Montclair Police Department prevents $500,000.00 loss in revenue for local merchants with aggressive ticket and tow campaign during the January 4th snowstorm.
Editors note: Two years ago The Montclair Dispatch covered a similar storm on January 26, 2016, regarding Essex County’s failure to clear the snow in the parking lanes during that storm. You can read that article here.
The Montclair Police Department’s [ MPD ] aggressive and proactive ticket and towing of cars parked on Bloomfield Avenue during the declared snow emergency prevented the collective loss of $500,000.00 from the local merchants who were able to resume business as usual on Friday January 5th.
Montclair merchants on Bloomfield Avenue breathed a collective sigh of relief when they opened up their shops on Friday morning, the day after the big January 4, 2018 storm. The all important parking lane on both Eastbound and Westbound sides of Bloomfield Ave were clear and free of snow.
Typically that all important parking lane is packed with snow left there by the Essex County Plows because illegally parked cars prevent them from plowing curb-to-curb as they are required to do. Once the storm has passed the county will not return to clear the parking lane, that now becomes the responsibility of the Township of Montclair who has steadfastly refused to do so in the majority of the past several years.
In past years the MPD has declined to take a proactive and aggressive stance on the illegally parked cars throughout Montclair because the owners of the cars which are ticketed and towed vent their anger at the Township Manager and elected officials. While the merchants who tend not to be local voters are left to cope with the lack of on street parking for weeks or months in the past few years. The loss of on-street parking costs the local merchants collectively $500,000 per week as estimated by Scott Kennedy, CEO of Studio042 on Bloomfield Avenue.
Kennedy for several years has taken a proactive stance in browbeating the county, the MPD and the elected officials on the snow/parking problems. The elected and appointed officials have a vested interest in not upsetting the voters, who are all too eager and vocal. The officials are inclined to dissuade the MPD from aggressively ticketing and towing the illegally parked cars from the roadways during a snow emergency. The annual boiler plate excuse the MPD has offered up during past snow storms is that the road is a county road therefore the Essex County Sheriff’s Department is responsible for the removal of cars from the county road and the plowing of the county roadway. The county has conversely said they can not plow the parking lanes unless the MPD tickets and tows the cars from the road.
This storm was no different, at 10:38 AM on January 4th, MPD Deputy Chief Young said if the county needs the help of the MPD to help remove the cars from the county roadway, the county must request it. Just minutes later , Kevin Lynch, the Public Information Officer for Essex County called saying if the MPD needs the county’s help with the ticketing and towing they must request the assistance. Lynch added the county only has 150 plows and 450 miles of roadway to plow. When adding in the parking lanes in the business districts that number rises to 11,000 lane miles to plow.
Kennedy pressed the issue with the MPD and shortly thereafter the MPD stepped up and began proactively targeting the parked cars that were prohibiting the county plows from clearing the roadway from curb-to-curb. Deputy Chief Young stated that their kinder, gentler approach required considerably more effort on the part of his department. Considerable effort was expended by his officers knocking on doors and using their loud speakers and sirens to alert the owners of the cars to move their cars from the roadway. They were, for the most part, very successful. As a last resort the MPD had to issue 42 summonses which resulted in 36 cars being towed. Each summons is for $54.00 and will collectively net the Township $2,268, far less than the cost of the enforcement. Through the efforts of the MPD, the merchants enjoyed a productive Friday and weekend into the next week because the parking lanes were clear.
New Jersey does not allow towing companies to troll the streets for parked cars during a declared snow emergency. Each car towed must first be issued a summons by the Montclair Police Department and only then can the MPD dispatcher call for the vehicle to be towed.
Mike at Roach’s Towing in Montclair says they towed and impounded 36 vehicles.
Roach’s Towing is contracted annually by the township. A typical emergency snow tow and impound will cost the errant vehicle owner $220.00 plus $30.00 per day for the impounding of the car. A minimum of $250.00 per car. On Thursday January 4, 2018 Roach’s towing netted $9,000.00. Additional fees of $30.00 per day accumulated while some cars languished for as long as 5 days after this January 4th storm. Roach’s Towing is still sitting on cars from the fall of 2016 winter storms, the state of NJ will issue Roach’s Towing clean titles to the cars that are now considered abandoned.
Roach’s Towing has an on-site lot capacity for 50 cars and nearly an unlimited capacity at satellite sites in and around Montclair, plenty of room if the MPD decides to expand its proactive stance to the other business districts in Montclair during future snow emergencies.
The discrepancy between the Montclair Police Department’s report that they removed 42 cars is due to the owners of the un-towed cars who were able to move them prior to being towed and impounded, saving themselves the $250.00 in initial tow and impound fees.
Julio Valentin, owner of the Greenleaf Compassion Center on Bloomfield Avenue says the MPD did a phenomenal job of keeping the parking lanes clear so the county plows could clear the roadway from curb-to-curb. Like Kennedy, Valentin was able to keep his business open during the storm. Valentin’s patients, many of whom require the aid of walkers or assistance getting in and out of his shop to fill their prescriptions were able to get in because the MPD and the county were able to keep the handicap spaces in front of his location open and clear of snow throughout the storm.
The MPD even went so far as to move the car of one of the merchants who themselves require assistance in getting to and from their own car. This is just one example of the kinder, gentler approach the MPD and Deputy Chief Young deploy in executing their required enforcement.
A big thank you to the MPD and the county for keeping the parking lanes clear on Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair, thereby saving Montclair merchants from the estimated loss of over $500,000.00. Also, to the elected and appointed officials who will no doubt be hearing from the 42 voters who earned their summons and impound fees, please let them know their collective $11,268 in out of pocket cash pales in comparison to the potential loss to the merchants had their cars prevented the plows from doing their jobs.