After the towing of hundreds of cars from a University City parking lot sparked outrage from drivers, police confirmed that the towing company was within its legal rights.
Drivers told NBC10 on Monday that they parked at the lot near 36th and Filbert streets, next to the former University City High School, which was closed last year. The cars were towed however by the Lew Blum Towing Company on 40th and Girard Avenue.
Victoria Edwards, a Drexel University student, told NBC10 that about 200 cars in all were towed. Of the 200, only eight of those were released after each driver paid a $205 fine.
“I freaked out because I don’t have $205 to get my car out right now,” Edwards said.
The drivers claimed that their cars were illegally towed. Lew Blum, the owner of Lew Blum Towing, reached out to NBC10 however and disputed those claims. Blum claimed that not only should the vehicles have been towed but that his company also gave the drivers a warning well in advance.
Blum told NBC10 he contacted the School District’s Facilities and Operations Department back on March 26, alerting officials that only drivers who worked at the nearby Samuel Powel Elementary School would be allowed to park in the lot. (*Note* Documents from Blum Towing in the link embedded on the left)
Blum also claimed he sent Philadelphia Police a fax back on March 27, telling them his company would enforce towing, starting on Monday.
“We told them what we were about to do,” Blum said. “We told them that towing would start at 3/31 at 7 a.m. until the property is sold. We told them that we already started to put flyers on vehicles and that it would continue for the rest of the week.”
According to Blum, the warnings were placed all over the lot and were clearly visible for drivers.
“We did that for three days,” Blum said. “The 27th, the 28th and the 29th. We must have done about 150 of those flyers! We went beyond the call of duty to warn people by doing what we did! We notified the police and we also notified the violators that they were gonna get towed! Some of them called us asking if we were gonna start towing. We said yes but that they would be okay during the weekend but that we’d start on Monday. We told a couple of students who were parking there the same thing!”
Blum said the signs were actually there for the past five years, but it wasn’t until Monday when his company started to enforce them again.
“At one point, when Walnut Center was open, we were towing the cars,” Blum said. “Then we got a call from Jeffrey Caldwell, the school district's Senior Vice President of Facilities and Operations, telling us to stop towing cars so we stopped but we left the signs up still.”
Even though cars were not towed at the lot for several years prior to Monday, Blum claimed the drivers still should have known better.
“Ignorance is not an excuse,” Blum said. “The signs were still there. But what gives them the right, no matter whose property it is, to park on that property? It’s not a public street! You know you’re not supposed to do that! You took a chance with what you did!”
The drivers claimed however that Blum had no right to tow their vehicles because Drexel University recently bought the lot, rendering Lew Blum Towing’s contract void. Therefore, according to the drivers, it was illegal for Blum’s company to tow them. Blum denied this however and claimed the Philadelphia School District still owned the property.
“I don’t know where they come off thinking that Drexel bought the property,” Blum said. “But take a ride around Drexel’s Property and see who tows for them. Us! Those people were just taking advantage. They were just parking anywhere they wanted to park on that property and that was illegal.”
On Wednesday, Philadelphia Police confirmed that Blum's company had jurisdiction over the lot and that the cars were towed legally. They also confirmed that Blum's company warned drivers several days in advance.