But standing on principle, they don’t want to hand over the money — a fine for a bizarre and unexplained parking ticket.
March 18 was discharge day for Jim Tarullo. He had undergone cancer surgery at a New York City hospital, and it was finally time to go home.
Helen Tarullo drove their car into the city from their home in Hackettstown to pick him up.
She tried to use the hospital’s valet parking service, she said, but it was full. So at approximately 2:20 p.m., she said she found a spot on Lexington Ave. between 77th and 78th Streets.
In a rush to get to her husband, she said she didn’t notice the signs that it was a metered parking area. She didn’t realize she had to pay.
After leaving her car, she said, she navigated through a crowded hospital to get to her husband’s room. Then, the pair waited for the nurse to give discharge instructions.
“My husband was discharged a little after 3 p.m. carrying clothes in a bag, a bed pan, medical things to take home with him,” Helen Tarullo said. “He had to wear a catheter with a band-like strap attached to his leg, making it somewhat difficult and uncomfortable to walk. We had to walk slowly.”
They arrived back at their car on Lexington Avenue at approximately 3:40 p.m., and that’s when they had an unpleasant surprise.
“A ticket person was there putting a ticket on the car,” she said. “There was also another ticket previously attached to the windshield wiper. We asked what this was for and she just walked away.”
The Tarullos took the ticket and loaded Jim’s things into the car.
Later, when they examined the tickets, they were confused.
The ticket that was written just as they arrived at the car was written at 3:41 p.m. with a note that the car was in front of 1110 Lexington Avenue. The $65 fine was for not paying the meter. Helen Tarullo fully admitted the ticket was deserved and it was her mistake because she didn’t realize she was supposed to pay through the meter.
But the second ticket made no sense at all.
The time written on the ticket was 2:35 p.m., about 15 minutes after she said she parked her car. It was also for $65 for not paying the meter, but it said the car was parked in front of 1114 Third Avenue.
But her car was never on Third Avenue, she said.
“If I arrived on Lexington Avenue around 2:20 p.m. or so, how could I get another ticket which stated I was parked in front of 1114 Third Avenue?” she said. “This doesn’t make sense. I don’t even know where that is.”
Plus, she said, the Third Avenue address would have been a much longer walk for her husband, who was weak from surgery. If she had the spot on Lexington, moving the car didn’t make sense.
The couple decided to pay the Lexington Avenue ticket, but they decided to fight the one from Third Avenue. It had to be a mistake, they thought.
The Tarullos contacted the hospital, asking for copies of surveillance footage that would show when Helen Tarullo entered and left the hospital. The hospital said it couldn’t share the video for security reasons.
So instead, Helen Tarullo submitted a dispute to the parking authorities, including a detailed timeline of her whereabouts, and the location of their car, at the times written on the two tickets. The ticket said they had 30 days to file an appeal. They wrote on March 24.
In their letter, the couple apologized for the first ticket, and explained that they would pay it. Then they asked for a dismissal for the Third Avenue ticket.
“In view of the hectic traffic jams in the area of Lexington Avenue, 77th and 78th Streets, you wouldn’t even be able to move your car to park it again, walk to the hospital, wait for the nurse and hear her release instructions and walk with a weak patient who just had surgery the day before,” she said in a letter appealing the ticket.
“I respectfully request that this be reviewed and you conclude that we are not guilty as stated,” she wrote.
They didn’t receive an answer until June.
In a form letter dated June 10, the New York City Finance Department checked off a box that said, “Upon review of the entire record before us, we find no error of fact or law. The Judge’s decision is upheld.”
When they received the denial, they were livid.
“We paid the one ticket,” Helen Tarullo said. “Why should we pay the other one if our car wasn’t even there?”
The Tarullos reached out to Bamboozled for help.
We navigated a bureaucratic maze — almost as congested as midtown traffic — to find the correct agency so we could ask someone to again review the case.
We were finally directed to speak to the New York City Police Department’s Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information (DCPI), and the city Department of Finance.
Despite multiple messages, no one at Finance called us back.
After sending several unanswered emails and leaving several messages for DCPI, a receptionist finally said the case was being looked at.
Exactly what that meant, we weren’t sure. So we waited a day and called again.
This time, we were told it was the Department of Finance who could address the issue.
So we tried Finance yet again, but no one returned our calls.
We tried a different strategy, reaching out to the administrative law judges named on the appeal denial. We couldn’t reach a real person there, either.
If all these city employees can’t even return the calls of a reporter, even just to say, “No comment,” it’s maddening to think of what happens when an average consumer gets tangled in the red tape.
Helen Tarullo said she’s upset because she feels no one could have read her detailed appeal or looked at the facts of the case and come to the conclusion the ticket was just.
Jim Tarullo said he’s disappointed.
“I’m sure everyone gives lots of excuses like saying they only ran into a store for five minutes yet they’re really out at Saks shopping for the last three hours,” he said.
The Tarullos said they will pay the ticket. Grudgingly.
“Otherwise I could drive into the city and if I get stopped, they could have a warrant and we’d have a problem,” Jim Tarullo said.
That would be a problem, indeed.
Not that this would have helped the Tarullos for a mystery ticket that must have been a simple mistake by the ticket writer, but if you ever receive a parking ticket and you think it’s in error, get evidence. Be sure to take photos of your car in the parking spot, including a wide shot to show exactly where it was parked. Don’t forget photos of whatever parking signs are in the area.
Just in case it helps.
Have you been bamboozled? Contact Karin Price Mueller at firstname.lastname@example.org.