Court: Locals can tow cars parked on private road behind houses

Victory: The Block Association for 78th and 79th streets received a court order it asked for, allowing it to tow any vehicles that park along the private road behind the homes — which block the owners’ cars, as well as emergency vehicles, trying to enter or leave.
Brooklyn Daily
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They’ve got a license to tow!

A group Canarsie homeowners has secured a court order authorizing them to call in tow companies to haul away cars that illegally park on the narrow, private roadway that runs behind their houses, where scofflaws routinely block their rear driveways and can even deny access to emergency vehicles.

“They’re not supposed to be parking there,” said Charles Wasserman, the lawyer representing the homeowners. “God forbid an ambulance has to get in.”

The private road runs behind houses on E. 78th and E. 79th streets between Flatlands Avenue and Paerdegat First Street. It’s a tight pathway, owned by the individual homeowners rather than the city, and the homes’ driveways are located there. Parking on the road rather than in the driveways can easily block the way for wider vehicles and sometimes prevent homeowners from being able to turn out of their driveways.

The 78–79 Street Block Association, which represents the homeowners forbids parking on the private street, but outsiders and even some residents often ignore the rule, which is why the association went to court to get permission to tow.

“It’s absolutely unfair and not right to all the other homeowners,” said Wasserman. “It’s a problem of neighbors not being neighborly.”

The association asked the Kings County Supreme Court for an injunction against cars parking along the road in March, being represented by the law firm Novick, Edelstein, Lubell, Reisman, Wasserman & Leventhal, P.C. On May 10, a justice ordered that cars, including those belonging to residents, cannot park there and thus blo ck the “right-of-way easement.” Members of the association are now authorized to call a private towing company to remove any delinquent cars parked there, according to court documents.

Because the road is private, it is not the city’s responsibility to arrange for towing, but rather that of the homeowners, but they wanted a court document stating their rights to have illegally parked cars towed at the owners’ expense because some of the towing companies have refused in the past.

The attorney said there was confusion over who can park where on the road, which is not owned by any single owner, but is rather a shared road all the homeowners have equal rights to. So if a car is illegally parked across the narrow road from one homeowner’s driveway, thus preventing a car from pulling out, that homeowner would be calling the tow truck to remove the car from an area all homeowners are able to use.

“They didn’t want problems with homeowners,” Wasserman said of the tow companies.

But one Canarsie tow company owner said it was the tricky nature of getting the big trucks in and out of the narrow street that’s the main cause of the reluctance.

“They’re called community drives. It’s very difficult to go down there and maneuver,” said Tom Palmer of Tom and Artie Auto Collision and Repairs. “Tow trucks can get trapped.”

The 78/79 Street Block Association is now reaching out to tow companies to inform them of the court ruling.

There are several other such streets in the Canarsie area between Flatlands Avenue and Canarsie Park.

“It’s a prevalent issue,” said Wasserman.

Reach reporter Adam Lucente at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_Lucente.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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