If you’re parked on a residential street in the Borough of Fort Lee, and you find a yellow hash mark on the tire of your car, it can mean a number of things, but you should definitely consider yourself warned.
For a new resident who may not know the rules yet or who just hasn’t gotten around to it, it means you need to get a residential parking permit. If you’re a longtime resident who hasn’t yet gotten your $5 parking permit, you need to get one—and soon. And if you’re a nonresident, you need to move your car.
“It appears that the [Parking Authority] is marking cars that don't have a current parking sticker,” said one resident who recently found the telltale mark on one of his tires.
But the borough’s Parking Authority administrator says the practice of marking tires is nothing new, and that residents, and even sometimes nonresidents, are given plenty of leeway before they’re ticketed.
“We’re not looking to hurt our residents; we’re just trying to get their attention to come in and get their permit,” Gallo said, adding that the Parking Authority could easily monitor illegally parked cars electronically, “but we like to put the mark there so that people can see that their car has been marked so it’s not a secretive thing.”
The resident who found the yellow hash mark on the top of the tire of his car, which was parked on his own street, said he saw a uniformed worker in a Fort Lee Parking Authority vehicle marking other cars, so he stopped the worker and asked him why.
“When I asked the PA worker why he was marking them, he said they are going to begin ticketing residents soon,” the Fort Lee man told Patch in an email. “He said that people have had plenty of time to change over to the new stickers. I asked him where it was posted that this was happening, and he said it was in the Suburbanite—a paper that does not get delivered to residential people, just the apartment buildings.”
According to borough ordinance, if you don’t have some kind of permit on your vehicle—whether a current residential parking permit, a visitor pass or a business pass—you can only park for two hours on residential streets. After your two hours are up, you have to move your car, Gallo said. If you have the decal, you can park on any residential street in the borough, although you do have to pay the meter if you choose to park in a metered spot or in a municipal parking lot.
Gallo noted that signs on residential streets borough-wide make the rules pretty clear.
“But that’s what that yellow mark is; it’s marking them for two hours,” she said. “And if the officer comes back two hours later, and the car is still there, and they don’t have any permits on their vehicle, they get a summons.”
But Gallo also said that if that happens to a new resident or even one who’s never had a permit before but never been ticketed, the Parking Authority usually cuts them a break.
“We tell them to go to court, and then we dismiss that ticket in court,” Gallo said. “That’s a one-time thing, so in case you didn’t know, and you are a resident, we don’t want to penalize you. They get that one-time deal.”
In late December 2010, the borough instituted a policy that residents had to pay a $5 fee for residential parking permits that for many years had been free, touching off some debate.
“It’ll be a year-and-a-half, so he should have renewed at the beginning of 2011,” Gallo said of the unlucky resident who discovered the yellow indicator on his tire just this week. “But we give ample time to come and get your permit; we don’t summons until at least four to six months after we issue them. We put it in the newspaper; we put it on our website. It’s all over the place that you have to come in and renew.”
Gallo pointed out that the residential parking permit program has been in effect for “well over 30 years.” The only thing that’s new is that it now costs $5, which gets you not just a pass that’s good for four years, but also what Gallo referred to as “a package.”
“We’re so strict because a lot of streets have a problem with people coming, parking their car there, and then going to New York, or getting visitor passes from their friends that live in town, and they park all day long; it’s really an effective program,” Gallo said. “We’re able to go down a block, and sometimes when we have a real problem, we put notices on the cars that say, ‘Hey, if you didn’t get this legally, you need to stop.’ We even give those people a chance.”
The package Gallo referred to includes a traffic pass and two visitor passes in addition to the parking permit. The traffic pass allows you to get around the borough easier during peak traffic hours when Fort Lee police may close certain streets.
“They try to keep the highway people from cutting through town to get to the bridge,” Gallo said. “But if you have [the traffic pass] and you see that there’s a street that’s blocked off by police, you show that to them, and they’ll let you through if it’s just because of traffic.”
The $5 fee also gets you the two visitor passes, which Gallo described as “limited.”
“They’re color-coded; we zoned out the town,” she said. “You have to stay within the area. Usually we give them a block or two from the address that they’re visiting so that we have control over the people that don’t live here.”