2012-10-12 / Top Stories

Rockaway Commons Responds To Towing

By Nicholas Briano

The owner of Rockaway Commons, the shopping center located along Rockaway Beach Boulevard from Beach 84 Street to Beach 90 Street, recently responded to a request by Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder to cease all towing activities in the lot when a customer momentarily leaves the property.

Goldfeder’s letter was in response to a number of constituent complaints that said they shopped in one of the stores in the Commons and then left to go to the post office or another area location, finding their car on the tow hook when they returned.

Towing in the lot, which features such national brands as Key Food, CVS Pharmacy and Rainbow Shops, had stopped for about three weeks after The Wave did a story about the practice in early September. Calls to the owner of the lot, Malachite Group, went unanswered.

They did, however, respond to the letter sent by Goldfeder requesting that the towing come to an end.

In the company’s response, Michael Bode of Malachite Group denied Goldfeder’s request to stop the towing of cars from Rockaway Commons, justifying his denial with some questionable claims.

Bode’s letter, which makes no apologies for the actual predatory towing that is allowed on their property, aims to remind everyone that it’s a “private parking lot” and with that said, they are allowed to tow cars at their discretion.

He goes on to tell Goldfeder, however, that they were “able to learn the background to the current enforcement of the private parking rules.”

While Bode states that “patrons know of the parking rules by the conspicuous signs,” those signs were posted only after The Wave story appeared.

Before that time, there were few signs and many of them were posted near Rockaway Beach Boulevard, away from the stores, and were rusted away.

A second claim that some believe is disingenuous comes in the enforcement area.

According to the letter, the towing only begins after the motorist is seen leaving the lot on foot, when they are usually photographed by the tow truck driver.

Malachite continues to say that the tow truck “waits a reasonable amount of time to see if the offender returns to our lot for shopping at our stores. If, after this time, we clearly see no return, we commence the towing procedure. If the offender returns to the car before it is towed away from the lot, the car is put down and no charge is assessed.”

Motorists have told The Wave, however, and Wave staffers have witnessed towing procedures and have seen that the contention is not true.

Cars have been hooked up shortly after their drivers leave the parking lot and then, when they return to their cars have immediately been charged a drop fee of $68.50 by the tow truck company,

The car does not get dropped from the tow hook until payment is rendered. This is usually when the police are routinely called to mediate the argument that ensues.

The statement from the owner also says, “Approximately 90 percent of offenders have no fee assessed.”

Many of those who have been victimized by the tow, have come across the street to The Wave, however, and not one ever told us that they did not have to pay a fee to get their car released.

Those opposed to what they call “aggressive towing,” say that few cars are ever towed from the lot and that the driver extends the time that it takes to put the car on the hook, hoping that the driver will return and pay a fee to have it dropped, rather than tow the car to the lot and have the driver pick it up there. Those opponents say that getting more than $60 for dropping the hook makes more money than towing one or two cars away from the lot.

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