Sen. Fuschillo Announces New Law Protecting New Yorkers From Predatory Towing

Charles J. Fuschillo Jr.

October 22, 2008

Photo caption: Senator Fuschillo discusses how the new state law he authored will protect New Yorkers from Predatory Towing. He is joined by Oyster Bay Town Clerk Steve Labriola (second right), Massapequa resident Melissa Maltese (left) who was a victim of predatory towing, and Bruce Goldblatt (right), owner of Bill's Towing, who supports the new law.

State Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, Oyster Bay Town Clerk Steve Labriola, victims of predatory towing and a tow truck operator today announced a new state law to protect New York drivers from predatory towing practices such as  hiding ‘no parking’ signs and paying “kick-backs” to parking lot owners to tow cars from their lots.  The new law, sponsored by Senator Fuschillo and Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, went into effect on October 19th.

Senator Fuschillo (8th District), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Consumer Protection, said, “Far too often, people have returned to a parking lot to find their car missing, only to discover that it was towed because they parked in an area without obviously visible tow warning signs.  This new law will help end these predatory practices and require parking lot owners and tow companies to be up-front and honest about their policies.”

Assemblyman Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) said “In my own district, I have personally seen people have their cars unjustly held hostage by predatory towers with little choice other than to pay cash on the spot or have their car taken away, without any apparent justification or recourse. I am pleased that our Long Island delegation worked together in a bipartisan fashion to enact these new consumer protections and improve our quality of life.”  

Town Clerk Labriola stated, “These modern day parking lot pirates plunder the vehicles of unsuspecting motorists.  This law supports legitimate towing operators by enabling law enforcement to effectively combat this corrupt behavior.  No longer will kickbacks or fee splitting between lot owners and towing companies act as an incentive.  These are common sense measures protecting consumers and go a long way in reforming this industry and protecting the public. I am pleased that we could work together to curb this practice of predatory towing.”

Predatory towing has been a problem for many New York State motorists. Some tow companies have lured drivers to forbidden parking areas that do not have adequate ‘no parking’ signs.  Others have used spotters equipped with binoculars and walkie-talkies to summon tow trucks at a moment’s notice.  Some tow companies have also paid kick-backs to parking lot owners who give them exclusive rights to tow cars from their lots.  

The new law (S. 2360-D, chapter 328) requires private lots to conspicuously post signs stating that unauthorized vehicles will be towed at the owner’s expense. The signs must identify the tower who removed the vehicle and the address where it can be reclaimed. Under the prior law, parking lots were only required to have signs stating the name and address of the property owner and the name of the towing company authorized to tow from the lot. There was no requirement that signs had to be conspicuously posted and the signs did not have warn people that unauthorized vehicles will be towed at owner’s expense or include contact information where people could reclaim their cars.

In addition, private lot owners are now prohibited from accepting “kick-backs” or sharing in any proceeds earned by towing companies that tow from their lot.  Local governments are also allowed to enact their own stricter laws to combat predatory towing.  

Under the new law, the State Attorney General is also given the power to stop businesses from performing such practices and seek civil damages under the new law and courts may impose a civil penalty of between $50 and $1,000 for each violation.   

In March 2006, Massapequa resident Melissa Maltese's car was towed within minutes of parking it at an unattended Hicksville commuter lot.  To get her car back, she had to pay $150 in cash.

Ms. Maltese said, “I was shocked when I returned to the parking lot and my car was gone.  I had to walk halfway across the lot before I saw a ‘no parking’ sign.  This new law will help protect New York drivers from these unfair practices.”

Bruce Goldblatt, owner of Bill’s Towing, which does not engage in predatory towing practices, said, “I’ve seen other tow companies engage in all kinds of aggressive practices including overcharging, no receipts, poor signage as well as parking lot owners who take kick-backs from tow operators.  These predatory practices give our industry a bad name.  This new law will help curb these tactics.”