan Meek to be reappointed as Chair to the Authority which he has served as for many years. I wonder how they can all explain the need for the […] workforce hovering over cars of visiting business patrons all over Sono, ”
    .
    Uhm, the Parking Authority was created by Mayor Knopp, not the GOP.
    .
    Secondly, Brian Meek is doing his job as Chairman of the Parking Authority, just like you do your job as a Commissioner when you sit on Planning and Zoning.
    .
    And finally, why in the world are you bringing partisan politics into this issue?

  26. Suzanne, you’re batting .333. In the first place, it’s not a whine it’s a rant. As to your second point, you’re half right – issuing me a ticket is in line with the policies of the Parking Authority, which is the entire issue. Yes, I think they’re predatory. The idea seems to be to swoop in and catch people in a moment of vulnerability, with no sense of being reasonable whatsoever.
    (See Laura Lamorte’s comment above. When something like this happens you wonder if the officer was watching and waiting for you to walk away and provide some income for the Parking Authority. Kudos to the authority to making ticket giving so efficient that it can be done in seconds.)
    Furthermore, I’ve had it explained to me that enforcing parking laws is intended to prevent people from letting cars sit in the sparse parking spaces all day, preventing other people from using the spots and patronizing the local businesses. The parking lot, at 5:13 p.m., was 2/3 empty.
    Now, you think this guy was just doing his job? What part of the job description includes getting on my case for taking a picture of the ticket on the windshield? Following me down Washington Street?
    I did not swear at him. I did not threaten him. I pointed a camera at him and took his photograph in a public place. He picked up his phone and acted like he was calling police.
    If this guy is really supposed to be a parking ambassador he should take the ambassador part more seriously. His approach to me was anything but diplomatic. And again, “the column inches” are about an important issue.

  27. Bryan Meek

    @JL. Do you not read the facts I post? By context, you must only mean details that might fit your narrative. Here is some context for you. The city has a daytime population of over 100,000 and we write about 40 tickets a day. Ok? We are writing fewer tickets than any other city in our region. And give the Yankee Doodle Garage away? You know we lose money on that, don’t you? You know we are losing money on the entire Wall area and that 90% of the tickets are given out for egregious violations like handicapped, hydrant, driveway, and double parking? Your idea of allowing 1 hour overtime is something that would be abused and cause a lot of grief for store owners who need turnover. You’d be better off changing the zones from 2 hours to three hours.

    @Laura, sounds like a coincidence. Trust me we don’t have the manpower to sit there and watch the 5,000 plus cars that can park in the system every day. Next time, maybe use your credit card to pay for a few minutes? The meters take them and about 70% of our customers use them.

    @Nancy. If a movie theatre is 2/3s empty does that mean you don’t have to buy your ticket? Please explain?

    @Norwalk Spectator. My 5 year term expired last month. When I started I was intent on tearing out the toll booths put in at Webster lot. That was a no brainer. I used to feel like a hostage getting out of that place. At the time, I thought too that meters seemed a bit archaic in terms of collecting revenue on a street we already paid for, but then over 5 years I learned a lot. They are vital to any city parking system. Most of the suggestions I’ve seen casually thrown around lately would all cost the taxpayers huge sums of money and likely make the situation worse. The parking system is making dramatic changes all the time, but the talking heads just seem to refuse to acknowledge any of it so I will continue to provide facts where relevant.

  28. Suzanne

    Rant or whine, I still think you are trying to justify what you know was an initially incorrect thing to do based on current policy. Taking a picture of the guy without his permission is an aggressive act and publishing it is an unfair burden to a guy doing his job. Likewise, Ms. Lamorte’s account indicates she was in a rarely available parking spot listening to her radio waiting for her food to be prepared for fifteen minutes prior to her five minute sojourn into the restaurant. Just because she was in the car does not make the parking spot free. That’s the policy. In this relativist complaint, these adult examples show childish behavior, including the photo of a person doing their job who clearly did not want their photo to be taken. Its news value is dubious.

  29. Oldtimer

    Bryan
    The story you linked to back up your “attacked by Lunatics” line is about a dispute/attack against a snow plow driver in the Webster lot, not against a ticket writer, but I understand, there are not a lot of attacks and a little diplomacy on the part of the ticket writers could probably eliminate them. Has the authority ever considered getting a trained police officer, possibly an older patrolman. assigned to the parking enforcement job ? Most seasoned police officers would take a much more diplomatic approach.
    Suzanne:
    “Taking a picture of a guy without his permission is an aggressive act” Are you serious ? Do you feel attacked every time you cross an intersection bristling with cameras ? There is no REASONABLE expectation of privacy on a public street.

  30. Suzanne

    Oldtimer, yes, CCTV is everywhere and everyone walks passively by them and notices, or not, that there is a camera in that intersection or bank or grocery store. HOWEVER, this guy was just doing his job and clearly did not want to photographed. Show some courtesy. It adds nothing to the story and only reinforces the idea of a pushy journalist “getting” the story, which has nothing to do with this guy doing his job likely as instructed. Take a picture of the Parking Authority instead: it might have a bit more punch and get something changed. In the meantime, I just don’t respect the harassment.

  31. Norwalk Spectator

    @Bryan Meek –

    I hope you know I meant no disrespect to you regarding my comments. Believe it or not, I have heard several other presentations on parking issues in other cities and other states. Try parking in downtown Amherst or Northampton during the school year. The words “death defying” come to mind. And yes, I’ve been to downtown Greenwich frequently enough to know that’s a thing of beauty and a joy to behold, also. Even Darien and Westport struggle with this issue. However, I don’t see where the partisan politics on Mr. Mushak’s part comes into play. If you are reappointed and decide to accept, good for you. If not, well, thank you for your years of service. And I mean that sincerely.

  32. Jlightfield

    @BryanMeek I too can cite a series of random facts but without context they too would be meaningless. So let’s deal with some real facts. Your SoNo meter revenue has gone down between fy 2012 and fy 2013. Your transient revenu has stayed flat mostly. Meanwhile you raised the rates on transient parkers. The only correlation I can draw is that you have less actual transient parkers which would explain why you would have less violation tickets written.
    .
    Your parking violation revenue, which you do not break out by lot as far as Ivan see is 3x your meter revenue Sono. Strangely the “cost” of meter enforcement is almost the same as your violation revenue. Since the cost of enforcement is roughly 1 to 1 with your violation revenue you could reduce enforcement at no net impact to your overall budget.

  33. Bryan Meek

    Jackie. Sigh. You have your random half true facts (like the $3 million parking operation in Stamford…loved that one where did you possibly get that?) confused for the real information I am supplying here and in other places. Stamford’s tickets are $25 by the way and so are all the surrounding towns. The one place we are at $60 is East Norwalk railroad station where we need to be heavy handed for the commuters who pay for these spaces and depend on them being open so they can get to work.
    .
    FYI….Transient revenue is down YOY but permit revenue is up about the same. More people are buying permits. And NPA has to enforce parking in the entire city. Not just meters. Lots, garages, city hall, etc…The line items for enforcement just happen to be grouped with meters but is not 100% allocable to meters. Transparency is strived for, but simplicity is better where it makes sense in reporting. We have the monthly P&L down to one page and it needs to stay that way. Adding line items all over the place will just make it longer and subsequently more confusing.
    .
    Transient meter rates haven’t changed in over three years, which is about the last time I recall you going to a parking meeting.
    .
    But, you do have a valid point here in the midst of what you are saying. Transient activity is down. That would be indicative of people eating out or shopping less and we also suspect revenue might be down because of our 15 minute free parking policy we put in and the number of people deciding to take the risk and not pay. This is one of the reasons for the loop detector going into the system so they can get better usage statistics and zone and price more optimally.
    .
    Area liquor salesmen tell me their business is down across the whole city, not just Sono. The explosion of online retail has to be considered too here. As well the macro economy in general. As well the number of movie theatre patrons with the advent of under $1000 home theatre systems. Stop making it all about parking.

  34. Bryan Meek

    @Norwalk Spectator. Thanks for the kudos. I didn’t take your comments disrespectfully. And even if you intended them to be like some do, I refuse to let them conflate into anything other than the facts.
    .
    If the facts supported a utopian free parking everywhere with no parking tickets mecca like some want, I’d be the first to trumpet those points. The fact is the facts do not support the casual feel good solutions some are throwing around shamelessly.
    .
    Yes, college campuses are notorious for that. And most don’t allow you to appeal tickets without paying for them first. NPA has an extremely fair adjudication process and has been nationally recognized for some of the programs they have implemented.
    .
    Parking will always be an issue, but our biggest problem is the myriad barriers to getting anything done with our local government. This isn’t a D or R problem it is a Norwalk problem. People don’t realize it, but the Waypointe project kickoff meeting was in 1986 at the library and amen it is finally being finished. A lot of the anxiety put towards the NPA is misdirected imo.

  35. Laura Lamorte

    Mr Meek, I received a parking ticket a couple years ago, also making a very quick pickup for takeout food but just a little further south on Main. Again, probably all of 10 minutes and my $15 meal turned into $40, or whatever the fine was at that time. Again, no sign of an officer when I left the car, no sign when I peered out once from the restaurant window. Back at the car, there was a ticket in my window. I really don’t think this is pure coincidence.

    For last Thursday’s incident near Kazu, I’ve never noticed that the meters take credit cards, probably because I’m just quickly dropping a couple coins and scooting in and out. Shame on me. But honestly, now that I know, I’n not gonna whip my wallet and credit card out at that time in the evening when I’m alone and for such a small transaction. I’m working late, wary of personal safety, starved, and trying to get home fast. I’ll just bypass SONO altogether in the future and take my business elsewhere. With all due respect, I do believe the regulations are too draconian and the enforcement over zealous.

  36. Bryan Meek

    Laura, it is always a good self preservation measure to be aware of your surroundings. The ticket writers the NPA employs actually do a lot more than just write tickets. The purpose of the trucks is to show presence and deter would be transgressions. I can imagine 2 similar tickets seems like more than coincidence, but please consider the number of spaces the NPA manages. FYI…. there are numerous cameras in the district NPA pays for which I can’t disclose in nature for security reasons, but please know safety is absolutely the number one concern for the NPAs customers.

  37. Peter Torrano

    Then Mayor Knopp did the right thing for Norwalk when he got the NPA off the ground, and Mayor Moccia improved on it by eliminating the debt in place when he took office. Two mayors, two different parties. Clearly, this is not a political situation, but a fiscal and service related issue. If not for the NPA policies in place now we would still be paying hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to maintain parking lots and street parking for what is reasonably estimated to be parking used by non-Norwalkers 3/4 of the time. We need parking, and we need maintenance of the parking facilities. We don’t need to drop the cost of these needs back on the already overburdened taxpayers of our city. I feel for those who park for a short time and do not get back in time to avoid a ticket. It has happened to most people I know, including me in Fairfield at the movie theater downtown. But I think it fair to say that there is ample instructions, signage and warnings to help people understand the outcome should they overstay or not pay. As Mr. Meek has pointed out, the surrounding towns charge more, and give out far more tickets than do we in Norwalk. It should be said, though, that Nancy had every right to photograph the ticket agent. It is in public space and there is no expectation of privacy on the part of the ticket agent, just as there is no expectation for police, fire or sanitation workers when out doing their job. I’m sure this was brought to the attention of the agent, and he knows he was just doing his job and has no reason to hide.

  38. jlightfield

    @BryanMeek I guess that you must have “superior” knowledge on all things parking these days since I must be incapable of reading the fine amounts on the parking tickets I’ve somehow managed to pay in Stamford. So silly of me. Same goes for me being able to read a budget, since I clearly have issues reading line item notes that explain transfers and intradepartmental chargebacks in addition to debt principal and interest payments. Oh silly me, reading those footnotes. Guess I should ignore things like beach parking permits and enforcement that our “surrounding towns” lump into parking ticket revenue too. Good thing you have all the “real facts” while I just entertain myself with these other pesky numbers.

  39. Maureen

    ” there are numerous cameras in the district NPA pays for which I can’t disclose in nature for security reasons.” Security reasons? Which are, what exactly? And inquiring minds want to know; what NPA does, exactly, with all that data the plate readers record. Is it shared with public law enforcement, ie, NPD, CSP, FBI, NCIC? It is a for profit entity so they can sell data they collect. Who, what entity, holds that data and for how long? What third parties have access to all that personal,(where you were and how long you were there), data? Far as customer relations go, anyone in town that has dealt with that guy, speeding, jumping traffic signals and tailgating everyone, all over town, to catch the next revenue meter scoflaw, hiding himself everywhere and clocking everyone, knows he has a god complex. And Nancy isn’t the only woman in town that this guy has followed around and creeped out. Etiquette training? Customer safety may be a priority but customer relations obviously is not with the management. Someone recently compared the NPA […] to Hampton, Fla. And one wonders why business’s cant make it, go figure. Its all Obama’s fault right? Hint.. Its called public relations. ICYMI > http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/09/us/hampton-florida-corruption

    This comment has been edited to remove an offensive term.

  40. Don’t Panic

    Coincidence and more coincidence. Perception is reality. If SONO is perceived to have a predatory parking enforcement policy, then people are going to avoid it, regardless of how we compare to other cities.
    .
    I know of many people who will not go to SONO over the issue of parking. IMHO the only reason a parking authority in a city as small as Norwalk would ask for credit cards to pay for meters is so it can charge more that what people would normally have as pocket change. The whole infrastructure seems geared to raise enough money to pay for an endlessly more elaborate enforcement infrastructure.
    .
    Signage? Not only are the signs confusing as hell (and I’ve seen muni parking all over the country), but on a weekend, its possible to need to go to three separate machines before you find a working one (in a largely empty parking lot)

  41. Bryan Meek

    @Jackie. Here is the city of Stamford’s parking fines. The cheapest is $20. You can ONLY appeal in writing. NPA allows you to do this online.
    .
    http://www.stamfordct.gov/parking-and-transportation/pages/general-parking-ticket-information
    .
    Are you thinking of a ticket from the mall? That is private.
    .
    I don’t know what to say about your footnotes interpretation. Our monthly financials do not include any.
    .
    If you have a problem with the transparence on the financials, log a case through the online inquiry system. The NPA is the only department in the city to my knowledge that actually makes monthly actual data available to the public. It could always be better, but give credit where credit is due.

  42. Bryan, your analogy with the movie theater is interesting. I’ve got another analogy for you. Do the state police ticket everyone going 5 miles an hour over the speed limit on I-95? Do they nab the 10 mph speeders, or the 15 mph speeders?

    No. They routinely allow people to speed on by their parked cruisers. This in spite of the dangerousness entailed in speeding.

    I don’t pay for time in a movie theater. I pay for entertainment. I imagine theater management would not have a hissy if I wandered into a theater and sat there for five minutes when there is no movie showing. I doubt they have cameras installed to protect the seats from errant fannies.
    But you ignored the larger issue, which is the public good that is hopefully intended with parking enforcement. Former Mayor Moccia informed me that parking meters keep people circulating. If not for fines people would leave their cars in front of businesses all day, which would not encourage shoppers.

    What good is served by penalizing me for stopping in a 2/3 empty parking lot for five minutes? The only good I can think of is the need to pay for the Maritime Garage.

    But speaking of cameras, yours might be regarded as an aggressive invasion of my privacy. Do your ambassadors have access to the feeds? Is that how they seemingly pop up out of nowhere to nab someone who got out of their car for five minutes?

    It is quite a coincidence that your parking ambassador happened by the Maritime lot in the two minutes my back was turned. I guess I might say the one minute, because he must have done it then in order to park his vehicle, get out and ticket me before I turned around. It looks like another huge coincidence that one of the very few people who is reading our “blog” (by your accounting) happens to have had a similar experience – twice.

    I hope you’ll forgive me for jumping to conclusions that assign the worst possible motivations, given that’s what you do. For the record, I did not bait anyone. I walked toward your parking ambassador and tried to get a photograph of him doing his job. That is my right. It was in accordance with the law. Do the rules not apply?

    It was an innocent attempt to get a photograph I could use later. It may not have been well thought out but it certainly wasn’t baiting.

    Your “ambassador” started the confrontation with me. I was just trying to get him to not write a ticket – I was, after all, not on Washington Street or inside the aquarium. I had just walked away for a minute.

    He responded with anger and got it back in kind. He continued the confrontation as I walked away from him. I said, “Thank you” a couple of times, and “Thank you very much,” sarcastic indications on my part – not his – that it was over. Perhaps he wanted to escalate it so he could call police.

    I had a camera in my hand when initially I approached him, as he ticketed my car. I had a camera in my hand when I walked away, to take a few more building mugs. It is not like I whipped a point and shoot out of a pocketbook and put it in his face.

    I took a photo of an “ambassador” on April 3 and used it the next day because it fit perfectly with the story I had. I have one I took a year ago that I have not used. I take photos all the time.

    Your “ambassador” followed me up Washington Street. Are you not in the least bit concerned?

  43. Oldtimer

    Bryan:
    You never did come up with a real story of when and where one of your parking ambassadors was assaulted by a lunatic. You will understand my doubts about the “truthiness” of your original claim. If you have read the comments here, you should know by now that at least one of your people has very limited people skills even though he may see himself as very efficient. The resulting poor public relations (perceptions) does a lot of harm to the businesses trying hard to survive in South Norwalk. I submit to you the suggestion that your ambassadors should get some training from senior police officers before being turned loose on the public. Arranging that should not be very difficult. Generating income from parking tickets is not a bad thing, but needs to be done in a way that does not drive away customers from the businesses in SONO. It is possible, and it is not rocket science. At least one of your people is doing it wrong now and hurting the image of the NPA, the City, and the district we call SONO, which could and should always be a pleasant, bustling, place to visit. Meter maids and tax collectors will never win popularity prizes, but your meter maids and men can do a lot better. Tickets issued within seconds after the meter runs out are a bad idea and in most cases, offending cars will still be there five minutes later.

  44. Laura Lamorte

    Mr. Meek, thank you, yes, it is very important to be aware of one’s surroundings. I lived in NYC for many years before moving to Norwalk, and took self-defense classes for a number of those years, and so I’m usually quite conscious of not letting my guard down, which is why, amongst other personal safety practices, I am not comfortable taking out my credit card at that time in the evening. I like the idea of the NPA serving as a deterrent against crime. I don’t like being ticketed to the tune of $25 for waiting 10 minutes in my car and jumping out 5 minutes to pick up my Kazu takeout. The high number of parking spaces that you rightly point that out the NPA monitors is one of the reasons why I find it peculiar that, with all those spaces to patrol, how did it happen that twice they appeared out of the ether to ticket me? Do they have access to the camera feed as they patrol and is that one way they zero in on parking offenders?

    I do agree that we need parking revenue for all the reasons pointed out by you and others and that a certain amount of turnover is important for local businesses and that monitoring for criminal activity even better. But I stand by my complaint that the patrols are way too aggressive in their implementation and the practice is as much a deterrent against encouraging customers fom patronizing local businesses as it is a deterrent against crime. Sorry, Kazu, no takeout from you.

  45. Walter

    I thought this was an article about parking. Anyway why do you never see the parking Police over in East Norwalk West Norwalk Route 7?? and Towns like Westport STamford and Greenwich Darien GIVE up Free Parking to the business right in front of their places of business. Have you ever seen a report about the “detriment” that parking places on people from coming back to that establishment and WHAT ABOUT that $10,000 all you can eat and drink Christmas party the parking Authority threw for them selves at The Brewhouse

  46. Raymond Meyer

    I was born and raised in Norwalk. I took a few days to visit the town about to weeks ago. I noticed that only people from out side of Norwalk go to sono anymore. when returning to my motorcycle I saw why a nice new shiny ticket. For expired meter for 2hr parking funny thing is I was parked for less than 2hrs. I will no longer visit sono because of it.

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