NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A group of local lawmakers are pushing to eliminate diplomatic immunity for parking, instead moving to get foreign representatives to pay for their tickets.
It’s a multimillion-dollar problem, as some say the diplomats are getting a free ride.
They’re more common than hotdog stands on the streets of New York, especially around the United Nations – cars sporting federally issued diplomatic plates that give them special privileges. Even though they cannot legally park wherever they want, some still do, and with apparent impunity.
Diplomats owe the city of New York over $17 million in unpaid parking fees, so a group of congressman from New York introduced a bill to encourage countries to pay up.
The law would punish deadbeat diplomats by taking away their specialty diplomatic plates, and taking out money from foreign aid to pay the parking tickets.
One of the bill’s sponsors is Long Island Representative Peter King.
“That money could pay the salaries of firefighters, pay the salaries of teachers, it could help keep firehouses open, so I think every dollar is important,” Rep. King said. “Also, it sends the signal that people who are getting the benefit of living here in New York as diplomats have to pay their bills.”
Plenty of people who spoke to CBS 2 agreed.
“They should pay their parking tickets,” Red Bank, New Jersey resident Joan Herb said. “They live in this country. Why not?”
“Absolutely. It’s the law, they need to respect the law,” Michael Bennett, of Detroit, said. “Just because they’re here on business – their country’s business – doesn’t mean they don’t have to abide by our laws.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Mayor Michael Bloomberg scoffed at the bill on Thursday, saying it’s not the big problem it once was.
“Compliance is like 90 percent today – I can’t remember the last time there was a story about somebody with a consular or embassy parked in front of a fire hydrant,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “I’m sure it happens occasionally, like it happens with everything.”
The mayor said the $17 million in unpaid tickets is old debt that the city is slowly recovering. In fact, just this year, Kuwait made good on $1 million in unpaid fines.
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