September 23, 2011 / 7:30 PM / 8 years ago

Diplomats owe New York City nearly $17 million in parking fines

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Before world leaders head home on Friday from the United Nations General Assembly, New York City might consider hitting up the heads of state for the nearly $17 million their diplomats owe in outstanding parking tickets.

The New York City Department of Finance said the outstanding balance for the unpaid tickets totaled $16.7 million through the end of July. Egypt topped the list with $1.9 million in outstanding tickets, followed by Nigeria with about $1 million and Indonesia with about $725,000.

In May, Congressmen Michael Grimm, Peter King and Edolphus Towns introduced legislation that would impose sanctions against countries with scofflaw diplomats who failed to pay parking fines in New York City.

“We can only imagine how much is being racked up this week,” Grimm’s spokeswoman, Carol Danko, said of the diplomats and world leaders gathering at the UN.

Under current law, 110 percent of total unpaid parking fines owed to New York City and Washington, D.C., will be withheld from the foreign aid and obligations to the offending countries but the stiffed cities don’t recover any of the money, Danko said.

The proposed legislation, which is pending in Congress, asks the U.S. State Department to deny the renewal of diplomatic licenses to any country with outstanding parking fines.

New York City is home to 289 foreign missions and consulates. The diplomats’ tickets were issued for safety violations, including blocking fire hydrants.

“There’s no such thing as ‘diplomatic immunity’ from paying parking tickets,” Grimm said when the legislation was introduced last May.

“If you get a ticket in NYC, you have to pay it. No exceptions. New York City’s budget is tight enough as it is, and foreign diplomats do not deserve a free pass at the expense of New York City taxpayers.”

Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton

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