As we freak out over possible $16 muffins purchased by the Justice Department — how could they? Muffins? Muffins aren’t even good — and the overall implosion of the U.S. economy, let us freak out more, about something with some pretty egregious dollar signs. Back in May, Representatives Michael G. Grimm (R,C-Staten Island/Brooklyn), Peter T. King (R-Long Island), and Edolphus Towns (D-Brooklyn) introduced legislation that would impose sanctions against foreign countries whose diplomats have come to New York to do diplomatic things that “require” parking in illegal places (in some cases, blocking fire hydrants). These diplomats have incurred $17 million over the years in outstanding parking tickets and fines. That is a lot of muffins.
According to Grimm’s office, which compiled data from the New York City Mayor’s office, diplomats had racked up $1,173,443.58 for the time period from November of 2002 to April of 2011. Almost every country owes something, from Afghanistan ($4,040.97) to Zimbabwe ($11,225.21). The worst offenders for that timeframe were Angola, at $25,430.00, Nigeria, at $22,795.83, and Indonesia, at $21,668.94. The Bahamas owed a mere $81.32, and few countries (Western Samoa, for one, and the Holy See) owed nothing. Interestingly, there’s $486,776.42 owed from “countries to be identified.”
Some other notables:
KOREA (NORTH) $2,970.00
KOREA (SOUTH) $10,726.82
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES $10,065.00
Before 2002, it’s an even more financially shocking story, with $16,029,962.60 due overall. The hugest numbers come from Nigeria ($1 million all on its own), Indonesia ($672,792.57), and Morocco ($568,759.16).
So, they should pay, right? Why aren’t they, already? Current law says that 110 percent of total unpaid parking fines owed to New York City and D.C. will be withheld from the foreign aid and obligations to the countries at fault. This does nothing, of course, to bring the money to New York City. As Grimm said, “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. I stand behind my legislation and will hold accountable those foreign nations with outstanding fines.”
The legislation asks that “whenever a foreign country owes NYC parking fines as of September 15 of each year, the Secretary of State shall deny the renewal of diplomatic license plates, withhold any obligated funds to that nation, and reappropriate any of the obligated foreign aid funds for the amount outstanding.”
According to Grimm’s Communications Director Carol L. Danko, “Right now [the bill is] sitting in the foreign affairs committee, but we’re hoping to move it forward.”