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Parents Warned Not to Park at Plaza to Drop Off School Kids

Attorney for Whiteman Plaza calls leaving cars in parking lot a “continuing problem” and warns of a “systematic plan” to tow illegally parked vehicles.

The Fort Lee Public School District recently posted a letter on its website warning parents that they risk being towed if they park at Whiteman Park Plaza when picking up or dropping off their kids at Fort Lee School No. 1.

The letter, which is addressed to the school’s principal, comes from a Fort Lee law firm that represents the plaza, notifying the school, which in turn is urged to notify parents, that they can’t park at Whiteman Plaza if they’re transporting their children to or from school and leaving their vehicles in the parking lot.

“My client has asked me to send this letter to your attention in an effort to address the continuing problem with parents parking and leaving their vehicles in the Shopping Center to either pick up or deliver children to the school,” writes attorney Saverio V. Cereste.

The letter, which is dated Nov. 21, warns that, “a systematic plan to have [illegally parked] vehicles towed” from the shopping center would begin within seven days.

The school is located just around both corners—Hoym Street on one side and Whiteman Street at the other end of the parking lot—from the shopping center on Lemoine Avenue.

Art Elmers December 04, 2012 at 11:08 AM
Boycott Whitman Park Plaza!!!! So let me get this right. The owners want to tow cars of parents who pull in for a few minutes in able to drop their children off at school one. The same parents who stop at the seven-eleven or starbuck's for coffee when they return to their cars. Talk about killing the golden goose. I feel that all parents of School One children should not patronize any stores at the Whitman Park Plaza. I know personally that my family spends a lot of money there and I am outraged at this punitive action. We are only talking about a few minutes in the morning and late afternoon. What about all the cars that sit there for hours on end (perhaps commuters)? Last week my wife picked up my daughter at the end of a half school day and had lunch with some of her friends at Boston Market. Pizza Nova is usually picked to supply pizza for school events. I love these stores but I will no longer use them and intend to let them know exactly why. Why couldn't the owner work with the parent's to come to some sort of solution? I would be happy to pay for a yearly sticker, even though I spend plenty of money at the Plaza, to allow me to drop off my children. Saverio V. Cereste should advise his client that he is being very short sighted. Boycott Whitman Park Plaza!!!
BJ December 04, 2012 at 12:28 PM
With all due respect sir, it is not a "few" minutes by any means. And this is certainly not a problem limited to School 1. School 4 is even worse. Parents arrive 10-15 mins early and stand outside kibitzing with each other. By the time the child comes out - gathers it's things and returns to the vehicle, 30 minutes have elapsed. I highly suggest you visit all the schools see just how severe this problem is. They've no consideration for anyone. They inundate Fairway Markets parking lot - should we boycott them as well? These people are trying to run businesses - rents are exorbitant - customers that actually want to run in and out of these stores are unable to because of their selfishness. When we went to school, we walked! No one drove us anywhere! If thenparents refuse to exert the least bit of exercise how can you expect the children to follow. The next excuse of course will be they're in a rush.
Art Elmers December 04, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Boycott Whitman Park Plaza!!! BJ, a child is not an "it". I agree that the schools are grossly overcrowded. School One now has over 650 students which has greatly increased the traffic on these otherwise residential streets. As to why these children don't walk. Have you not read about the recent rash of predators trying to lure children into cars? Things are not the same as years ago. I think it would have been better to work with the community to solve this problem. Remember that these are the same people that patronize these stores. If the owner chooses to heavy handedly tow cars then I don't have to buy from his tenants.
Rona December 04, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Sure let's add more density to the town with the new towers going up by the bridge, and the duplexes that effectively double the population per lot that are being built. Until this stops issues like the above article will become more the norm making Fort Lee more uninviting to live in.
Howard L. Pearl December 04, 2012 at 01:50 PM
To BJ: Those same parents stop at 7-11 to pick up milk or drop by Starbucks to buy coffee. The school drop-off actually creates trade. Saverio V. Cereste, Esq. is just doing his job; working for a brain-dead client who wouldn’t know good PR if he tripped over it. This is the same owner who fails to properly remove snow from Whiteman Plaza areas during the winter, endangering parents and children. This is the same owner who does not properly prune branches from tree and shrubs on the Hoyt St. sidewalk, undoubtedly violating laws. I’m surprised the owner doesn’t just hire a mercenary with an uzi to guard his parking lot. This is a two-way street. If the owner, who desperately needs a personality transplant, is reported for every violation to the building department, he might not be so inclined to tow away cars.
Fort Lee Truth December 04, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Art, you are a class act with a great heart who really does care about the community and the kids, however on this point I disagree with you. I understand your point that you are one of the folks who frequent many of the stores in that mall area. Having said that, at the time you are there to pick up your child, you are not one of their customers. Anyone who has gone there in the afternoon to buy a pizza or a cup of coffee in the afternoon can tell you that it's extremely difficult to get a parking spot there. If someone is driving there to buy something at Boston Market, why should they have to park blocks away because parents are using it as an extension of School #1? As far as poor public relations? Wrong. Poor public relations would have been to tow the cars without any warning (even though they have the legal right to do so). They've warned the school and the onus is on the parents not to use the Plaza as a parking lot for school purposes. Rona's comments are correct. There was not enough of an outcry against Sokolich's monstrosity by the bridge. We need more kids in the town like we need another hole in our head. Instead of us being upset that the Plaza is rightfully protecting spots for their paying customers, we should be addressing the REAL reasons why there are so many kids in all of these schools.....which the residents in this town have failed to do.
Zachary David December 04, 2012 at 03:42 PM
There are good arguments on both sides, but I'll have to vote for the businesses on this one. If the lots were not overcrowded, the owner of the Plaza would not have to resort to this (nor would Fairway or the Gulf/Dunkin Donuts when School 4 has an event). If you are a valid customer, you shouldn't worry because you won't get towed. It's hard to argue though, that because you occasionally (or even regularly) buy something from a store there, that you should feel free to take up a parking space every day, when you are not shopping, and inconvenience someone who is there only to patronize the stores at that time.
William Mays December 04, 2012 at 11:38 PM
I was somehow able to drop off my kids without parking at Whiteman Plaza, even though I parked there afterwards to get Starbucks before I drove to work.
William Mays December 04, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Actually, you know what, I'm changing my mind. I still recall the time I almost got towed from the Borders Plaza after I parked there and went off the lot for two minutes before going into Borders. Those assholes charged me $80 for a "towing fee", for pretty much chaining my car up. Which I later found out was completely illegal. If the towing company doing the towing work in Whiteman Plaza is ABC Towing, I wouldn't be surprised, they've already gotten investigated for predatory towing at the Borders Plaza.
William Mays December 04, 2012 at 11:43 PM
I think the owner might not be acting alone here. I'm pretty sure that the towing company has some sort of arrangement with the owner. Chances are that the parents are going to come back and see their car getting towed, and the towing company will extort money out of them so they won't tow their car.
William Mays December 04, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Zach, I can see your point, but as Art said, a lot of parents later go into Starbucks and get a coffee or go to some other store. Towing people's cars will not get them any business. I almost got towed from Border's one time, and I still hesitate before going to that plaza. Its bad PR.
Zachary David December 05, 2012 at 08:35 PM
I agree it is tricky when someone accomplishes both - picking up a child from school and buying something. Maybe the stores could hand out some kind of disposable pass good for a half hour or an hour that could be put in the car window to notify the tow trucks that this is a valid customer. Of course, that means a return trip back to the car to put the notice in, but it seems like a reasonable compromise.
Fort Lee Citizen December 16, 2012 at 05:18 PM
This is ridiculous! I for one am never shopping at any of the stores in Whiteman Plaza anymore! I cannot believe that in the light of what happened in CT this week, the greedy owners, the towing company, and yes! their lawyers would rather put children at risk over a few minutes of inconvenience. So what if their parking lots get crowded? So what if a few of their clients find it a little difficult to find parking in the morning or mid-afternoon? Don't they realize that by not letting parents park in their lot for a few lousy minutes, the parents will have to keep circling around the block or double-park on nearby streets waiting for their children to come out? How would you feel if, God forbid, one child gets hurt by a car while coming out of school? A tragedy that could have been prevented if that car was safely parked in the lot? Nothing... NOTHING!!... should take a higher priority than the safety of our children!! I assume that many of you have children of your own! Please! think with your brains and hearts! Not with your pockets! We have to stop this cycle of animosity, selfishness, and callousness.

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