However, for some reason, Tarabocchia's application to receive the spot was denied by the township's handicapped parking board physician Dr. Ausberto McKinney, whose office is located in Union City.
"No one understands how another person feels," Tarabocchia said. "In February of 2001, I was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis and spent the next three months in the hospital. Although I have my good days and bad days, I know I'm not going to get better. This is a disabling disease."
What makes Tarabocchia even more upset is that she first went to meet with Dr. McKinney about the situation.
"He first told me that I was qualified," Tarabocchia said. "Then, I get the letter that I was turned down. I have my doctors who don't understand why I should be put through this ordeal."
Five years ago, Tarabocchia wouldn't have had a problem obtaining the spot. Since she has handicapped license plates from the state of New Jersey and her vehicle is registered as a handicapped transporter, all she had to do was present that information to the township to receive the spot.
But the town saw a growing trend of people misusing the handicapped parking privileges.
"Years ago, the handicapped parking situation got so way out of hand that we had to do something," said Township Attorney Herb Klitzner. "We had so many people getting handicapped parking spots that there was no counter balance."
So the township passed an ordinance prohibiting the use of state handicapped license plates as the sole criteria for receiving a handicapped spot on the township's streets.
The new process required people who wanted a handicapped spot to apply to the township's handicapped parking board. Then the application was reviewed by the board's physician, in this case, McKinney, who made a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners as to whether to approve or deny the request.
Since McKinney thought that Tarabocchia's illness was not debilitating enough to receive the spot, her request was denied. After all, Tarabocchia is ambulatory and is able to go to work daily as an office manager for K-Mart Stores.
"For some reason, Dr. McKinney didn't agree with her doctors' assessments," North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco said. "The doctor is the one who has to make the recommendation to us. We are not doctors. That's the format we have to follow. If we don't follow it, we're not following the laws of the town. The doctor evaluates each person who applies and makes the recommendation to us."
Appeal on Wednesday
Wednesday night, at the regularly scheduled Board of Commissioners' meeting, the commissioners adopted the ordinances of two people to receive handicapped parking spots, bringing the township-wide total to 189. Three other applications were scheduled to be heard Dec. 10. A handicapped parking spot was approved for both Town Hall and the parking lot next to police headquarters.
But Tarabocchia's case was not addressed. She appealed to Sacco and the commissioners one last time for help.
"I was hoping that someone would be able to do something for me," Tarabocchia told the Reporter. "I came here with my letters from my doctors and all the necessary documents, hoping that someone would listen. I'm the one that has a wheelchair. I'm the one who lives on a ventilator at times. They don't know how I feel. And I supported Mayor Sacco and all these people all my life. I grew up in North Bergen and raised my children here. Someone should be able to do something for me."
But since Dr. McKinney made the decision, the commissioners' hands were tied.
"It's a very difficult and cumbersome position to be in," Sacco said. "I like Mrs. Tarabocchia. If it were my decision, she would have the spot. But it doesn't work that way. I'm not a doctor. The doctor makes the decision. We have to strictly follow the laws."
Sacco did advise township administrator, Chris Pianese, to call Dr. McKinney to get his take on the situation.
McKinney did not return phone calls by press time for this report. "We have set a high standard to receive a handicapped parking spot," Klitzner said. "This case doesn't meet the standards."
Klitzner was asked if the handicapped parking board has a review process of people who were awarded handicapped spots and perhaps no longer need or deserve them. There are reports of people misusing the current spots, like a family member parking in a handicapped area even though the handicapped person no longer operates a vehicle.
"We've tried to check every one of them every year, to see whether people still live where they live or if there had been any changes in their conditions," Klitzner said.
"It would be helpful if people knew of some people using the handicapped parking spot illegally, then they should tell us," Sacco said. "It's very difficult to determine who needs it and who doesn't. I think we've been fair with the process. We have set a standard and we're living by it."
Tarabocchia said that if she doesn't get help from the township officials in the matter, she plans to launch an attack at a higher level. "I'll go over their heads if I have to," Tarabocchia said. "I'll keep writing letters and making calls. Hopefully, someone will listen."