Few developments have caused as much dismay, indignation and resentment in Riverdale recently as the events unfolding around what is supposed to be a mundane task of going grocery shopping after taking out some cash from the bank and perhaps grabbing a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant.
For many weeks now, Riverdalians who have been shopping at the Skyview shopping center and who have made the mistake of leaving their cars in the mall’s parking lot and venturing across the street have have seen their cars hauled away by a towing company called Riverdale Towing Associates.
The parking lot carries signs warning drivers that it is reserved for customers of the shops adjacent to the parking lot – not the businesses across the street. The rule is not new, but had rarely been enforced, until recently. The company that runs the shopping center and its parking lot, Braun Management, has brought in Riverdale Towing Associates to enforce the rule – with a vengeance, according to many local residents’ accounts.
The ones who have been hit the hardest by Braun Management’s and Riverdale Towing Associates’ crackdown are ordinary people – whose only offense against the shopping center’s operator is that they briefly left their cars in its parking lot, often for no other reason than to stop by the bank and get cash, before proceding to shop at the Skyview center.
Also hit by the crackdown are the small-business owners who rent space at the Skyview shopping center: Many have told The Press they have been losing customers, who are concerned about the rampant towing. To get their cars back, drivers typically have to pay about $130, and often more, according to some accounts.
The one party that clearly derives profits from the arrangement is Riverdale Towing Associates. Estimates provided to The Press by local residents and small-business owners indicate that several cars, and possibly as many as dozens, are towed away daily. At about $130 a pop, this means hundreds or thousands of dollars in revenue, often in cash, every day.
The more cars get towed, the more money the towing company makes, and that is a powerful incentive for the company to haul away as many cars as it can, as often as it can and as quickly as it can.
Things were bound to get ugly. They did so quickly. At least on one occasion, Riverdale Towing Associates tried to haul away a car while a woman and two small children were inside, according to a local resident’s account to The Press. (See the article about towing on page A1).
Towing companies are rarely gracious in their operations, and Riverdale Towing Associates may not be the worst of the lot – although, according to accounts by local small-business owners and their customers, it may come close.
But the shopping center’s management company should not commission, condone and encourage the ugly practices of towing companies. Doing so during the holiday season seems like a particularly offensive slap in the face for local residents and small businesses.