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In god we_trust

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  • 1. In  God  We  Trust    We   love   biking.     In   the   Labor   Day   weekend,   my   wife   and   I   decided   to   bike   to   the  Prospect  Park  in  Brooklyn  from  our  home  in  Queens  through  the  Brooklyn-­‐Queens  Greenway,   a   bicycle   and   pedestrian   pathway   linking   many   parks.     Putting   on   our  helmets  and  taking  out  water,  we  were  on  our  way.      The  only  problem  we  had  on  our   way   to   Brooklyn   was   the   section   of   the   Greenway   around   Ridgewood   Reservoir  was   closed   and   we   were   forced   to   ride   on   Cypress   Avenue,   a   street   along   some  cemeteries  and  with  few  people  walking.      I  was  leading  the  way  on  the  street  and  cars   were   passing   by   my   side   with   high   speed.     My   lovely   wife   called   me   from  behind.     She   was   worried   and   wanted   us   to   ride   on   the   sidewalk.     I   know   from  reading   the   rules   on   the   NYC   Bicycle   Map   that   we   should   not   ride   bikes   on  sidewalks,  but  my  wife  did  not  know  that.  She  has  seen  people  biking  on  sidewalks  all  the  time  and  felt  it  was  ok  to  ride  sidewalks  as  long  as  the  bicyclist  does  not  put  any  pedestrian  in  danger.      Her  suggestion  at  that  moment  seems  more  reasonable.    There  were  no  one  on  the  sidewalk  and  if  a  car  hit  us  we  would  fly  over  the  sidewalk  and  go  straight  into  the  cemetery.        Soon  we  found  our  missing  Greenway  again  and  finally  arrived  at  the  Prospect  Park.      On  our  way  back,  the  Greenway  on  the  East  New  York  Avenue  disappeared  abruptly  and  we  were  riding  on  a  street  competing  with  speeding  cars  again.    I  knew  this  area  was  not  safe  and  decided  to  ride  behind  my  wife   to  keep  an  eye  on  her.    The  lane  on  the  street  became  narrower  and  the  speed  of  cars  higher.      My  wife  escaped  from  the  street   and   rode   on   to   the   sidewalk.     I   followed   her   on   to   the   sidewalk   too.     There  
  • 2. were  no  pedestrian  there.    A  police  car  passed  by  and  stopped  in  front  of  us.      Two  police   officers   came   out   of   the   car   and   signaled   my   wife   to   go   over.     One   officer  asked  my  wife  if  she  knew  this  neighborhood  and  told  her  it  was  not  safe.    Then  he  told   my   wife   that   we   could   not   ride   on   sidewalk   and   asked   for   her   ID.     He   called   me  over  and  took  my  ID  too.    Back  to  the  car  he  started  to  make  phone  calls  while    the  other  officer  we  were  chatting  with  us.      He  told  us  that  his  colleague  would  give  us  summonses   but   we   did   not   need   worry.     He   said   that   we   just   needed   to   go   to   the  court   and   nothing   would   happen   to   us,   no   fine,   nothing;   but   if   we   did   not   go  something  very  bad  would  happen.      Finally  the  officer  in  the  car  got  out  and  handed  each   of   us   a   pink   summons.     They   left   and   we   continued   our   bike   trip   home,   still  smiling  but  somehow  in  a  different  mode.    The  pink  summons  is  a  criminal  summons.      A  leisure  bike  ride  to  a  park  turned  us,  two  law-­‐abiding  citizens,  to  criminals.      We  needed  to  appear  in  NYC  criminal  court  a  few  months  later.      We  were  not  scared  since  the  police  officer  told  us  nothing  would  happen   to   us,   and   we   were   a   little   bit   excited   since   we   never   got   a   chance   to   see   the  criminal  court.      The   court   day   finally   arrived.     We   took   the   time   off   our   work   and   arrived   at   346  Broadway  in  lower  Manhattan  around  1  pm.      We  submitted  our  pink  summonses  to  the  clerk  at  the  window  and  were  asked  to  go  to  Courtroom  3  for  a  hearing.      A  few  people  were  waiting  out  of  the  room  already.    A  sign  on  the  door  said  it  would  be  open  at  2  pm.    More  and  more  people  arrived  and  formed  a  long  line.      Around  2,  the  door   opened   and   we   got   in.     This   is   a   big   room   with   20-­‐30   rows   of   benches.     Caught  my  eye  immediately  is  the  big  sign  on  the  front  wall  -­‐  “In  God  We  Trust”.      Soon  the  room  was  full.    More  than  one  hundred  people  were  sitting  there  quietly  waiting.        A  nice  gentleman  in  his  50s  or  60s  came  out  and  presided  under  the  “In  God”  sign.      He  must   be   the   judge,   actually   a   Judicial   Hearing   Officer.       I   knew   that   from   a   slip   of  paper  the  clerk  at  the  window  asked  me  to  sign,  which  said  I  agreed  that  my  case  be  heard  by  a  Judicial  Hearing  Officer  not  a  criminal  court  judge.        Seems  there  were  too  many  cases  in  this  courtroom  and  a  police  officer  called  some  names  and  asked  them   to   go   to   Courtroom   2.     My   wife   was   one   of   them   and   I   was   left   here   still  wondering   how   the   JHO   could   handle   so   many   cases   in   the   afternoon.       People   were  called  one  by  one  to  the  JHO  and  each  only  took  a  few  minutes.    Suddenly  I  heard  my  name   called.     I   jump   out   of   my   seat   and   walked   toward   the   JHO.     Totally   surprised,   I  heard  only  “50  dollars”  when  I  faced  him.    That  was  not  what  the  police  officer  had  promised   us.       “Why?”   I   responded   without   thinking   and   started   to   tell   my   story.    The   next   thing   I   heard   was   “ECB.   Dismissed”.       I   knew   that   term   from   Internet.      Tickets   for   riding   on   the   sidewalk   fall   under   the   jurisdiction   of   the   Environmental  Control  Board  (ECB)  and  my  summons  in  criminal  court  should  be  thrown  out  for  lack  of  jurisdiction.      My  case  was  over  and  I  was  free  to  leave.        I  went  to  Courtroom  2  to  be  with  my  wife.      Courtroom  2  is  about  the  same  size  as  Courtroom   3.     The   JHO   presiding   there   seemed   more   serious   and   always   looked  sideway  not  on  the  person  in  the  case.    One  by  one  people  were  called  even  faster  then   the   other   room.       My   wife’s   turn   came.     She   walked   toward   the   JHO   with   a  
  • 3. flashing  face.    She  must  be  very  nervous.    “20  dollars”,  the  JHO  said  as  soon  as  she  got   there.     My   wife   started   to   tell   her   story,   but   the   JHO   refused   to   hear.     He   ordered  her  to  go  back  to  seat  and  think  about  it:  either  to  pay  $20  or  come  back  another  day  for  a  trial.      No  need  to  think.    Any  normal  mind  would  choose  paying  the  lousy  $20  instead  of  wasting  another  day.      Everyone  in  the  room  got  called  in  the  first  round  and  in  the  second  round  my  wife  got  called  again.    “  I  will  pay  the  fine  but  I  still  want  to   tell   you   what   happened,”   my   wife   said.     Before   she   could   continue,   the   JHO  interrupted  her  and  said,  “I  don’t  need  to  listen.”    Her  case  was  over  too.    She  was  led  by  a  policeman  to  the  cashier  and  paid  her  $20  fine.        We   left   the   court   and   went   back   to   our   life.     Since   the   court   was   very   close   to  Chinatown,   we   went   there   to   have   a   nice   Chinese   dinner;   and   since   we   were   in  Manhattan,  after  dinner  we  went  to  see  a  funny  off-­‐Broadway  show.      This  was  the  happy  ending  of  our  court  day.    In  that  night,  I  could  not  sleep.      I  thought  a  lot.    The  Law  In   Queens   and   other   districts   of   NYC   there   are   some   streets   with   busy   car   traffics  but   empty   sidewalks.     Common   senses   will   lead   us   not   to   ride   bikes   on   sidewalks  endangering   pedestrians   but   go   on   to   the   empty   sidewalks   to   avoid   competing   with  the  cars  on  the  roads  and  risking  our  own  lives.      But  we  are  human  and  there  are  always   some   people   who   do   not   think   of   others   and   ride   bikes   recklessly   on  crowded   sidewalks.     So   here   comes   the   Law   –   New   York   City   Administrative   Code  §19-­‐176    -­‐  Bicycle  operation  on  sidewalks  prohibited.    The  Law  protests  pedestrians  but  sometimes  forces  bicyclists  into  dangerous  motor  vehicle  traffic  unnecessarily.      The  law  is  clearly  not  perfect  and  up  to  the  people  who  enforce  it.    The  Police  Policemen  can  use  the  law  to  stop  those  reckless  bike  riders  and  leave  other  bikers  alone.     I   guess   that   happens   most   times   and   that   is   why   we   still   see   quite   often  people  riding  happily  on  not  crowded  sidewalks.      But  policemen  are  human  and  for  whatever  reason  they  still  can  give  you  a  summons  when  you  are  riding  on  an  empty  sidewalk.      The  reason  might  be  the  boss’s  requirement  to  issue  more  summonses  or  simply  a  bad  mood  of  that  day.    We  got  the  summonses  when  the  policemen  were  kind  enough  to  warn  us  being  in  a  bad  neighborhood.        Maybe  they  thought  it  would  be  more  efficient  to  issue  two  summonses  since  they  had  already  stopped  us.    They  kept   promising   us   that   nothing   would   happen   to   us   but   they   still   issued   the  summonses.     Maybe   their   performance   is   really   associated   with   the   number   of  summonses.        Anyway  there  is  still  the  court  if  policemen  issue  tickets  recklessly.    The  Court  Judges   are   there   to   hear   people’s   cases   and   make   right   rulings.         But   they   are  human.     For   most   of   them,   it   is   just   their   job.       I   understand   very   well   how   the   court  at  346  Broadway  works  now  and  found  the  Judicial  Hearing  Officer  in  Courtroom  2  especially   creative   and   very   experienced.       He   needed   to   finish   so   many   cases   and  
  • 4. designed  a  very  efficient  process  to  handle  this.    The  process  can  be  called  Hearing  without  Hearing.    He  called  each  case  and  announced  right  away  his  ruling,  usually  a  small  fine.      He  bet  one  would  be  better  off  accepting  the  small  fine  instead  of  coming  back  another  day.      If  one  wanted  to  talk  he  would  send  him  back  to  think.      So  all  cases   went   through   this   process   fast   the   first   round.     In   the   second   round,   people  were   still   given   these   two   choices:   accepting   the   fine   or   coming   back   another   day.   A  very   efficient   machine   and   no   hearing   were   really   needed.       With   this,   the   JHO  finished  his  job  magically  and  could  go  home  satisfactorily  with  his  pay.      In   Got   We   Trust,   but   the   judges   are   human.         The   policemen   are   human,   the   laws  were   made   by   human,   and   we   are   all   human.       We,   imperfect   human   living   in   an  imperfect  society,  can  still  choose  to  be  happy  in  an  imperfect  day.      It  turned  out  the  court’s  decisions  were  perfectly  right:  it  was  my  wife  who  urged  me  to  ride  on  the  sidewalk   and   so   she   got   $20   fine   and   I   none.       Anyway,   the   city   might   need   the  money  and  I  definitely  felt  her  love.    With  this  thought,  I  fell  asleep.  

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