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No mercy for rev

BY ELIZABETH HAYS

DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Holy ticket blitz!

A Brooklyn priest got slapped with a $115 parking ticket after he rushed into a hospital to administer last rites to a dying woman, the Daily News has learned.

But even after the Rev. Cletus Forson pleaded his case to a traffic judge, the city refused to throw the summons out.

"If the sanctity of the law won't bend for the needs of a dying person, I feel really sad," Forson said yesterday.

"It disturbs me as a priest and as a human being," added the priest, who has served at St. Andrew the Apostle Church on Ridge Blvd. in Bay Ridge for nearly three years.

Forson got hit with the ticket July 26 about 9:30 p.m. for parking in a No Standing Anytime zone in front of Maimonides Medical Center in Borough Park.

The 42-year-old Catholic priest, who is originally from Ghana, said he knew the spot was technically illegal but felt he couldn't risk wasting time continuing to look for a better spot.

He had just received a call from a panicked parishioner desperate to find a priest to administer last rites to her elderly mother. Forson, who was sick in bed with the flu at the time, said he even checked in with a nurse before leaving and was told there was no time to spare.

"I couldn't get any parking," said Forson. "It is my obligation to get there and administer to the needs of the sick."

Forson placed his official clergy parking permit on the dashboard - which reads "Clergy on Call" - and said he was inside for less than 20 minutes.

"It's not about the money," said Forson. "It creates the feeling that if somebody is sick, nobody should go. I don't think that's right."

Forson appealed the ticket, but Administrative Law Judge Michael Ciaravino refused to back down.

"Respondent's claim that vehicle was parked while he, as a pastor, was attending to a patient at a hospital is not a valid defense to the violation," wrote Ciaravino in the July 28 decision. "Guilty."

Forson's church paid the fine Aug. 1, but the head pastor, Msgr. Guy Massie wrote a letter saying the parish did so "with protest." Father "Cletus did not break the law intentionally but was conflicted between the emergency at hand and the parking of a vehicle," wrote Massie.

City Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Brooklyn) fired off a letter to Finance Department Commissioner Martha Stark on Aug. 11, demanding the ticket be dismissed.

"It's another example of the city being out of control with ticketing," said Gentile yesterday.

"The fact that we're dealing with a priest administering last rites to a dying patient to me trumps any concern the city has with a priest parking for a short time in a No Standing Zone and certainly trumps the city trying to collect revenue from a parish priest." Finance Department spokesman Owen Stone stood by the city's decision, saying Forson was parked in an ambulance zone.

"They need to keep those clear. Blocking that puts lives at risk, that's why the ticket got upheld," said Stone.

Forson insisted he was not blocking any entrances and said the street was lined with cars with placards on their dashboards.

"If I thought I was blocking something, I wouldn't have done it," said Forson. "There were four cars behind me and three cars in front of me. But when I came out, I was the only car who got a ticket."

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