April 18, 2013

City of Ithaca Sees Uptick in Towing Following Street Cleaning

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Citing a lack of advance notice and insufficient signage, Cornell students whose cars were towed this week expressed anger and frustration with the city and its street cleaning policies.

City officials said the uptick in cars being towed was a result of a delay in spring street cleaning, which typically occurs during Spring Break, when students are away from campus.

The Department of Public Works posts the schedules of the street cleanings online, sends out notifications to Cornell and Ithaca College and uses local radio stations and newspapers to notify Ithaca residents before the cleaning to notify residents, according to City Clerk Julie Holcomb.

“We do as much as we can to get the information out to people,” Holcomb said. “In addition, we post signage on the impacted streets 24 hours in advance of the work as required by the City Code if vehicles are going to be towed.”

However, students whose cars were towed — leaving them with a  $135 towing fee, as well as a $30 ticket — say they did not experience a fair warning before this spring’s street cleaning. Rowan Bateman ’14 said he has had his car towed twice during the cleaning.

“They put up the signs at 8 p.m. and they expect the car to be gone by 8 a.m., which seems ridiculous to me,” Bateman said. “Even if you were a 9 [a.m.] to 5 [p.m.] working person and got home at 6 p.m. and parked, then the car is gone when you are about to go to your car at 8:30 to go to work.”

Adam Berggren, manager at Charlie’s Towing and Repairing — a service used by the Department of Public Works for towing — said that Charlie’s has seen an increase in the number of cars towed in the Collegetown because of street cleaning this year.

Berggren said Charlie’s has towed around 40 to 50 cars per day from the area during the cleaning this week.

Holcomb confirmed that there has been an increase in cars towed this year, and attributed the increase to street cleaning that usually occurs during Spring Break being delayed.

“Originally, the Collegetown area was scheduled for street cleaning when the students were on Spring Break as there is a lower volume of vehicles parked on the streets,” she said. “However, this year, it snowed on those dates, which postponed the cleaning of those streets to this week, when there was a higher volume of cars on the street.”

Holcomb said that Deparment of Public Works is unsure as to why the signage was ineffective this year.

“We don’t want to tow cars as towing cars slows down operations, it is hugely inconvenient and there is huge cost for owners associated with it,” she said. “At this time, we are not sure why the signage seemed to be ineffective and so many cars were towed.”

Tyler Helmann ’13 said that students use their cars less frequently than other residents and thus need a longer period of notice.

“If anything, there is an issue with not getting enough notice as students park for a longer term than other people might,” he said. “It was probably the lack of me noticing that there were signs. You also don’t see signs after your car is towed.”

Ethan Keller ’15 also said that the warning period to avoid towing is too short.

“Even if they did give us warning, that does not seem particularly ample, especially if you are on vacation somewhere for two days or something,” he said. “It seems like a week long warning would be more fair, especially because of the towing.”

Original Author: Manu Rathore