Parking sign next to Canalside Ice Rinks on Pearl/Commercial (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

Towing and "Predatory Booting" Practices in City Questioned

" At the end of the day, the residents don't understand it"

July 16, 2019 - 5:54 pm

BUFFALO (WBEN - Brendan Keany) - A Buffalo Common Council meeting became rather testy on Tuesday afternoon, as council members are concerned about predatory booting practices in the city.

Council members claim they have received numerous complaints from residents including high costs of removing the boot, a lack of receipts and an assortment of other issues - especially from one company known as Lightning Towing.

"This council did not go out of its way to look for Lightning Towing, let me be clear..." said Council President Darius Pridgen. "If I had other company that I received complaints on, I promise you that I would have brought them here, but this is the company we receive the complaints on."

Although Lightning Towing was the company brought before the Common Council to answer questions, the term "predatory booting practices" is not strictly applied to them, but rather the industry in general, as politicians and residents are often confused on the specific regulations.

One woman testified at the meeting saying that she asked for a receipt from Lightning Towing after getting booted, even though she possesses a permit to park in that private lot, which means she has no way of proving that she even paid for their services in the first place, so she can't even receive a reimbursement.

Corey Auerbach represented Lightning Towing responded by saying his clients always provide receipts.

"As part of the parking solutions when people illegally park there, they are susceptible to have their vehicle immobilized as part of a parking solution program," said Auerbach. "Lightning Towing provides receipts, not only upon request, even if someone doesn't request them."

And that's when Pridgen became visibly frustrated.

"Because the counselor might not understand, and I want to remind the counselor, that he is speaking before a government body and that what he says is on the record and presumed that he is telling the truth," began Pridgen. "I would suggest maybe that he might want to talk to his clients because, at the end of the day, I've had more people come to me to say that they could not get a receipt from your client, sir. From your client. You're not out there on the street, and with all due respect, you're not there. But the people who have called me have said the same thing, and for you to suggest that it did not happen would be to suggest that she's lying. Unfortunately, sir, I don't believe she's lying."

However, Auerbach doubled-down on his statement, confirming that it is the practice of Lightning Towing to provide receipts, and he even addressed a concern he has about the entire process.

"People have private parking lots in the City of Buffalo; they're not commercial parking lots, they are not regulated licensed pay parking lots, they are private property," began Auerbach. "They are places like apartment complexes, places like grocery stores, places like businesses...and places like residential senior housing facilities. Sometimes, people break the law, and they park where they're not supposed to despite very clear signage prescribed by city ordinance identifying those areas as private property. People ignore that and park in these private facilities, and that has a negative impact in a number of ways.

"What I'm not hearing is people coming and saying they did something illegal because it's not illegal what Lightning Towing is doing," Auerbach continued. "There have been representations in the media by members of this body that have said what Lightning Towing is doing is illegal...that is not a fact."

Regardless, Pridgen is determined to make towing laws more clear so that all parties involved have a better understanding of the statutes.

"If I can finally get to the end of what all this is about, Corporation Counsel has drafted a law that will be before this council by the time...we come back together - that way I don't take any more of this council's time, that way the counselor isn't being paid by the hour to represent his client,, and there will rules in the City of Buffalo that probably should have been there for years," said Pridgen. "There should be rules in place, and this council needs to do that as quickly as possible because whether the law is gray, blue, green or white, at the end of the day, the residents don't understand it, and I don't believe that the towing industry understands it."

Listen to the entire Common Council meeting below:

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