Tag Archives: boot

City boot program hits south Queens

| Phertling@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Phil Hertling

The Smart Boot program, which locks up the cars of ticket scofflaws, hit southern Queens last Monday after being launched in Brooklyn six weeks ago.

Paylock, a parking enforcement company, has city authorization to place a yellow wheel lock on the cars of parking/traffic violators with more than $350 in unpaid fines. The no-bid pilot program, selected by the Bloomberg administration, is an attempt by the city to collect owed money more efficiently.

Aside from collecting at a more efficient rate, the Department of Finance (DOF) and other backers of the program believe the new system will benefit motorists.

“Paylock is open 24/7 for calls while tow companies close at nights and on weekends,” said Owen Stone, a DOF spokesperson. “[Paylock] can send someone to go get the boot off and return it for you.”

Violators are forced to pay a $180 boot fee, $70 sheriff’s fee and a five percent surcharge on top of any unpaid fines. However, the DOF believes this average cost is less than the average cost of the current towing system throughout the city.

“The boot charge is a little bit less, there are no taxes or storage fees,” Stone said. “On average it’s cheaper by seven to 10 percent.”

While it could potentially hurt tow companies financially, some towers say the program could be practical for scofflaws.

“It’s actually better for the vehicle owner,” said Kimberly Tanami, who owns Kimberly Towing in Astoria. “It’s much easier for the vehicle owner to release his car where it was booted than driving to the boondocks to some lot.”

The DOF believes the change is necessary for the city.

“Our goal is to collect from scofflaws and people who owe the city money,” he said. “Our goal is to do it as efficiently as possible.”

The wheel lock system will be under constant evaluation as the pilot-program gets ready to spread across Queens.

“[After Queens] it will move on to Staten Island,” Stone said. “And then, hopefully it will go citywide.”

City scofflaws to face the boot

| aaltman@queenscourier.com


Motorists with multiple parking tickets might soon find a pesky boot anchored to their car wheel as the city revs up to roll out its wheel lock program.

The initiative, set to begin in north Brooklyn on Monday, June 25 and spread to the outer boroughs over the summer, targets scofflaw vehicles – those with an exorbitant amount of unpaid fines against them. City marshals, currently responsible for towing cars with outstanding tickets totaling over $350 will continue to operate separately from Paylock, the new-program proliferators.

Paylock was selected by the Bloomberg administration for the no-bid pilot program, expected to rake in $70 million for the city. Employees from the New Jersey based business can scan for cars with unpaid fines using automated license-plate-reading software, sweeping blocks in seconds. Once they get a hit, workers strap a lock to the whip’s wheel. Motorists must call the company and fork over their fines via credit card. Paylock then gives the driver a pin number to be entered into the boot’s keypad, releasing the contraption.

The motorist is responsible for paying a $180 boot fee, $70 to the city and a five percent surcharge, as well as all acquired ticket fines. Along with the Paylock-administered fees, the driver must return the boot within 24 hours or otherwise face additional charges of $25 every day until it is brought back to a designated location.

A spokesperson from the Department of Finances (DOF) called the program “a more efficient, more customer friendly method of collecting outstanding parking fines,” mainly because it erases the confusion and worry incited upon discovering your car has been towed.

The spokesperson claimed that a motorist whose car has been towed pays an average of $306 to reclaim their vehicle, not including parking fines incurred prior to towing. With a booting program, the spokesperson alleged, drivers will owe about seven percent less on average in fees to have the boot removed.

As the city gears up to reboot the plan, tow truck companies and their contractors fear they may be flattened by the monopoly of the program’s city-picked proprietor.

John Hughes, an Astoria resident who works for a city Marshall Program, fears the new initiative will leave contractors like him out of a job, estimating that around 200 people will be forced out of work.

“They’ll do business exclusively with one tow-truck company,” said Hughes. “You’ll pay $600 to $1000 more for something that costs nothing except for your tickets.”

Hughes fears the program could cause public safety issues, arguing when more than one car on a street is booted, it could prohibit a fire truck or ambulance from accessing a place or person in need.

He added that western Queens will struggle the most with this, predominantly due to previously present parking problems.

– Additional reporting by Phil Hertling