The tale of the tow

Resident ‘jumping through hoops’ to get reimbursed for wrongful ticket

Finding a parking space in Hoboken is hard enough. But one longtime resident says that after a court determined he was not guilty of improper parking, the city refused to refund the towing charge anyway.
In mid-June, resident Nicholas Walker, 25, parked on Ninth Street between Garden and Park avenues, near the east entrance to the Brandt School. A sign declares: “No Parking School Days 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.” with an arrow pointing to the right. Walker said he parked to the left of the sign, meaning the arrow was not pointing toward his car. But it was towed anyway.
Walker fought the ticket in municipal court.

“I want people to realize there’s a flaw in the system and I don’t want to roll over.” – Nicholas Walker, resident
After the police officer who wrote the ticket failed to show up for the first hearing, Walker, at his second appearance, told the judge he had jumped through enough hoops and wasn’t coming back unless the officer came to court. The officer showed up for the trial after the prosecutor made calls, Walker said. Walker said after a trial he was found not guilty by the judge.
That’s when the situation got complicated… and frustrating.
In Hoboken, both the Police Department and the Parking Utility can order a vehicle to be towed. In Walker’s case, the Police Department called for the tow. However, Hoboken Parking Utility Director Ian Sacs said that tow reimbursements are issued only if a Parking Utility Officer makes a mistake in ordering the tow – but the reimbursement is handled by the police department if they are the ones who called for the tow.
When Walker went to claim his $80 from the Parking Utility, they refused to reimburse him because the police ordered the tow. An employee from the Parking Utility then told Walker he could go to the police, but in a voicemail, said they would “100 percent” not be able to help him.
Then, Walker e-mailed Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
The next day, the director of public safety emailed Walker a response saying he was sorry for all the trouble he went through. However, Walker was told that the only way a tow reimbursement could be issued was if the court said the police officer made an error, and there was no proof of that, according to an e-mail between the public safety director and Walker.
Walker said he’s not one who usually fights the power or “raises a stink.”
“I want people to realize there’s a flaw in the system and I don’t want to roll over,” Walker said. “I knew with absolutely surety that I was right in this situation so I was going to follow it through.”

The, uh, ‘system’

Sacs explained the difference between a reimbursed tow and a discarded ticket.
“If somebody says to the judge something like, ‘My grandma was sick and I’ve never been here before,’ the judge might say ‘Okay, I’ll let you off the hook’ and dismiss the ticket,” Sacs said. “But the city is not going to reimburse the towing costs just because someone’s grandma was sick. The policy is straightforward. The Parking Utility refunds towing fees to individuals when the Parking Utility officer has made an error.”
Walker contends that an error was made in his situation, which is why he then went the mayor’s office to seek assistance.
Walker is not the only person who has dealt with this situation. He obtained documents from City Council meetings showing that a request for a tow reimbursement order has gone as high as a council vote in the past.

Registration required before tow release

Walker also said he had to take several trips from the police station to the tow yard, located on opposite ends of the city.
Something many motorists may not be aware of is that in order for a tow release to be granted, the motorist needs to provide a hard copy of the vehicle registration document to the police. Often, motorists keep that document in their car, meaning they have to go from the police station near First and Hudson streets all the way across town to Mile Square Towing, located at 1520 Jefferson St., to retrieve the documents, and then return to the police station. Then, after the police grant the release, they must go back to the tow yard to retrieve their vehicle.
Sacs said that the Parking Utility is working to change this requirement.
“We’re in the process of implementing a system which allows our staff to look up the registration information without requiring motorists to retrieve their registration from cars in the tow yard,” he said.

Seeking new tow operators

The city is also changing the way towing is done in Hoboken.
The City Council recently approved a measure to allow the city to have more than one towing operator. Up to now, Mile Square Towing has been handling tows exclusively. Sacs said that the new system, which will be implemented next year, will use more than one tow operator.
The city’s previous request for proposals for operators stipulated that a tow yard must be located within Hoboken’s city limits. However, since there is only one tow yard in Hoboken, the request ended up becoming an exclusive bid for one company. Sacs said the city was threatened with legal action from other bidders. Starting in 2012, motorists may have to leave town to anywhere within a five-mile radius to retrieve their vehicles.
Sacs said the new arrangement will allow for many towing vendors to come into the city, and said 95 percent of municipalities in the state use multiple towers, instead of conferring all towing rights to one exclusive company.


Night enforcement to increase in Hoboken

Hey, Hoboken residents – tell your friends that if they park on the street without a permit late at night, their car may get a yellow boot or a tow.
In response to resident requests for improved parking enforcement during evening and late night hours, the Hoboken Parking Utility (HPU) will begin a third shift to extend into the early hours of the morning, beginning in October, according to a city release.
The Parking Utility has traditionally enforced parking regulations Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and the new shift will increase evening enforcement through 2 a.m., including on Friday and Saturday nights, according to a release.
The city sees an influx in visitors on Friday and Saturday nights as patrons visit Hoboken’s bar scene.
“We regularly hear from residents who feel that illegal parking goes unchecked in the late hours, especially on Friday and Saturday nights,” said Transportation and Parking Director Ian Sacs, in a press release. “This additional shift will focus on addressing those concerns.”
Parking regulations are enforced by both the HPU and the Hoboken Police Department. The new extended schedule allows the HPU to relieve the Hoboken Police Department of assuming the responsibility of parking enforcement during hours when enforcement by HPU was previously not scheduled, according to the city release.
Ray Smith may be reached at

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