Let’s be real: most of the time, you probably won’t be able to successfully dispute a parking ticket, or even get a fee reduction. However, you should always try.
Even in a city like New York, where public transportation is common and relatively comprehensive, having your own vehicle means having freedom. Your apartment hunt is no longer reliant on proximity to trains, your job opportunities no longer come with the caveat of elaborate MTA commutes, and, whenever you want, you can pack up and go for a weekend trip in the Catskills or the Hamptons without the cost and hassle of renting a car. Don’t let people tell you otherwise: having a car in New York, especially in the outer boroughs, is doable, and it will change the way you experience life in the city.
That’s not to say it comes without obstacles; if the tolls, potholes, and the scooters don’t kill you, the parking tickets just might. While much of today’s New York City was developed to accommodate personal transportation, there simply isn’t enough space for convenient parking, leading to some of the most severe and punishing parking tickets anywhere in the US. A parking violation that might cost $30 in a different city will run you $95 in New York, and if you don’t pay on time, that amount will double. Eventually, you might find your car’s gotten the boot, incurring an additional removal fee on top of your multiplied parking ticket. Yoinks!
This may go without saying, but the best way to dodge parking tickets is to not put yourself at risk of getting them in the first place. That’s not always as easy as it sounds; while everyone knows not to block a fire hydrant, not to block a bus stop, and not to park in such a way that your vehicle covers part or all of a pedestrian crosswalk, not everything is so cut-and-dry. (And speaking of fire hydrants, unless you’re giving a whopping 15 feet of breadth on either side of a hydrant, you’re still just one vindictive traffic agent away from being ticketed.)
Signs can be confusing, especially when there are multiple signs stacked on one post, but always make sure you’re not violating any day-of-week conditions or time-of-day conditions. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re in the clear if you are able to pay for parking time at a nearby kiosk; the kiosks are always running, even on days when that particular section of street-side parking is reserved for commercial vehicles, or during times of day when no parking is allowed to accommodate truck deliveries. The only thing worse than getting a parking ticket because you didn’t properly read the signs is getting a parking ticket after paying for time.
Any New York City parking ticket can be disputed with varying levels of success. While there are a few different ways to go about disputing a parking ticket, none of them is much more effective than the others. Before disputing a ticket — and before even driving your car away from where the ticket was issued — gather photo evidence of the scene. For example, if you think the signage was too confusing or the messaging of the signs was obscured in some way, take some pictures of those signs. If your vehicle was mistakenly ticketed, make sure you have a good shot of the vehicle and its surroundings so you can prove where it was, and demonstrate why you didn’t deserve that ticket.
The most popular way to dispute parking tickets is to do so online, via the NYC Department of Finance website. Disputing a ticket online is convenient for most people, and will allow you to directly upload photo evidence for your dispute along with your dispute explanation. You can locate your violations on this website using either the violation number shown on your ticket or by searching your license plate, which is perfect for those of us who habitually misplace our parking tickets (or crumple them into little balls and lob them at parking enforcement).
Tickets can also be disputed by mail. Every ticket includes the mailing address of the NYC Department of Finance, where you’ll be sending your dispute letter. Of course, there’s a reason we call it snail mail; if you’re slow to send out your dispute letter, you may even miss the cutoff date of 30 days after the issuing of the ticket.
Sometimes, it feels right to go dispute your ticket in person. You can find a Department of Finance business center in your area and walk in with no appointment needed. Hearings take place on weekdays only, and you may be in for a wait. It’s first-come, first-serve.
No Chance of Success? Dispute Anyway
Let’s be real: most of the time, you probably won’t be able to successfully dispute a parking ticket, or even get a fee reduction. However, you should always try. Even if your dispute is unsuccessful, you’ll buy yourself some time. Submitting your dispute instantly via the Department of Finance website will buy you an additional thirty days to deal with your ticket, which is especially useful if money’s tight. And if money is tight, consider speaking with the Department of Finance about a payment plan, allowing you to stretch your ticket across several small payments.