A Florida-based tow company the city hired to haul off Sandy-busted vehicles in Southern Brooklyn is a villain on wheels, charge angry Sheepshead Bay residents who claim the company is lugging away lawfully parked cars.
AshBritt Environmental is only authorized to remove damaged cars that are blocking public roads, but neighbors say its workers are belligerent, uncooperative, and are repeatedly breaking the rules.
“The tow truck driver was a tough guy, he said, ‘I’m taking the car no matter what,’ and told me that the feds were going to arrest me if I didn’t let him take the car,” said Cliff Brukenstein, a marine mechanic who caught a towman trying to remove his slightly damaged, but legally parked, Toyota Camry on Emmons Avenue near Nostrand Avenue — a spot he has used for more than 20 years because it doesn’t have alternate-side parking.
Brukenstein said the trucker became agitated when he tried to look at the load ticket on his rig, but backed down when some unexpected back-up came along.
“He was ready to turn to violence, but two guys that I work with showed up,” Brukenstein said, adding that when he called the cops they weren’t aware of any city-backed tow operation being underway.
“Then they called the precinct, and they said it had been authorized by the mayor,” said the mechanic, whose plight was first reported in the blog Sheepsheadbites.
Community Board 15 District Manager Theresa Scavo says she was also kept in the dark by City Hall, which is paying for the tow removal with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“The community board was not notified this was happening,” she said. Scavo stated she had seen several other legitimately parked cars being trawled in the past few days.
“On Shore Boulevard you’ve got one, two, three cars being towed right now,” she said.
Yet the Federal Emergency Management Agency said AshBritt workers were above reproach and had the final say-so on which vehicles to tow.
“The truck driver makes the decision,” said spokesman Christopher Miller. “This is a company that is well established, they worked in Katrina and Texas, they have a good reputation.”
Scavo said it posed a conflict of interest if the tow drivers were in charge of determining which vehicles to take.
“Are they getting paid by the car, or is it a flat rate?” she said. “If I owned the tow truck company I would want to tow as many cars as possible.”
Miller wouldn’t confirm if the drivers were being paid a flat fee or a per-vehicle rate.
Anyone who believes their car has been towed can call AshBritt Environmental at (800) 244-5094.Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cn