City boot program hits south Queens

THE COURIER/Photo by Phil Hertling

The Smart Boot program, which locks up the cars of ticket scofflaws, hit southern Queens last Monday after being launched in Brooklyn six weeks ago.

Paylock, a parking enforcement company, has city authorization to place a yellow wheel lock on the cars of parking/traffic violators with more than $350 in unpaid fines. The no-bid pilot program, selected by the Bloomberg administration, is an attempt by the city to collect owed money more efficiently.

Aside from collecting at a more efficient rate, the Department of Finance (DOF) and other backers of the program believe the new system will benefit motorists.

“Paylock is open 24/7 for calls while tow companies close at nights and on weekends,” said Owen Stone, a DOF spokesperson. “[Paylock] can send someone to go get the boot off and return it for you.”

Violators are forced to pay a $180 boot fee, $70 sheriff’s fee and a five percent surcharge on top of any unpaid fines. However, the DOF believes this average cost is less than the average cost of the current towing system throughout the city.

“The boot charge is a little bit less, there are no taxes or storage fees,” Stone said. “On average it’s cheaper by seven to 10 percent.”

While it could potentially hurt tow companies financially, some towers say the program could be practical for scofflaws.

“It’s actually better for the vehicle owner,” said Kimberly Tanami, who owns Kimberly Towing in Astoria. “It’s much easier for the vehicle owner to release his car where it was booted than driving to the boondocks to some lot.”

The DOF believes the change is necessary for the city.

“Our goal is to collect from scofflaws and people who owe the city money,” he said. “Our goal is to do it as efficiently as possible.”

The wheel lock system will be under constant evaluation as the pilot-program gets ready to spread across Queens.

“[After Queens] it will move on to Staten Island,” Stone said. “And then, hopefully it will go citywide.”

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