When it comes to selecting its prey, Citi Bike does not discriminate. Its all-consuming appetite has engorged Fort Greene, where residents blame the racks for sullying the beauty of their historic neighborhood, and inhaled Lower Manhattan, where newly installed stations have displaced longtime street vendors. But none of this could have prepared us for what we learned today: Citi Bike eats cars.
The trouble started for Chelsea resident Max Dowaliby on Wednesday afternoon, when he left his car on Bank Street, just west of Hudson Street in the West Village. When he returned on Thursday morning, his car had vanished, replaced by a row of Citi Bike stations standing innocently where his ride used to be. Remnants of "No Parking" signs were visible on poles across the street, he said, but Dowaliby insists that no such signs were visible where his car once sat.
Thinking the car had simply been relocated, Dowaliby called both the NYPD impound lot and the 6th Precinct, neither of whom had any information about the car. He tried again, and still...no luck. In an email, he explains: "My girlfriend was walking and saw another Citi Bike share install going on in the West Village, and asked where they were towing cars. They said to call Metropolitan Tow company, and that the cars were likely in Brooklyn… BROOKLYN." (Is that even in New York?) His saga continues:
A quick Google of Metropolitan Tow company reveals the NYC DCA investigating this company for "fraudulent and illegal activity." I called Metropolitan Tow Company to confirm they had my car, they did, and said it would cost $190 + 30 dollars for each day the car was there. I asked why the car was towed, they said it was parked illegally, I responded it was not, the man on the phone got angry and defensive said there were paper signs. Again, I said there were not, and that I was there this morning and confirmed (and photographed) that there were no signs. He yelled at me again, and said he’s not going to argue with me, the car was there, and that they were open till 5 p.m. for releases.
Seeking answers, Dowaliby returned to the scene of the missing car, where he encountered a 6th Precinct police officer, who was also perplexed by why his car had been towed. The officer called Metropolitan Tow herself, and was apparently told that the 6th Precinct had, in fact, written the tickets. Dowaliby writes:
Back to the 6th Precinct I went. Shortly before I got there, the boss from Metropolitan towing called my cell phone back (which the officer had used to call him from the tow truck), and demanded to speak with the cop, when I said I was no longer with her, he yelled ‘clearly they just don’t know what’s going on’ and hung up."
After much back and forth, Dowaliby finally decided to call Citi Bike:
They stated the signs were placed 48 hours in advance (I disagree), and that the signs were left up after towing’s, (photographic evidence they were not). He said that they have been instructed to handle these installs in this way. And to call Metropolitan towing to tow the vehicles (not relocate). Why they were going to a private company and not NYPD? I don’t know, why they were taken to Brooklyn? I don’t know.
According to a DOT spokesperson, signs were posted at all locations first 72 hours in advance, and re-posted again 24 hours in advance. The spokesperson also said that crews are on site a few hours before towing begins.
In the end, Dowaliby did schlep to Brooklyn to get his car back, but it cost him $220 in cash—the only way Metropolitan Towing accepts payment. In other interesting news, Dowaliby said he was also told by the 6th Precinct that more than 30 cars were towed for Citi Bike installations that night alone.
Has you car been eaten by Citi Bike stations? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I parked my car on Sullivan Street on Monday afternoon. Joe and I live in the West Village for the last 10 years and I move my car around those blocks. On Wednesday night I went to move my car...and it was missing. THERE IS NO WAY THERE WAS A SIGN THERE. I am extremely careful when parking...and have always been.
I called the precinct in the West Village, and they said I was like the 30th person to call about it. I called Metropolitan and they said that I could only pay in cash to pick it up. On top of the cash...I still have to pay $65 in a parking ticket. This is total extortion.