OATH talks summonses at Maspeth Kiwanis meeting
by Benjamin Fang
Oct 08, 2019 | 2325 views | 0 0 comments | 146 146 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As a former member of the Maspeth Kiwanis Club, Rachel Amar remembers going to street festivals in the neighborhood.

One year, she recalled giving flyers to the Boy Scouts to post throughout the neighborhood. Unfortunately, the club was not aware that it was against city law to put flyers on trees and public items on the street.

A city enforcement agency fined them for every flyer that was put up, Amar said.

“It was a stress for the organization, especially because all we’re doing here is good work,” she said. “We don’t have an alternative agenda other than to do good work for the community.”

Today, Amar works as the special assistant to the commissioner of the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH).

She and OATH Deputy Commissioner for Legislative Affairs John Castelli spoke last Thursday at a Maspeth Kiwanis meeting about how organizations can fight summonses like the ones they received for the street festival.

“Part of the work we’re doing at the agency now is making sure that communities understand how to empower themselves,” she said.

An important part of challenging the violations is showing up. According to Amar, over 47 percent of all summonses issued get dismissed.

Some violations are improperly issued, while other tickets are written incorrectly.

“You think you might just have to pay and that’s it, but you shouldn’t, especially if you know you’re not wrong,” Amar said. “If you are wrong, you can always look at the ticket to see if there are mistakes.”

Residents or business owners contesting the tickets don’t even need an attorney. OATH has a help center that assists unrepresented respondents prepare for the hearing.

Respondents can also reschedule their hearing if there’s an important conflict they cannot get out of.

“You have that right,” she said.

Michael Terry, a past president of the Maspeth Kiwanis, said one complaint businesses have brought up, especially those located near bus stops, is when people leave garbage in front of the storefront.

Students who wait for the bus after school that leave trash behind can especially be a problem, he said.

“As soon as the kids get on the bus, the sanitation guy comes along and writes up a ticket,” Terry said. “I know that’s a complaint the Maspeth Chamber has gotten many times.

“It’s not like we can go out there and clean up all the time,” he added.

Castelli responded that as long as business owners make a reasonable effort to clean up, that’s what matters. If there’s a consistent pattern of tickets, that’s an issue to take up with an elected official.

Castelli added that roughly seven out of 10 sanitation summonses get dismissed, higher than the average of all city summonses.

“You have options,” Amar said, “and you should use them because it’s your taxpayer money.”
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