FREEHOLD, N.J. — For the second time in three months, a chauffeur working for Concorde Worldwide has been stopped and ticketed in Manhattan for operating a livery sedan with rear windows deemed too dark.
Concorde owner Robert Bellagamba is getting fed up with New York police busting his New Jersey-registered vehicles for an infraction that by any reasonable standard should fall under an exemption. He is scheduled to contest the first ticket on Jan. 15, 2010 in a Manhattan traffic court.
“I’m not registered in New York. I’m registered in New Jersey,” Bellagamba said. “We’re only obligated to satisfy New Jersey law. You can’t be worrying about every state having its own laws with a certain percentage window tint.”
The rules are outlined in the New York Tint Law enacted in 1991, which regulates all aspects of tinted windows on vehicles: degree of darkness of each type of window (i.e. windshield, side, driver, passenger, rear, etc.); level of reflectivity; and restrictions on colors, side mirrors; and certificate and sticker display requirements. Since many vehicle tinted windows are installed by manufacturers, they do not necessarily comply with stricter window tint laws, such as the ones in New York.
Barry Lefkowitz, executive director of the Limousine Associations of New Jersey, said that about six to eight LANJ members have been cited so far by police while making client runs in the state of New York. Lefkowitz said the window tint issue is a new one for the chauffeured transportation industry, and he is strategizing on exactly how to proceed, whether that would mean pursuing an administrative exemption, change in New York legislation, or a reciprocity agreement for New Jersey operators.
“The window tint situation is getting worse,” Lefkowitz said. “I’ve been reading e-mails from our members and it’s non-stop.” In the case of Bellagamba, for example, the window tint was already on the vehicle when he bought it from a dealership.
The issue has become a key nuisance for New Jersey operators, especially those who routinely serve clients in the tri-state metro area and take clients to and from Manhattan, LaGuardia, and JFK. The question is which state’s rules on window tint should take precedence: the state where a vehicle is registered, or the state in which a vehicle is doing business?
Since New York and New Jersey comprise the most active area for chauffeured transportation in the U.S., the outcome of any window tint disputes could set precedents for any other tint disputes nationwide, especially for operators who service metro regions that straddle state lines, such as Kansas City, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia, for example.
Such aggressive enforcement comes at a time when state and local governments are hungry for revenues in a recession that has depleted public coffers and thrown many cities, counties, and towns into budget deficits.
The second citation for Concord Worldwide happened on Dec. 7 when an officer with New York City’s Surface Transportation Enforcement District, which is part of the NYPD, pulled over a Concord chauffeur driving a Lincoln Town Car Executive L on Park Avenue. After using a window tint sensing device, the officer cited the chauffeur for illegal window tint on two the two rear passenger doors. Each ticket costs $90, plus a $30 surcharge, and a $20 fee — $140 per window for a total fine of $280. Another Concord chauffeur also was cited in Manhattan in September, incurring another $280 total fine for two rear passenger windows considered too dark. In both incidents, no clients were in the vehicle.
Bellagamba, who operates a 55-vehicle fleet, estimates that the cost of replacing and/or peeling off window tint could amount to about $150 per vehicle, not to mention any added damage that could occur to a rear windshield defroster if the tint has to be replaced on it.
One encouraging sign for Bellagamba was a recent phone conversation with an officer in the Deputy Commissioner for Public Information office at the NYPD who informally told Bellagamba that he thought the ticket was invalid because it cited an out-of-state vehicle.
“New Jersey law does not dictate tint percentage on rear windows,” Bellagamba said. “Just because I pass through New York doesn’t mean they can ticket me for being a lawful operator in the state of New Jersey. That would render every window tint of every operator across the U.S. as illegal in the state of New York.”
Meanwhile, Bellagamba plans to contact his state senator and has written a letter to authorities in Albany. His court date for the first violation is Jan. 15. A court date for the second ticket was not immediately available.
Nationwide Information on vehicle window tinting can be found at TINTLAWS.COM.
Source: Martin Romjue, LCT Magazine