The Big Fix

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Big Fix

Updated 08/16/2008 - 4:25 am

...or not, as we shall learn.

When the question arose Wednesday evening about whether to issue citations to those il­legally parked vehicles near Hampton Syna­gogue, Westhampton Beach Police Sergeant Nick Fusco made a courageous decision.

"Go ahead and ticket them" was the Super­vising Officer's call, and at least six, possibly more, parking violations were issued.

(Any in excess of the known six probably left the Synagogue premises folded away in Mayor Conrad Teller's pocket.)

For the Officer doing the bulk of the writing, Jeff Speer, there weren't any real challenges... the violations were blatant.

One of the early exiters from the disputatious Synagogue session¹, returned several minutes later with a brightly colored summons in hand and a look of incredulity on his face.

(His pink polo shirt and white slacks might offer a clue as to where he stood on the eruv issue.)

He displayed the citation to those with whom he had been sitting, and quietly expressed his indignation that he should have been ticketed for parking across from the Synagogue en­trance on Sunset Avenue virtually under the "No Parking Anytime" sign.

He then inquired of a temple's usher if "the Mayor" was still there. Told that he was, he said:

"I want to see the Mayor!"

Much later, Mayor Teller and I found ourselves at the kiddish layout and a low-key exchange ensued:

"A chunk of increased revenue for the Village this evening."
"How so?"
"The lads seem to have issued a number of parking citations."
"O... yeah...."
"One of those ticketed was back in here waving the ticket around and looking for you."
"Well, he caught up with me all right."
"Are you going to fix the ticket?"
"I have no idea how many tickets were issued."
"How 'bout that particular one? Are you going to fix that ticket?"
"I have no idea how many tickets were issued."
"But are you going to fix that ticket?"
"I don't have any idea how many tickets were issued."

Could've gone on all night that way, but we both decided that noshing on the free pastries was likely to be more productive.

So now what?

The parking around Hampton Synagogue con­tinues to be an issue, 16 years after it was first broached in the planning stages in 1992.

(It was again brought up at last evening's Planning Board meeting, Kelly & Hulme, James N. Hulme for the applicant, who was less than pleased to see it raised.)

The Synagogue, effectively, provides no park­ing... its on-site parking lot has a chain across the access point on Shabbat and during the Jewish Holy Days.

When it first opened its doors Summer 1994, those "other than observant Orthodox" attend­ing services, drove to the Synagogue and parked wherever there was space.

One area was the parking lot of the adjoining Suffolk County National Bank which gave the Synagogue a "license" to use their lot during periods "when the bank was not operating."

But when SCNB started Saturday hours, they were forced to hire a parking lot attendant to dissuade congregants from taking all their cus­tomer's spaces, even blocking ATM access.

Suffolk County National Bank 24-hour ATM kiosk... except when the Synagogue is having an event.

The physical presence of a teenager was much more effective than signs, so those who found no room in the lot, simply parked on the street, often to the extent of ignoring the No Parking Anytime signs on Brook and Sunset.

In the early years, the municipality, "gun-shy" after the initial confrontation between the Fire Marshal and the Rabbi, pretty much coughed discreetly and looked the other way.

One Village Police Officer in that period, under Police Chief Teller, says:

"We were always told to stay away from there."

Shortly after Ray Dean became Chief and the situation was discussed frankly but less than productively with the Rabbi, the Village hired Dunn Engineering Associates to conduct a traffic study and make recommendations in respect to improved safety.

This resulted in various changes in the parking regulations, and those who ignored the signs, received notices of parking violations.

The situation improved considerably. For the most part there are much fewer parking prob­lems around Hampton Synagogue.

The circumstances at play Wednesday evening were, fortunately, ex­ceptional.

(Parking was at a premium, as it was ob­vious to all that it would be.

Arriving 25 minutes before the announc­ed 8:00 pm start time, as evidence of good faith, I made an ATM deposit into my SCNB account... but I needn't've bothered. There already was no room.

So I parked in the near empty Mill Road municipal lot and [gasp!] walked to the Synagogue from there.)

What ultimately happens with the tickets is­sued will be interesting. It's highly unlikely, now that the story has been brought to light, that the Mayor will attempt any informal ac­commodation... i.e., a "fix."

Of course Village Justice Robert A. "Gus" Kelly Jr. could from his position of omnipotence, decide to dump those tickets²... wait for it... in the interests of justice.

If he does, it will at least be catholic... the tickets were issued without regard to creed.


¹.- Hereinafter and for all time to be referred to as "WEEEF," the Wednesday Evening Eruv Educational Fiasco.

².- In the interests of full disclosure, Gus' late father, Bob Kelly, did that on my own behalf twice during his tenure as Village Justice. It helped that I submitted photographic evi­dence, but the tickets were dismissed.


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