Allentown
54° F
Overcast
Overcast

Frustrated Easton Mayor Sal Panto sets aside olive branch

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Apr 23 2013 10:01:14 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 24 2013 04:52:33 AM CDT
EASTON, Pa. -

Olive-branch diplomacy hasn't resolved an ongoing parking lot problem in downtown Easton, so a frustrated Mayor Sal Panto took a few swats at the lot owner's behavior Tuesday night.

"It's embarrassing," Panto said during a city council conference as he updated members on the situation involving the lot along Larry Holmes Drive. "You won't even get your car towed in New York City the way you get your car towed here. … I get calls [from people whose vehicles have been towed] every Monday."

Panto was referring to the strict policy enforced by Riverstar Properties, 101 Larry Holmes Drive, and its owner Robert Haver, of Frenchtown, N.J., that allows only tenants, occupants and visitors to Riverside's five-story office complex to use the parking lot.

Riverstar has diligently towed and impounded unauthorized and illegally parked vehicles, and a vehicle owner has to pay $240 in cash to get it back. If a vehicle is impounded on the weekend, the owner has to wait until Monday to recoup it.

"We've tried to hold out an olive branch," Panto said. "The city even offered to indemnify the owner [against someone being injured on his property] so people can use the lot, but he said no. [The situation] continues to give us a really bad reputation. We're still looking for a solution."

Panto said the city has resorted to posting volunteers at 2nd and Ferry streets from 5 to 9 p.m. on weekend nights to warn out-of-towners and other visitors not to park in the lot.

"We may have to do that continuously," the mayor added. "Last night, there were three tow trucks there waiting."

Panto said Haver has posted signs warning against illegal parking, "but you know how difficult it can be to see signs at night."

In January, former boxing champ Larry Holmes filed a civil suit in Northampton County Court against Riverstar Properties.

Holmes, who has a two-story office building that includes his Champs Corner restaurant at 91 Larry Holmes Drive, has been sparring for years with Riverside over cars being towed from the 159-space lot they have shared since 2005.

In his suit, which is still being litigated, Holmes accuses Riverside and Phil and Penny Ahearn's Towing & Automotive, of Easton, of conspiring to damage his restaurant business by being involved in "a scheme to illegally tow cars."

Haver has not commented publicly about Holmes' suit, but in a Jan. 4 letter to the city of Easton, he said he had "numerous meetings and calls with Larry Holmes, his attorneys and administrative assistant about parking issues," and that Holmes and his attorneys reaffirmed Riverstar's rights to tow illegally parked vehicles.