New York, NY – Mayor Bloomberg Gets His Way on Towing Scofflaws Cars

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    New York, NY – New York will retain the power to tow parking scofflaws’ cars after Albany officials negotiated an amendment to a bill that could have put in jeopardy the city’s towing program.

    News of the amendment—which must be approved by the state Senate and introduced in the Assembly—came just hours after Mayor Michael Bloomberg blasted the idea.

    “I can’t imagine a worse bill,” he said at a Monday news conference on heating oil. “This is a bill that will kill people for a start.”

    He continued: “If nobody follows the parking restrictions because they know their car’s not going to get towed away, they’ll start parking in front of fire hydrants, firefighters can’t get the water they need. They’ll be parking in intersections. The seniors who have trouble walking around them won’t be able to get across the street at the intersection, will have to go mid block.”

    Sponsored by state Sen. Eric T. Schneiderman, a Manhattan Democrat who is making a bid for state attorney general, the proposal added motor vehicles of a certain value to property exempt from judgments and bankruptcy and increased the value of other exempt valuables, such as houses and jewelry.

    The goal was to protect individuals facing a financial crisis from losing their last valuables to creditors. But the bill also would have prevented creditors such as municipalities from seizing cars worth $4,000 or less after outstanding loans.

    New York City tows the cars of individuals who have more than $350 in parking tickets.

    According to a letter protesting the bill sent to Gov. David Paterson last week, the city tows 120,000 vehicles a year, collecting about $50 million. The average sale price of the vehicles sold at auction in the past six months is less than $1,000, the letter said.

    The chapter amendment introduced in the Senate on Monday would exempt city and state agencies that are creditors.

    Mr. Schneiderman’s legislative director, Justin Berhaupt, said the effect on the city’s towing program was an unintended consequence. “Once we learned that the city had issues with it, we worked with them immediately to modify it so that its intent remains the same, while any unintended consequences are averted,” he said. “We are glad we achieved a win-win solution that works for all parties.”

    Mr. Bloomberg seemed perplexed at the morning news conference, alluding to Mr. Schneiderman’s ambitions for statewide office.

    “The only possible rationale for it is a campaign thing and it’s a disgrace,” he said.

    Mr. Bloomberg is supporting Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan, a Republican, in his candidacy for state attorney general.

    Four hours later, the fury had dissipated.

    Micah Lasher, Mr. Bloomberg’s director of state legislative affairs, issued a joint statement with Mr. Berhaupt.

    “We are pleased to report that we have reached agreement on a chapter amendment to the legislation that ensures the City’s successful scofflaw towing program will remain intact,” the statement said.


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