Grammar-Driven Confusion

April 10, 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 –

How far would you go to get a refund for being unfairly towed? Mark Vincent, a Park Slope chiropractor, is considering taking his case to the New York State Supreme Court – all because of a poorly worded No Parking sign.

No Standing Clear sign

A reminder from SmartSign

In early October, Vincent was driving around his Brooklyn neighborhood on a Sunday evening. Hard-pressed to find parking as many New Yorkers are wont to be, he was relieved to find a spot near his residential street, alongside Prospect Park. The only hang-up? A sign that vaguely read: “No standing. April to October.”

Vincent considered the sign momentarily before deciding that writing “to” was grammatically ensured to mean up until but not including. Thus, parking had only been forbidden between the months of April and October. He parked his vehicle and went on his way.

The next morning, Mark Vincent was pleased to see that his car remained. He made the decision to continue parking in the available spot. However, when he returned to check on the car several days later, he was shocked to find it gone, with no notification posted as to its whereabouts.

After some city-sleuthing, Vincent found the vehicle in a tow lot at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He paid $225 to retrieve his car, in addition to a ticket tacked on to the windshield for $115. When Vincent protested the fees as a matter of both pride and grammatic injustice, he was turned away twice. The second time, he was told that he had exhausted his appeals lest he file with the State Supreme Court at a base cost of $305, which would be reimbursed if a judge awarded him the costs. When Vincent was still objecting to the City Finance Department, their deputy law judge, Brian Keeney, informed him that unless a sign specified an exact date, it should be assumed that the regulation on a sign will last throughout the month listed before the spot is available again.

So how can you avoid the same parking blunder and subsequent legal disarray that Mark Vincent has suffered? It’s certainly a dismay to encounter a sign that isn’t entirely clear, but you can prevent unnecessary confusion by learning the ins and outs of “No Standing” signs.

First, standing is a term that includes parking a vehicle, in addition to halting, pausing, or braking. If you see a No Standing sign, drive past it to get somewhere that legally, and safely, provides you with a place to stop and make sure there’s nothing in your teeth.

Secondly, the only situation in which a No Standing sign permits a driver to stop momentarily without legal repercussions is when a car is discharging or receiving passengers. Even so, be careful not to linger for too long or you could be slapped with a $115 parking violation ticket. The longer you linger, the more likely it is that a traffic officer will doubt your intentions to move swiftly out of a No Standing zone- so it’s usually not worth the gamble.

Lastly, if you’re the one putting up the signs, be sure they’re clear so your curb or parking lot remains a straightforward and safe space for drivers and their wallets.

Let us know in the comments section if you think Mark Vincent should pursue his grammar dispute in the State Supreme Court or let bygones be bygones. Have you ever experienced a confusing parking sign? Tell us your own befuddling tale!

– R. Sapon-White

Category: News, No Parking, Regulations

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