NYC Window Tint Busts Keep Operators In The Dark

Posted on February 2, 2011 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

New Jersey operators are racking up thousands of dollars in fines for tinted windows on Town Cars as the NYPD fails to honor reciprocity regulations, exasperating owners and chauffeurs.

NEW YORK — Roll down a tinted window on a chauffeured vehicle in New York City and you could very well find a regulatory black hole.

New York police officers are increasingly citing New Jersey and out of state operators, mostly in Manhattan, for windows that are too dark according to New York state law. But enforcers are failing to recognize a fundamental reciprocity agreement for transportation providers that means states must honor each other’s regulatory rules for operators that provide multi-state service.

This appears to be another wave of tinted window citations following a first round of problems last year. Background LCT article: NEW JERSEY OPERATORS FIGHT WINDOW TINT RULES

Compounding what should at most be a nuisance to be dismissed in court, authorities are aggravating the inconvenience via the following:

1) Citing the chauffeurs instead of the companies that employ them. Since that directly threatens the status of chauffeurs commercial drivers’ licenses, they then must take time off work to wait in court to address the citations. That forces their companies to reschedule and incur additional labor costs.

2) In some cases, issuing fines/citations per window, not per vehicle. Some chauffeurs have received as many as three citations — one for the rear windshield and one each for the rear passenger windows.

3) Requiring additional fees beyond the fines to simply appeal the citations in court.

When you add it all up in time and money, some operators as a result are just paying the fines as a cost of doing business to avoid the hassles. Fines have reached as high as $250 per vehicle.

As complaints have mounted in recent months, LIMOUSINE ASSOCIATIONS OF NEW JERSEY executive director Barry Lefkowitz has asked operators to forward him their citations and complaints, which he will then redirect to Matt Daus, a transportation attorney with the New York-based law firm of Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf.

MATT DAUS, the former Commissioner of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, now helps advocate on behalf of transportation operators as part of his practice, and understands how to navigate the regulatory maze.

“Every time we think we have put this to bed, we seem to have it again,” Lefkowitz told LCT. “We are really getting annoyed.

“They figure that a lot of people will get frustrated and not want to waste time to go to court, and just pay the fines,” Lefkowitz said. “Under reciprocity, they have to recognize that these vehicles have passed inspection in New Jersey. They have to honor that just as we have to honor their operators when they come into our state.”

At least a half dozen big-name chauffeured transportation companies in New Jersey — including Concord Worldwide of Freehold, N.J., Broadway Elite Chauffeured Services Worldwide of East Hanover, N.J., Flyte Tyme Limousine of Mahwah, N.J., and Royal Coachman Worldwide of Denville, N.J. — have had chauffeurs receive window tint citations, Lefkowitz said.

The tinted window hassles were recently brought to the attention of current NYTLC Commissioner David Yassky, who had been unaware of the enforcement problems, Lefkowitz said. Lefkowitz and Daus plan to follow up with Yassky and New York City Councilman James Vacca, chairman of the City Council Transportation Committee.

One operator whose chauffeurs have repeatedly received window tint citations and now helps lead efforts to stop the practice is Robert Bellagamba, owner and CEO of Concord Worldwide. He is fielding complaints from other operators and taking down the details.

“We’ve got to fix the problem,” Bellagamba told LCT. “If Matt Daus can’t fix it, then we need a legislator to take care of it. Chauffeurs’ licenses are being threatened, so it’s like a ransom. Now they want $60 to appeal. It’s not valid. It’s ridiculous. I’ve had it and I can’t take it anymore.”

The tickets, issued by the NYPD traffic enforcement, are to be paid to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles.

“Where else is this going to start?” Bellagamba asked. “If they write tickets and half the people pay them, it’s money in their pockets.”

Jason Sharenow, the COO of Broadway Elite, said chauffeurs at his company, have been issued at least 20 tickets since Jan. 27, 2010.

“We’re getting tickets right and left,” Sharenow said. “They’re not just writing one ticket, they are writing one ticket for each window. We’re getting three hits on every stop.”

Sharenow estimates costs to his company in the thousands. “There are different rates on different windows,” said Sharenow, who tried to use a calculator during a recent interview to figure out the total costs. “I’m looking at different rates all over the place.”

In Broadway Elite’s case, the tickets have been exclusively issued to chauffeurs driving Lincoln Town Car Executive L sedans in and out of Manhattan. “If the vehicle is owned by the company, then the ticket should be issued to the company,” Sharenow said. “By writing it to the chauffeur, he must take off a day of work and sit in court for eight to 10 hours.”

— Martin Romjue, LCT editor

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