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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

New Yorkers Getting Ticketed For Trivial Infractions

Aired May 28, 2003 - 19:46   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So New York is no stranger to extremes certainly, but how about getting a ticket for simply sitting on the subway steps? Or what if your perch is a milk crate and you get slapped with a fine for that. Are the police going too far?
Maria Hinojosa talked with New York residents who don't find these so-called silly summonses amusing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Imagine getting a summons for feeding pigeons?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody really likes the pigeons, but they're here and I guess we have to live with them.

HINOJOSA: Or for taking up two seats on the subway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are tired and they want to stretch out. There are seats and they want to relax.

HINOJOSA: Yolanda Rodin's (ph) restaurant got five tickets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This ticket doesn't cost less than $150.

HINOJOSA (on camera): You're telling me you got $150 ticket because the curtains ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I did.

HINOJOSA: ... were drawn? And you got another $150 ticket because your restaurant was closed at 5:15 in the morning?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

HINOJOSA (voice-over): Michael Barkley (ph) can relate. He got a ticket for displaying a faded registration sticker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel frustrated. They say you can't fight City Hall and basically, I'm going to because I'm not paying it.

HINOJOSA: Then there's the pregnant teenager on the cover of the "Daily News," ticketed for sitting on the subway steps.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I told them I'm pregnant. My back hurts, I was carrying a lot of stuff. I just sat there for a second. She said, "Well, you can't sit there."

HINOJOSA: City newspapers are in a feeding frenzy about what one calls the "summer of citations."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: City Hall has turned the New York City police department into a revenue-generating agency rather than a policing agency.

HINOJOSA: One man was fined because the awning of his store was too wordy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I cannot change the law. This is city law. We need the business. We need to fix.

HINOJOSA: Another got a ticket for sitting on a milk crate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They should have told me (UNINTELLIGIBLE) too. Why did he have to give me a ticket?

HINOJOSA: In that case, police say they were trying to clear a dangerous corner. But the mayor says the silly summons uproar was manufactured by the tabloids. The "Daily News" has been running an ad campaign, encouraging New Yorkers to send in their most outrageous summonses.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, MAYOR, NEW YORK CITY: You can find any time you want to write a story and you give out seven million summonses, some that don't make sense -- I think it's time to get on with t. The fact of the matter is the police are doing a great job at keeping the quality of life in this city where we want it, and if occasionally there is a ticket that doesn't make a lot of sense, maybe in the case of the mom to-be, it's a shame that that happened.

HINOJOSA: Some residents say this is all about making money for a city facing a nearly $4 billion deficit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The city needs the revenue. I think that's the bottom line. It's a matter of revenue, and I think we're dealing with the letter of the law this time around. Not really the spirit of the law.

HINOJOSA: The mayor says it's not about fast money.

BLOOMBERG: We give out roughly seven million summonses in this city a year. It's up slightly from last year. It's down from two years ago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HINOJOSA: Anderson, next year's city budget already includes a projected $130 million more from tickets and fines, but the mayor's office insists that more money doesn't mean more fines. They just say it's gotten more expensive. It used to cost you $25 to be a litter bug in New York City. Now it will cost you double -- Anderson.

COOPER: And Maria, are you allowed to be standing on that street corner exactly where you are -- broadcasting?

HINOJOSA: Don't know, but we haven't seen any cops so I guess for now we're safe, but you just don't know these days.

COOPER: All right. Well, as long as you're not standing on a milk crate, I guess you'll

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