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Towing scam - by hook or by crook?

Bronx Times

Locals are fuming over alleged overcharging and illegal towing out of a crowded Eastchester Road parking lot.

But the property owner and superintendent say that while the quick hook is harsh, there’s nothing law breaking about it.

Motorists at the busy lot at 2426 Eastchester Road, home to a Rite Aid, laundromat and law office, have been towed so often that the Rite Aid has hung a sign up on its door disowning blame for the hook jobs.

The lot owner hired a private tow company at least four years ago to ensure that only patrons of the businesses there parked in the lot, said the site’s superintendent, Horacio Torres.

Property owner Frank Gabrielli, reached by phone at his home in Long Island, said that the enforcement was necessary to keep spots in the lot open for his customers.

“If you park in my lot, and go across the street to Dunkin Donuts or to get a haircut, you’ll come back in 10 minutes and your car will be gone!” Gabrielli threatened.

To that end, a gray or white tow truck hovers around the lot a couple of hours a day, waiting for unsuspecting parkers to drop their car and then wander to another business down the street, said a manager at the Rite Aid, who declined to give her name.

Some customers who are only gone for a minute or two return to see their vehicles either towed or hung up on the tow truck’s hooks.

None of that is illegal, according to city law, as long as the tow companies charge the proper fee and provide receipts.

Tow trucks are allowed to charge no more than $62.50 if the car owner returns in time to catch the truck before it leaves. The companies can charge no more than $125 to pick up a car within the first three days of its towing.

But locals allege that the All Star Towing Company has been charging over the proper amount by holding the cars on the hooks until they receive the amount they want.

A manager at the lot’s Laundromat, Go Laundry, said that he had witnessed customers pay over $140 and up to $200 to get their cars back, which, if true, would violate the city’s bylaws.

He said he had never heard of anyone receiving a receipt from the All Star Towing Company, which has been licensed since 2012 by the city Department of Consumer Affairs.

All Star has received two complaints from the DCA this year for not allowing motorists to pay with credit cards, but remains a licensed and legal company.

The company did not respond to repeated inquiries for comment.

Torres, the superintendent, said that he has not heard any allegations of overcharging, though he said sometimes the tow trucks do mistake a laundromat user crossing the street for coffee at Dunkin Donuts as an illegal parker.

He urged all of the lot’s customers to carry receipts to prove that were using the lot legally in case of a towing incident.

If a customer believes they have been overcharged, forced to pay in cash or not given a receipt, they can file a complaint online at nyc.gov/consumers, or call 311.

Ben Kochman can be reached via e-mail at BKochman@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394

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