Updated April 23, 2014, 4;00 p.m.
As part of its efforts to improve parking accommodations in downtown, Mayor Pedro Segarra and his administration recently held a kick-off meeting at the Hartford Public Library to get feedback about downtown parking. Stakeholders, including residents, business owners and visitors, were invited to give input.
Here’s our input.
For years, Whitey’s Inc. has been known for its predatory towing tactics. And year after year, the city of Hartford gives this company unconditional support by turning a blind eye to the mountain of complaints to out-of-touch politicians, who have special parking spaces at the downtown library and other compounds.
For years, Whitey’s would target the most vulnerable populations in the city. And the workers seemingly relish doing so because of the company’s contract with the city of Hartford and their support from the Hartford Police Department. The company seemingly has carte blanche access to people’s cars.
Reports of cars that were legally parked and then got towed have been mounting over the years. And Whitey’s still have a contract with the city.
On March 20, 2014, Whitey’s towed a 2013 Silver Subaru Impreza from a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot on Washington Street, across the street from Hartford Hospital after a Hartford Guardian editor went inside to get coffee and sat in there for about two hours before walking across the street to do business. When she returned, the car was gone.
We have done a brief survey, including checking in Avon, where the owner of that Dunkin’ Donut shop lives. And we have yet to find a these parking policies in Avon and other surrounding towns. We understand this kind of behavior if these parking lots were full to capacity by non customers, and other customers had nowhere to park. But no. In this case, the parking lot was half-empty.
But our run in, though costly, is minor in comparison to the horror stories we’ve heard over the years–since the 1990s. And if you live, work or play in Hartford, you’ve been a victim. Or you have friends who were victims of Whitey’s and the company’s tactics. Most of these victims, unfortunately, are black people.
There are also cries of racism when these victims interact with the all-white, working class drivers at—gosh darn it–Whitey’s. They are known to prey on Hartford residents and visitors with its “trespass tow” spiel.
A casual survey of the Better Business Bureau’s site on the number and nature of complaints about Whitey’s and the company’s attitude toward customers who shop in downtown and other parts of the city cannot go unnoticed.
One woman wrote a detailed report of her painful ordeal with Whitey’s. And like many other victims of this particular company, she felt targeted. She writes: “I am writing this complaint because I was treated horribly and possibly discriminated against.”
How many more complaints does the city need to take decisive action? Why is this contract in place for so long to further oppressed already oppressed people? And why are these towing policies by Dunkin’ Donuts only in Hartford?
These and more questions should be addressed soon, Mayor Segarra. The city can find the issues laid out in the mountain of complaints that already exists.
Otherwise, the city’s gesture will only serve as a pretense to assuage the latest victims.
So before the city spends thousands of dollars on marketing campaigns that invite people to shop downtown, it should focus on making sure they can park without worrying about their cars being towed if they cross the street to visit another shop or business.
Who wants to get into a car to drive across the street–just to do business? Think about it.
If city officials really care about people’s concerns about parking downtown or other parts of Hartford, it would seek first to end its relationship with companies such as Whitey’s.