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Ryan proposes legislation targeting predatory parking practices in private lots

One of the goals of the City of Buffalo's recently revised parking guidelines has been clearly stated: Get more people to park in downtown's private lots.

However, Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan, D-Buffalo, says that when people pull in to many of those private parking lots, they're often not getting treated fairly.

Ryan was joined by Assemblywoman Monica P. Wallace, D-Lancaster Thursday in the Theater District as he announced legislation designed to "prevent the predatory practices currently taking place in private lots across New York State," he said.

Ryan said his proposed legislation would:

• Require all private parking facilities to prominently display a notice identifying the actual price for parking, not just the minimum and maximum price range required under current law.

• Make it illegal for lot owners to tow vehicles in unattended lots

• Make it illegal to use an immobilizing boot on vehicles parked in private lots.

Ryan pointed to signs in "Pay2Park" lots across from each other on Pearl Street as one aspect of private lots that can be misleading. Signs read “From $5 to $75” with smaller print allowing for higher prices “during special events.”

"I believe those signs are designed to confuse the consumer," Ryan said. "Often when you are parking, you’re running out of time, so you think 'OK, I’m going to choose this lot to get where I need to go.' Only then to find out that the cost is nothing like what you thought it was. And there's no one around to ask any questions to, that’s for sure.

"It's a classic bait and switch. It’s not a welcoming way to be greeted in the City of Buffalo."

A person who answered the phone at Pay2Park said he was not authorized to comment on the matter. A spokesman could not be reached.

Ryan also decried how private lot owners can tow vehicles, or immobilize them via boots, at great cost to consumers.

"People park in lots that aren’t clearly marked, and then come back only to find their car has either been towed, or booted," Ryan said. "Get this: The cost to get the boot off your car in the City of Buffalo, is $150 in cash. If that’s not an extortionate predatory practice, I don’t know what is."

Wallace, whose district includes Cheektowaga, Lancaster, Depew and Sloan, said she supported the bill on behalf of suburban residents who work or spend time in Buffalo.

"We know that good parking lot owners will not have a problem with this," Wallace said. "We’re just looking to stop the abusive practices by those owners who are taking advantage of people who just want to enjoy everything that the City of Buffalo has to offer."

Wallace railed against private lot owners' practice of keeping cars from owners – or keeping them immobilized via a boot – until a cash payment is made.

"When my kids were in daycare, there were times I would be stuck at work or I would get there after they closed, and they would stay there later and I’d owe them additional money for having stayed," Wallace said. "They didn’t hold my children hostage until I paid for that fee.

"They billed me for it, the way any other business operates. I don’t know why we’re letting parking people have special privileges that no other business has."

Ryan said the bill, which is similar to one he submitted during last year's session which did not advance beyond the committee stage, will be submitted soon.

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