Park at your own risk near Long Island Science Center

(Credit: Carrie Miller)
(Credit: Carrie Miller)

Careful where you park downtown.

An estimated 30 cars have been towed in the past few weeks from a private parking lot owned by the Long Island Science Center on West Main Street, angering some downtown merchants.

Kenny Darch, the owner of D&K Recovery — the tow truck company hired by the center — said the cars are being towed from the private lot for a fee of $250 and most are returned within an hour. The Science Center is only open to the public on Saturdays as well as some other times for schools and educational events.

Cars belonging to the wife of Riverhead Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz and a handicapped woman who was attending a Friday night concert at Grangebel Park were among the victims of the towing, according to Ray Pickersgill, the president of the Business Improvement District Management Association.

The issue came to a head at Wednesday’s BIDMA meeting; member Larry Oxman is on the board of directors for the non-profit center.

“So, are we eliminating that tow truck?” Mr. Pickersgill asked Mr. Oxman as soon as he arrived.

“We don’t need this,” he added. “It’s just another bad thing for Riverhead.”

He said customers at the adjacent Chase Bank are also angered by the move after some of their cars were towed.

Mr. Oxman acknowledged that the board of the Science Center hired the tow truck. He said people were using the lot, littering and urinating on the building.

“It was becoming a safety concern,” he said.

The complaints were the first he has heard, he said, and he agreed to discuss it with the Science Center’s board.

BIDMA member John Mantzopolous said the towed cars were being stored on public property in the town-owned parking lot by the river. He and Mr. Pickersgill also said that the police weren’t being notified when a car was towed.

Mr. Pickersgill said he was in that business for 11 years and knows the rules.

Mr. Darch said in an interview that he is not required to notify the police.

“Riverhead police don’t log impounds and they don’t get notified every time a car is towed,” he said.

Mr. Kozakiewicz said in an interview that Mr. Darch is incorrect.

“They do have to notify the police when they tow a car, because what’s the first thing someone does when their car is missing? They call the police.”

The town attorney also said the towing company is required to have signs on the premises with a phone number people can call if their car is towed.

Mr. Darch said he was putting up those signs Wednesday and Thursday.

He said prior to Wednesday, he was subcontracting for a company called Tonka Towing and as of Wednesday, he now has the contract outright.

Mr. Darch said cars are not stored on the town parking lot.

A spotter on the Science Center lot observes whether people go into the center after parking, he said. When a car is towed, the spotter can notify the car owner so the tow truck would often bring the car to the town lot temporarily. The car would be returned to its owner at the lot once the fine is paid, Mr. Darch said.

Now, cars will be brought to a secure facility on Pulaski Street, next to Long Ireland Brewery. Cars will still be returned to the science center lot when the fine is paid, he said.

Now that the subcontractor, who acted as spotter, is gone, Mr. Darch said he still can access security cameras aimed at the lot to see when someone parks illegally.

Mr. Pickersgill said he plans to notify the Internal Revenue Service of the towing company’s actions.

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