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Cars Destroyed by Sandy Now Risk Alternate-Side Parking Tickets

By Jill Colvin | November 14, 2012 8:27am

LOWER EAST SIDE — Frustrated drivers whose cars were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy are now bracing for another hit — parking fines.

The NYPD will begin enforcing alternate-side parking rules again on Wednesday morning — and officers have no plans to spare wrecks.

“It’s like another slap in the face,” said Lower East Side resident Cheri Martinez, 32, whose 2007 gold Nissan Altima was one of the dozens of cars in the neighborhood swallowed up by surging storm waters as Hurricane Sandy battered the East Coast last week.

While the waters eventually receded, her car, which had been parked on Delancey Street near the East River, was destroyed. Her insurance company has made arrangements to have it towed. But, for now, it remains where the storm left it, sprawled sideways across two parking spaces.

This means tickets are almost guaranteed.

”It's bad enough you lost your car, and then to get smacked with a ticket?" she said of the $65 offense. “Obviously we’re in a situation where there’s nothing we can do about it. We’re trying to do our best.”

Martinez is not alone. For several blocks along Delancey Street, under the Williamsburg Bridge, dozens of soggy cars — some with busted windows that have been replaced by garbage bags — sit in uneven rows.

Some are slanted diagonally, others pushed up on the curb, apparently by the water's force. The blocks closest to the river were buried by an estimated 5 feet of water at the storm's height, residents who watched from their windows said.

Unable to move their cars, some have turned to notes seeking mercy from police.

"Car will not start. Was submerged by East River. No power. Cannot move right now. Thank you," reads one hand-written note scrawled with black marker on cardboard and affixed to the front of a light gold Buick, sitting askew.

“Waiting for insurance,” reads another, barely legible through the tell-tale fogged windshield that gives the wrecked cars an eerie appearance after dark.

City officials on Tuesday announced the return of alternate-side parking regulations. They said the rules will remain suspended indefinitely in certain “severely storm-damaged” areas in Brooklyn and Queens.

These areas include Community districts 13 and 15 in Brooklyn, which span Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Sheepshead Bay and Gravesend, and Queens Community Board 14 in the Rockaways.

Staten Island does not have alternate-side parking rules, so it is not affected by the change.

Residents in other neighborhoods are out of luck.

Department of Transportation spokesman Nicholas Mosquera confirmed that vehicles in other flooded neighborhoods who don’t move their cars will be ticketed. But people who do not feel they deserve tickets can challenge them with the Department of Finance, he said.

That wasn’t much solace to impacted drivers.

“It’s crazy,” said Cliff Rolle, 43, who watched the waters rise from his window and said that, at one point, all the cars on the block were literally floating.

When he returned to his spot, he said, his '98 red Chevy Blaze was “full up with water,” its transmission and other systems fried.

He's dreading Friday, when the parking sign on his spot will kick in.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do," said Rolle, who said that it's obvious the cars are damaged and that residents should be given more time to make arrangements and file claims.

‘We should be given a break,” he said.

Nelson Roman, 62, whose car was another Sandy victim, agreed.

Roman, a hospital security guard who's lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, said he tried to save his car from the rush of water during Sandy, but ran for his life in the other direction when he saw the surge begin streaming over the FDR.

After a week of hoping the 98 Nissan Altima would turn back on, he said he finally decided to have it towed Monday, in advance of the return of the parking rules and the $65 fines, which he said would be another slap in the face for residents trying to recover from the storm.

“Bloomberg doesn’t care… It’s all about bringing in revenue,” he said, standing in front of his now-empty parking spot and clutching his grandson’s car seat — the only item he was able to salvage from the wreck.

But compared to others’ suffering, he said, his loss pales into insignificance.

"When I looked around at what happened, I stopped feeling bad," he said.

"People lost so much,” he said. “To hell with my car.”