Residents Surprised by Bloomfield’s Towing Policy

By Brenda Flanagan

“I wouldn’t roll the dice with it,” said Mike Cuculo.

Residents say it’s pretty clear: signs in Bloomfield warn, “No parking when road is snow covered” or the tow trucks will get you. Plows need room during snow emergencies. But, when is it a snow emergency? Early this Monday, turns out.

“I think they definitely need a better system because if people don’t know, they don’t have an equal opportunity to move their vehicle and find a safe spot. And then you get up, you want to go to work or something and shovel yourself out and there’s no car,” said Cuculo.

Cuculo didn’t get towed this time, but about 85 hapless Bloomfield residents got up to find no car on Monday. Instead, they paid $180 to get their vehicles out of hock at E.C.R.B. — the town’s franchise tow company, which didn’t want to discuss the situation.

But the mayor explained residents need to keep things in perspective.

“You know, we don’t look to tow any cars, but in order for our DPW and our plows to do a proper job, you know sometimes cars have to be towed. I mean, we’re a town of 50,000 people. So I mean we’re not a small town. Eighty-five cars isn’t that many,” Mayor Michael Venezia said.

The mayor said a snow emergency can be triggered by a three-inch snowfall — enough to call out the plows. But before they call the plows, they call the tow trucks. And before they call the tow trucks, they’re supposed to call the residents.

“We do everything possible to try to notify that resident about being on the street. Whether it’s social media, we do a reverse 9-1-1 phone call and even our police knock on many doors to notify the residents that they need to be off the street,” Venezia said.

The mayor says residents can sign up for reverse 9-1-1 calls on Bloomfield’s website. But one motorists’ advocate questions whether individual towns wield that much emergency authority.

“That’s not an official statewide state of emergency. They shouldn’t be removing cars off the street, towing them to any location, unless there’s a state of emergency declared by the governor,” said Parkingticket.com CEO Glen Bolofsky.

He means when Gov. Chris Christie orders roads closed, lest cars get stuck and drifted-in on state highways.

Meanwhile, Bloomfield’s reviewing its list of 100 snow emergency routes. And residents do have the right to challenge their ticket in court because $180 is a lot of snow tow dough.

“You know you have to pay for that. It’s a lot of time and effort and inconvenience,” Cuculo said.