Organizers at one of Bedford-Stuyvesant’s signature events are scrambling to raise $1,650 to pay off fines the city levied for postering light poles and street signs with small homemade garage sale-sized posters.
The Universal Hip-Hop Parade for Social Justice, which celebrates both Marcus Garvey’s Aug. 17 birthday and hip-hop music, has marched through Bed-Stuy without incident or arrests since they started their annual parade in 2000. But last year, the city’s Department of Sanitation (DOS) suddenly sent them 22 tickets at $110 a pop, which the Environmental Control Board (ECB) reduced to $75 per summons.
“We don’t have a lot of money and it’s very discouraging to us, particularly since we’ve always gotten parade permits and last year when we received the tickets we even had permission from the police (79th Precinct) to put up no parking signs on the street because of the parade,” said Universal Hip-Hop Parade Executive Director Kazembe Batts.
Batts said after receiving the summonses in the mail he reached out to all the local elected officials and both state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery and Assemblywoman Annette Robinson gave the organization letters of support that he took to the ECB, who reduced the fines.
While getting a summons for postering is clearly a city issue, Batts said that the office of local City Councilman Al Vann offered little help to the organization.
Batts isn’t the only person or organization singing the postering on public property blues as Keyonn Wright-Sheppard was actually pulled into the police station and spent a night at central booking after police stopped him in the wee hours of primary election day on September 13 putting up posters for winning Democratic State Assembly candidate Walter Mosley.
Wright-Sheppard was with a 19-year-old fellow campaign worker on the corner of Quincy Street and Nostrand Avenue at about 3:15 am when the pair were stopped by a 79th Precinct detective.
“I’ve always tried to be pleasant and work with the Police Department, and I know that being confrontational is not the best way to handle this type of situation so I gave them my ID and they said I had an outstanding fair evasion warrant dating back to 1991, which was older than the youth I was with,” recalled Wright-Sheppard, adding cops promptly gave the youth he was with a summons for postering and let go before slapping him in handcuffs and bringing him to the station for the outstanding warrant.
Eventually, Wright-Sheppard was brought to central booking and released in the late afternoon after the judge ruled that the fair evasion ticket had been taken care of years ago but was still in the system due to a glitch.
The city should consider changing the law that allows candidates running for office to poster on public property during a certain time frame before the election and are given a small window of time to take the posters down after the election, suggested Wright-Sheppard.
But DOS spokesperson Kathy Dawkins said the postering law applies evenly to everybody, including those people running for office. DOS enforcement officers are not allowed to arrest anyone putting up posters, but police do have that authority, she said.
Dawkins also e-mailed the ordinance concerning postering stating it is illegal for any person to paste, post, paint, print, nail, attach or affix by any means whatsoever any handbill, poster, notice, sign, advertisement, sticker or other printed material upon any curb, gutter, flagstone, tree, lamppost, awning post, telegraph pole, telephone pole, public utility pole, public garbage bin, bus shelter, bridge, elevated train structure, highway fence, barrel, box, parking meter, mailbox, traffic control device, traffic stanchion, traffic sign (including pole), tree box, tree pit protection device, bench, traffic barrier, hydrant or other similar public item on any street.
Additionally, there is a rebuttable presumption that the person whose name, telephone number or other identifying information appears on any handbill, poster, notice, sign, advertisement, sticker, or other printed material on any item or structure is in violation. Every handbill, poster, notice, sign, advertisement, sticker or other printed material shall be deemed a separate violation.
Anyone found to have violated this provision, in addition to any penalty imposed, shall also be responsible for the cost of the removal of the unauthorized postings.
Fines for a first offense range from $75-$200. Fines for second and subsequent offenses is $150-$300.
Dawkins did not have information at press time if any of the local candidates who ran in last week’s primary received summonses but all had fairly elaborate campaign war chests to pay the fines.
The same can’t be said for the fledgling Universal Hip-Hop parade organization. Readers who want to make a contribution to pay off their $1,650 in fines can do so by visiting http://www.theuniversalhiphopparade.com.