We all make mistakes. Just the other day I thought I had a few extra singles in my wallet to put in the traveling tip bucket for Curtis Eller after his splendid banjo-ranting set at Cafe 111 on Court Street. Actually I did, but not as many as I thought. I often have this effect on money. So, you know, oops.
But when you’re the City of New York and you misplace 20% of your haul of “quality of life” summonses, someone’s being cagy.
Today The New York Times (free site registration required) reports that in the last fiscal year, New York City cops gave out 532,817 quality of life summonses for noise, graffiti, disorderly conduct, sitting on milk crates ($50 fine), being pregnant in the subway ($50 fine), and the like. NewYorkish has a terrific spot quiz on some of the ludicrous fines and tickets issued during the Bloomberg administration’s mean-spirited ticket blitz last year. Check it out for a dose of head-shaking hilarity.
But the New User-Friendly Nice-Guy Mayor Mike - he’s nice, really he is, he promises - denies that there ever was a ticket-happy open season on citizens, despite claims by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association police union that the everyone-deserves-a-ticket streak was Department policy from on high. City Hall said last fall that this was all in the eye of the beholder, and that fewer summons had been issued in 2002-2003 than in years prior. Fair enough. The only problem is that they lied.
So, you know, oops. They missed counting a few summonses. Administrative error, due to switching over to computer reporting: some precincts still report on paper, so more than 100,000 summons entries went astray. In fact, last year was the biggest ticketing year for quality-of-life complaints since 1999.
For those of you watching at home, try this. Picture a ream of paper. That’s 500 sheets. Now imagine two of them stacked up. That’s 1,000 sheets of paper. You could miss that, right? Now double the image: 4 reams of paper, for 2,000 sheets. Double again, for 8 reams = 4,000 sheets. Now it’s getting a little hard to lift. Another double gives us 16 reams and 8,000 sheets of paper, which would warm even a blogger’s heart if the Net were suddenly to go to Pencil Tech for its newest fad. Go again, now, and the 32 reams are starting to get in the way. Lord of the Rings wouldn’t fill these 16,000 sheets of paper in a large-print edition, with the Dune books tossed in for good measure.
So double again, for 64 snug reams and 32,000 sheets. Even Stephen King is happy now. Again for a monster pile of 128 reams of crisp stacked paper and 64,000 sheets of Georgia-Pacific’s finest, and we’re in Kinko’s territory. Now add this to the Stephen King pile of 32,000 sheets for a total of 96,000. If each summons produces only one sheet of paper for reporting and indexing purposes - and how likely is that? - our Big Stack is now somewhat smaller than the “administrative error” pile that the Mayor missed.
That’s about the size of it.