Last Updated on September 22, 2017 by Lawrence Berezin
The NYC parking ticket story about broken fire hydrants
I was asked a question by Italia, a terrific friend of New York Parking Ticket LL, whether she should fight a fire hydrant parking ticket; if the fire hydrant was broken. My response was YES if you can prove the fire hydrant was in fact out of service (but not the official rule)
Fast forward to last week…Italia sent me an email with great news about the outcome of her NYC parking ticket fight. She won because of her photograph of the fire hydrant clearly, unequivocally, without a shadow of a doubt, persuaded the NYC parking ticket judge the pump was not pumping. Parking Ticket dismissed!
Italia’s case was handled by a fair-minded parking ticket judge. Sadly, the official rule does not allow parking within 15 feet of a hydrant even if it is broken. In other words, when you park within the no-fly zone of a fire hydrant, you risk a parking ticket and fine of $115, WHETHER THE FIRE HYDRANT, IS WORKING or BROKEN.
Are broken fire hydrants being repaired in a timely fashion?
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is not fixing fire hydrants fast enough putting the public and firefighters at risk, according to an audit released by New York City Comptroller John C. Liu.
“Comptroller Liu said the problem is even bigger for hydrants designated as ‘High Priority,’ meaning they are either located near a school, hospital, or senior citizens’ residence or are the only fire hydrant on the block. The audit reviewed 149 high priority hydrant work orders and found that some of the fire hydrants were out of service anywhere from three months to more than one year.”
The DEP has a goal of 10 days to repair high priority fire hydrants. But 38 percent of the fire hydrants surveyed did not meet the 10-day goal.
DEP maintains and repairs the City’s 109,217 fire hydrants. In Fiscal Year 2009, the agency received complaints about 15 percent of fire hydrants. According to the audit, it took an average of 18 days to make repairs. The audit also found a wide discrepancy in repair time among the five boroughs. The DEP could not explain the discrepancy.
Average Time by Borough to Fix Broken Fire Hydrants, FY 2009
|Borough||# of Work Orders||Avg. # of Days to Resolve|
Audit Report on the timeliness of repairs to fire hydrants
Paint it green!
NYC Councilperson Greenfield introduced a Bill permitting parking at non-operational fire hydrants, and mandating all non-operational fire hydrants be painted green. A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to permissible parking at non-functioning fire hydrants.
“I drafted this bill with an eye toward making it easier to park in New York City,” said Councilman Greenfield. “However, I believe there are also added safety benefits. Residents will be able to easily identify a broken hydrant on their street thanks to a coat of green paint. Not to mention, firefighters responding to emergencies won’t waste precious seconds trying to connect to a broken hydrant.”
You may wish to check out the comments to this article in Yeshiva World. They’re great.
Bill de Blasio makes the following offer:
“If you know fire hydrants that are no longer in use, please complete the form below.
If you’ve been wrongfully ticketed for parking in these locations, you can also call our office at 212-669-7250 and we’ll work to get your tickets dismissed.”
Have you been a victim of an NYC parking ticket issued for parking within 15 feet of a broken fire hydrant? Did you fight your parking ticket? How did you make out? How’d you know the pump was broken? Please share your experience. It means a great deal
Does anyone know of a database that lists all the fire hydrant locations in NYC?
Lawrence Berezin says
Check out NYC Open Data.
You’ll find it online.
I’ve referred to it many times on the blog
i have a question, if the hydrant was opened and clearly had no covering and holes are exposed is it still a working hydrant if its been drained already? can i fight a ticket received in front of this hydrant
Lawrence Berezin says
This article I wrote will answer your question.
Just an FYI it’s 2015 and I parked 3 feet from what I saw as an obviously broken parking meter. I had a bit of a bad feeling about this since it was good friday and ASP was cancelled I figured that the meter ‘maids’ would be out with a vengeance. But no worries I took pictures of the broken hydrant before I left and boom when I got back there was the ticket. I read this post before i parked.
Well here’s where the bad news kicks in, I disputed the ticket online but in the middle of the dispute the page reloaded on me and I wasn’t able to upload my photos! I was LIVID! So what are my options, not to go back and add evidence, no, but to either add evidence by mail, or to go in person. Grr, so fine the next day my letter with pictures was in the mail.
Cut to 2 weeks later, I get the “resolution” of my online hearing, which was incomplete, and this is what the judge said “The respondent has been charged with violating Traffic Rule 4-08(e)(2) prohibiting stopping, standing or parking a vehicle within fifteen feet of a fire hydrant. Respondent admits parking at the hydrant but claims it was not working. Even if true, that is not a valid legal defense to parking in front of a hydrant (here officer says only 3 feet away). It is not up to the driver to decide whether a hydrant works and should be avoided in compliance of the law. All motorists are required to follow the parking rules in NYC. Guilty”
So Larry, I ask, what do you think? Also since they don’t have my pictures yet I don’t want to go into appeals which is apparently a $350 charge anyway which is more than the damn ticket. More frustrating yet is that my evidence by mail will probably be sent to another office/judge who may be able to assess the entire matter properly.
Also really? It’s not up to me to judge if a hydrant is broken? I would say this post above PROVES that it is, and also if citizens don’t make the city aware of these broken hydrants, who will?
Lawrence Berezin says
Your story is compelling. But, I’m afraid I may not
be able to add a happy ending.
A broken hydrant is not a defense to a fire hydrant violation.
There was a bill pending before the City Council to make it
a valid defense, but it died before seeing the light of day.
You did the absolute correct thing in sending your stuff by
mail the next day when the online fighting machine locked.
When you lose your original hearing, you are entitled to
appeal the decision within 30 days from entry. The first
appeal is conducted by a 3-judge appeal panel within
the Parking Violation Bureau. There’s an application
to appeal with instructions (also blog posts here).
You are required to pay the ticket, but there are no
other charges. The next step is Adult Court, which
as you recognized, is way too costly.
Your burden of proof on appeal is to show the original judge
made a mistake of law or fact. However, since
the judge correctly stated the law, this is
not a winning argument by itself to the appeal panel.
You might argue that the original judge
did not review your evidence because…and explain
what happened when you tried to upload the pictures.
Although a broken hydrant is technically not a defense,
if the photographs do their job, they will definitively
show that the fire hydrant couldn’t possibly work
because…(you fill in the blank with documented research).
This is really pushing the envelope, but may be worth a try.
For example, the photographs may show there was no valve to
attach a hose. If so, it wasn’t your judgment, it was a fact.
Stuff like that.
Let us know what happens.
The fire hydrant on my block has worked inadequately for over 13 years. I have made several complaints to no avail. It leaks from the top and sides when turned on. Making more water coming out than at the sprinkler section. I keep thinking am I as a homeowner paying for the excess wasted water. in other words on hot days it is a lot of wasted water. I buy a plastic pool for the neighborhood kids to play safely on sidewalk. It is a waste of resources if I am paying for the water that comes out everywhere but the sprinkler
It is located on Essex street between Pitkin and Glenmore avenues.
Lawrence Berezin says
Kudos for being a great citizen.
Sorry, NYC is not correcting the safety issue.
Patricia McDonald says
I lived in Apt. Building 409, on Edgecombe ave, at the right of my building
is a fire hydrant that hasn’t work in years . There was a couple of small fires
and the firemen used the hydrants down the block.
No one has complain but if there is a large fire lives could be lost ,
Who do we contact ?
Please help ‘ Thanks
Lawrence Berezin says
I apologize for the delay. I just got back from Seattle (visiting my family)
Here’s a link to report a non-working fire hydrant