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New York - Judge throws out $4,000 in fines against family cited for taking abandoned AC unit

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New York - First it was the air conditioner. Now, it's the fine that's been kicked to the curb.

A 73-year-old Queens woman whose family was slapped with $4,000 in fines for taking an abandoned AC unit celebrated Wednesday after a city judge tossed out the violations.

Margaret Colavita was hit with a $2,000 citation after her nephew borrowed her car and then broke one of the city's most peculiar laws: He scooped up an air conditioner dumped on a Middle Village sidewalk.

"Thank God justice was served," said Colavita, whose car was towed during the ordeal. "I'm happy the judge did the right thing, but who do I talk to about getting all my wasted time back?

"The city should be ashamed of itself for putting a 73-year-old woman with a heart condition through such stress."

After a brief hearing before the city's Environmental Control Board, Colavita's nephew, Paul Lawrence, also was allowed to walk away from a $2,000 fine.

"It's a victory for common sense," said Lawrence, 35.

Lawrence was on his way to his boss' house last month when he spotted the dingy air conditioner sitting on a neighbor's curb.

The Queens landscaper claimed that he asked the neighbor if he could take it, and she agreed.

But minutes after he drove away with it in his aunt's car, sanitation cops pulled him over - and issued the fine.

Under city law, once a resident puts out an AC unit or other large recyclable appliance for pickup, it's illegal for someone to use a vehicle to haul it away. Colavita was issued half the fine because Lawrence used her car.

Wednesday, sanitation officer Freddy Caceres told Judge Dolores Balsamo he was just doing his job.

"My job was to sit and watch and conduct surveillance to see if anyone would come out to take it unauthorized," Caceres said.

After the hearing, Lawrence blasted the practice. "Our city is going bankrupt and we are using our tax dollars to pay these guys to stare at appliances all day," he said. "How do I get a job like that?"

Daily News
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