Buffalo News: "Coronavirus may stop a lot of things, but not parking tickets and auto impounds"

Date: April 6, 2020

By Robert J. McCarthy|April 6, 2020
A coalition of community groups Monday called on the City of Buffalo to suspend many traffic summons, parking tickets and vehicle impoundments "in view of current hardships" stemming from the Covid-19 crisis.

But city officials say they plan to conduct business as usual, citing their recent rule relaxations and the need for adherence to regulations they deem essential.

"We've been trying to use courtesy, leniency and good judgment," said Parking Commissioner Kevin J. Helfer. "But when we see people not complying with the law, we've got to do something."

The groups – including prominent organizations such as the Western New York Law Center, Partnership for the Public Good, National Federation of Just Communities of Western New York,  VOICE-Buffalo, Citizen Action and others – scheduled a virtual press conference for Tuesday to ask the city to broaden some previously announced rule relaxations.

"The escalating public health and economic crisis wrought by Covid-19 demands that residents use all their assets, including vehicles, to maintain access to necessities and essential employment while social distancing," the groups said. "The ticketing and impounding of vehicles will serve as a burden for some of the most vulnerable residents in the city, because of the inability to pay."

They noted the city has impounded more than 90 cars since the beginning of the health emergency while continuing to issue parking and traffic tickets. They requested "bolder action" to provide relief to those issued tickets and who may have outstanding traffic debt, and asked the city to forgive all outstanding parking and traffic tickets, any related penalties or fees, and to place a moratorium on all impounds, traffic and parking tickets.

But Helfer said late Monday that he spoke at length with one of the group organizers last week to explain various rule relaxations, noting that towing and ticketing are reduced by about 90% since the emergency began. He said most tows stem from accidents or cars reported stolen, which he said cannot be left in the street.

"But we are not indiscriminately towing cars," Helfer said.

He also said alternate parking rules must be enforced to ensure accessibility for emergency vehicles, as well as prohibitions against blocking fire hydrants, crosswalks used by the handicapped and driveways.

"We're using very good judgment in tough times," he said. "I honestly think we're being very fair."


Read the article on the Buffalo News website here.