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Mayor OKs Council plan to raise lid on towing fees

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Current New York City law permits city marshals and deputy sheriffs to tow the cars of drivers who owe more than $230 in parking fines for more than 90 days. The proposed legislation would raise the threshold to $350 for a 65 percent increase."Parking fines have gone up in the past couple of years and the $230 amount now equals slightly over two tickets, but there's no reason to tow people if they have only two violations," said Jordan Barowitz, a spokesman for the mayor. Barowitz said Bloomberg would back the City Council move to lift the lid on parking fines.City marshals each year collect millions of dollars by towing vehicles that belong to parking scofflaws. An analysis by The New York Post showed that 54 percent of the more than 130,000 vehicles towed last year belonged to owners who owed less than $350 in parking fines. Under the terms of the proposal, these cars would be ineligible for towing.It is unclear what long-term effects the higher threshold might have on city marshals. Though marshals would be more limited in the number of cars they could tow, the legislation might enable them to gain a monopoly on the city's towing operations. City marshals currently share towing duties with deputy sheriffs, but recently the two towing companies contracted by sheriffs threatened non-renewal if the bill passes. Joanna Perlman, a spokeswoman for the Department of Finance, explained that the legislation would diminish the amount of tow-eligible cars in the city.Without towing contracts, deputy sheriffs would be limited to placing notification stickers on the windshields of vehicles as drivers get closer to the amount of unpaid fines it takes to become tow-eligibile. Some suggest the increased flagging could make it easier for city marshals to spot and remove vehicles belonging to scofflaws, enabling them to collect more profits. The bill was first proposed by Councilman Erik Martin Dilan (D-Brooklyn) two years ago and until recently remained in the Council's Transportation Committee. It was a response to Bloomberg's initiative to raise parking violation fines without also raising the threshold on the amount of unpaid fines that warrant towing. "When the city was, unfortunately, going through fiscally harder times, the mayor and the Council almost doubled parking fines and if you are going to do that, you also need to raise the amount of unpaid fines it takes for a city marshal to tow your car," Dilan said. "It just makes sense." The Council was expected to vote on the measure this week. If passed, Bloomberg's spokesman said he would sign the bill into law after the standard waiting period of seven days.

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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