An Armonk, N.Y. woman on Thursday night leveled accusations of race discrimination against the town of New Canaan and parking enforcement while appealing a $30 ticket she’d received downtown earlier this year.
Farva Jafri told members of the Parking Commission during an appeal hearing that she watched an enforcement officer usher along white motorists with running cars stopped in hash-marked “no parking” zones on the east side of Main Street on a March afternoon while she herself received a ticket for having her car in the same type of area.
“This is ridiculous,” Jafri said at the hearing, held in Town Hall. “This is a completely white town.”
She added, “This is racist.”
The parking enforcement officer who issued the ticket, and the commissioners, flatly rejected claims of racism—and ultimately the appointed body voted 3-0 to uphold the ticket—though not before Jafri in expletive-laden accusations and legal threats shouted at town officials and some of the other 12 people in attendance.
Jafri based her appeal on two basic claims. First, she said that she wasn’t really “parked” but rather was “standing” in the no-parking area out front of Chase Bank, near the driveway that runs behind Baskin-Robbins, because she was in the driver’s seat of a running car for less than five minutes. Secondly, she said, the enforcement officer who issued the ticket “admitted fault” at the time.
“She [the enforcement officer] came up behind me, wrote the ticket while I was not aware of it and then when she was driving by she put it on the windshield, she said to me, I am sorry I did not realize you were in the car, so she admitted fault, and she said you should appeal this, so I took it and I wrote to you guys,” Jafri said.
Parking Enforcement Officer Lisa Pia described a different scene in issuing the ticket at 12:48 p.m. on March 18 (a Monday).
According to Pia, Jafri was found to be hunched over playing on her phone in the passenger seat of the vehicle at the time it was stationary in the no-parking zone.
“When I approached the vehicle I didn’t see any movement in the car,” Pia said. “There was no one in the driver’s seat. I didn’t see anybody in the passenger seat at the time. I approached the car, I wrote the ticket, hit print, went up to the car—I usually give someone a chance to move their vehicle if they are in the driver’s seat.”
She added, “When I exited vehicle, that is when I noticed she was sitting in the passenger side, with her head down, playing with her phone, and I apologized for giving a ticket, even though she was in the vehicle, and whoever was driving was in the wrong. And I usually always give the driver a chance to move, and if they are not willing to move, I issue a ticket … Once I gave it to her, I said if you do not agree with it, you can appeal the ticket. I did not admit to fault, and then someone came from Chase Bank saying that I was a racist. And they were questioning why I let someone else across the street move their vehicle when they were in a no-parking zone when they were in the spot for a second and hopped out, two elderly women.”
Jafri said Pia was “incorrect” and several times interrupted her and the commissioners as they asked questions trying to suss out just what happened.
At one point, Parking Manager Stacy Miltenberg said, “Can I say something? You were parked illegally.”
Jafri denied that, saying she was “standing.”
“You’re taking this woman’s side because she’s a white lady and she lives in your town,” Jafri said.
When some of those in attendance at the meeting—others fighting their own parking tickets—told Jafri that she couldn’t know what motivated the enforcement officer, Jafri began arguing with them, too, asking why they were taking Pia at her word.
“You should not be discriminately treating people,” Jafri told the Commission. “What does the statute say? What does the Connecticut statue say of parking versus standing? … I will admit, I don’t know Connecticut statute.”
When Commissioner Peter Ogilvie said the discussion reminded him of Bill Clinton discussing the definition of ‘is,’ Jafri told him, “I am sure you voted Republican.”
“There’s a lot of [expletive] Republicans here,” she said.
(Ogilvie is one of the Democrats on the five-member Commission, which is bipartisan per state statute.)
“This is disgusting,” Jafri said.
Commissioner Pam Crum told her, “This has nothing to do with race.”
Jafri said, “How many non-white people are in this room?” When one of the other appellants in attendance, Lauren Kopal, said, “I didn’t know you weren’t white, by the way,” Jafri shouted at her, “That is exactly what white people [expletive] say.”
When Crum told Jafri that she’d had her chance to speak and did she have any questions, the appellant said, “I am going to ask to see you in [expletive] court because I am going to sue this city, because it’s ridiculous.”
When Kopal put in, “It’s a town,” Jafri responded by saying, “Oh it’s a town. Oh it’s a town. Oh it’s a town.”
At that point, Ogilvie and this reporter pulled out phones to take a photo of Jafri, who said, “Were you just taking a photo of me? What is wrong with you? What is your name? You will delete that off of your phone, I’m sure. You are without permission taking a photo of me in a government building.”
Ultimately, after Jafri had left the meeting prior to the group’s deliberations, Ogilvie, Crum and Commissioner Stuart Stringfellow voted 3-0 to uphold the ticket. They noted that a photo of her Toyota Corolla showed that it not only was parked in the no-parking area, but also that it was sitting very close to the access road that runs behind Chase Bank, obstructing the view of those trying to exit.
Chairman Keith Richey and Commissioner Chris Hering were absent.
In the past, the Commission has held that even running cars are considered parked if they’re stationary, whether or not a driver is inside them. During a recent appeal hearing for a woman ticketed for double-parking on Elm Street, Richey said, “Whether you are in the car or not in the car, the car is the car and if the car is parked, the car is parked, it doesn’t matter if you are in the car or not.”
Tension has been building around Jafri’s ticket since its issuance. She had filed three appeal letters prior to this week’s hearing that culminated in a threat of legal action, as follows:
- On March 21: “I was never parked in the violation zone. I was standing there, with my car turned on, waiting in the car. I am an Uber driver, and I was waiting for my passenger to come out of Chase bank. The parking attendant pulled up behind me and did not see me in the car when she wrote the ticket. When she pulled up to the window, after writing the ticket, she stated that she did not see me sitting in the driver’s seat, but she had already written the ticket. She stated that I should appeal. I should not be held liable for this ticket since no violation occurred. The parking attendant admitted carelessness by not looking in the car to see that I was inside, nor did she look closely enough to observe that the car was on while she was writing the ticket.”
- On April 22: “I cannot attend the hearing on May 2nd, as I will be out of town. I called the Parking Bureau and asked for my hearing to be rescheduled. Please note that the parking violation was for a zone in which there was ‘No Parking,’ and I was standing in the zone with my vehicle turned on. The parking attendant issued me a ticket while I was sitting in the driver seat, and said parking attendant admitted fault by not seeing me in the car. She advised that I appeal this ticket.”
- On May 31: “I sent in an appeal in writing after calling your department asking for a delay of the hearing, since I was not able to attend in person. Your department refused and sent me a notice that, interestingly, your illegal citation was upheld. First of all, the violation for which I was cited was ‘no parking zone.’ As stated, I was not parked, and the parking attendant admitted fault and in fact advised that I appeal. Though I am an attorney, it does not take a lawyer to understand that no violation of the law in fact does not leave someone subject to any sort of citation. This is now a formal demand letter—your actions that limit citizens from attending hearings in person and citing individuals (when your staff admits fault) for violations that are non-existent, indicates a deprivation of the right to due process on behalf of both your department and the municipality of New Canaan. Further, it is interesting that the white meter attendant gave me this ticket at all. Though I was standing with my car turned on, I was cited for parking (which was clearly not the case). The meter attendant drove past me and asked white individuals who were standing in said area to move along, without ticketing them. [A resident] of Pound Ridge, N.Y., who was riding with me, immediately called into your department to complain about your meter maid’s racist actions. I expect a formal apology by June 25, 2019 along with a full reversal of this improper citation. If I do not hear from you, I will commence suit against the Town fo New Canaan immediately.”
Parking Commission meetings are not taped or televised by Channel 79.
In addition to Jafri, the three commissioners, Miltenberg, Pia plus one guest, two reporters and two appellants, those in attendance at the meeting included First Selectman Kevin Moynihan.