Residents with cars in Hoboken may catch a break when the City Council considers an ordinance on Oct. 21 which could help prevent towing in some situations and reduce the cost.
The council unanimously voted to introduce the measure on Oct. 7, which would require the city to call residents parked on city streets before they are towed unless in emergency situations.
According to Councilman Michael DeFusco, who sponsored the ordinance, this courtesy call would mean that resident could get to their cars before they’re towed, saving them from costly fees.
“Prior to initiating a tow, the Hoboken Police Department and/or the Hoboken Parking Utility … shall use reasonable efforts to obtain the telephone number for said resident based upon records available to either agency and shall call the owner of the vehicle or resident (if a guest) prior to initiating the tow,” states the introductory ordinance.
“The initiating agency may within their discretion based upon the urgency of the situation, attempt to contact the resident through other available contact information if no telephone number is available or if no response is received.”
The HPD and HPU would need to keep records of attempts to contact the resident, which the resident could request.
DeFusco said that the call would be made before the city contacted the tow company to remove the vehicle but noted that it was a courtesy call. Time would not be allowed to get to the vehicle if, for instance, owners are at work in Manhattan. If they were nearby, they could run out and move their vehicles.
The ordinance would reduce the decoupling fee from $75 to $20.
The ordinance initially eliminated the decoupling fee altogether, but the city’s corporation counsel indicated that its removal could lead to litigation.
The chair of the council’s Parking and Transportation Subcommittee and Council President Jen Giattino decreased the fee.
“We feel a $20 decoupling fee covers the cost of the tow operator getting to the site,” DeFusco said.
The ordinance would require tow companies contracted by the city to accept credit or debit cards. Currently, some are cash only.
The ordinance came about after resident William Miller contacted DeFusco regarding his recent experience having his vehicle towed.
‘You cannot read signs’
According to Miller, his car was parked on Second Street between Madison and Monroe streets when he headed to his car to drive to work, and he saw his car being hitched to a tow truck.
He asked the police officer at the scene and the tow truck operator if he could have his car back. The police officer said no, because he’d parked in a school zone.
Miller argued that his car was not in a school zone. The pair went back and forth until, Miller said, “he angrily said ‘obviously you can not read signs.'”
The officer agreed to let him have his car, but he had to first pay a $125 fee to get it back from the flatbed tow truck.
”In my opinion, the officer escalated the situation instead of deescalating it, and in what he thought was an act of kindness, he ordered the tow truck driver to release my car as long as I paid a $125 flatbed tow truck fee,” Miller said.
Miller agreed to pay the fee because he had to get to work, only to discover they wouldn’t accept his debit card.
He had to then run to a bodega, after he was already an hour late, to get cash.
“Instead of just releasing my car so I could go into work on time and not be late – with pending layoffs,- they fleeced me for $125 in cash, and it took over an hour to resolve the situation,” he said.
Miller said he was in support of the ordinance DeFusco put forth particularly as it would apply to non-emergency situations.
Resident Alex Garcia said the ordinance would help residents, noting that in the past sometimes he gets a courtesy call, and he has time to run out and move there car for which he is “grateful.”
“I’ve seen people run to their cars … but the tow truck operator just says ‘sorry it’s on the bed, too bad,’ so this will really help residents a lot,” Garcia said.
The council is scheduled to meet on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.
Meetings can be streamed live at https://www.facebook.com/Hoboken/
For instructions on how to join the meeting, go to http://hobokennj.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=1932
For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.