Section Of University Avenue In Morris Heights Has Drawn Ire Of New Yorkers And Gotten Attention Of City Councilman

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Bronx business is accused of turning a section of sidewalk into its own private driveway.

And the illegal towing that follows is costing innocent drivers hundreds of dollars in fees.

So what’s going on here? CBS2’s Marc Liverman demanded answers Thursday.

There’s an empty space where Leo Lizardo’s car used to be — in a totally legal spot.

“When I came by in the morning, my car wasn’t there,” he said.

Lizardo’s car had been towed, and it came with a hefty price tag of $300. That’s a big price to pay when city signs show he was allowed to park there.

And what happened to Lizardo has happened to others.

“They towed my car,” said one woman, who did not want to give her name. When asked how much it cost her, she said, “almost $400.”

These illegal tows are happening after the property owner cut out a huge section of sidewalk and put in unsanctioned curb cuts. Cars parked on the public street in front of a nearby 7-Eleven/Mobil gas station on University Avenue in the Morris Heights section of the borough are now being taken away by private towing companies.

Drivers say the property owner and the towing companies are working together to make money.

One of the victims Liverman spoke with chose to hide his face.

“Extremely high amount of money. I was just too frustrated all day. I’m scared to even park over here,” the man said.

Now, City Councilman Fernando Cabrera wants it stopped.

“An illegal curb cut was made without a permit and without plans,” said Cabrera, who serves the 14th District in the Bronx.

CBS2 reached out to the property owner, but did not immediately receive a response.

Cabrera said in these cases the business is sometimes slapped with a fine but is not forced to fix it. That’s why he’s proposing new legislation.

“That will force private towing companies to reimburse the car owner for illegal towing,” he said.

Cabrera is also calling for cure dates, so that if part of this curb cut isn’t turned back into a raised sidewalk by a specific date the business can be forced to pay up to $5,000.

The illegal curb cuts and towing aren’t just a money machine — they’re dangerous, too.

“It’s not fair. You have families with children. You have people in wheelchairs coming by,” Cabrera said.

The Department of Buildings said it did get one official complaint last summer. The property owner was slapped with a $500 fine and told to resolve the problem. But a year later, it’s still going on.

The DOB said if a violation is not resolved, the citation fines can increase and even lead to criminal action.