Beware the Parking Trap at Commercial Wharf West

Submitted by David Arnold, North End/Waterfront resident and parking correspondent.

Commercial Wharf West lot without a clear parking sign in sight.

“Commercial Wharf West” is a small street ?100 yards long? behind me that is privately owned, with perpendicular parking on either side paid by North End residents. The annual fee is about $3,000 and the spots are unassigned. Window stickers flag the rate payers. There are maybe 25 spaces total.

The Rub: The “No Parking” signs are tiny. Some are crinkled, others are fading, some are missing or were never put up in the first place. It is easy to be trolling Commercial Street for parking, see a spot on Commercial West, pull in and never see a sign. Maybe six times a day – twice that on a busy tourist night – visitors get suckered into parking illegally.

The Scam: Taking periodic laps through the lot is D.A.R. Towing looking for victims. When I and a few neighbors point out to the tow truck driver that his prey have no idea they are illegal, he tells us there are signs all around and that we should mind our own business. The other evening he dropped a whopper: he makes $100K annually patrolling the lot. Often, the car alarms sound during hookups.

One Tony Orlandello, an elder who apparently lives in Somerville and is seldom around, owns the street and an abutting granite building (the Goose, hair stylist, dentist, apartment renters…). I would love to know Tony’s cut for every tow.

Even a cop who occasionally works this ‘hood acknowledges it is outrageous.

I’m agitated at the moment because a kid just back from Afghanistan – still in uniform – got towed the other night while taking his date to Joe’s American Bar and Grill. I was on a dog walk. He was too embarrassed and felt too stupid to complain. And to whom? Every third word out of the poor fellow’s mouth was “sir.” Real straight-up guy.

My only motivation: this is wrong. LaMattina’s office has been no help. I got one call back with a promise to check City Hall about how prominent “no parking” signs need to be. Then poof! Gone. Bad me for not pursuing.

In contrast, a property owner that strives for clarity with clearly marked signs.

33 Replies to “Beware the Parking Trap at Commercial Wharf West

  1. Yes. The towing there is outrageous. I live in the North End and recently I had a Zipcar to run some errands. On my way home, I decided to stop at the Golden Goose to grab a few things. I checked for no parking and tow zone signs and saw NONE. There was one about 5 spaces down from the store but it looked like it belonged to that business. I assumed the two spots right next to the GG were for customers.

    I was in the store for 14 minutes and in that time got towed. I had NO IDEA the spots were tow zones. I LOOKED. And there was NOTHING to indicate that those spots were tow zone spots. I was convinced the car had been stolen.

    And when I asked the tow company who I could complain to, I was told that the property was privately owned and I would have little recourse for getting my money back. I am still considering small claims court and will never shop at the GG again.

    It's a total scam. A complete and utter scam and it needs to be stopped. The tow lot my car was brought to was in Cambridge and a 10 minute cab ride away. Again, I was in the store for 14 minutes. The tow truck had to have been lurking because there was no way for someone to call the company, have the truck come, get my car, and bring it to the tow lot if this had been all on the up and up.

    If they want those spots to be tow zoned, fine. But EACH spot needs to be clearly and accurately marked. And LaMattina’s office needs to get on this.

  2. That lot has always been posted as private parking and the Golden Goose has never had customer parking in that lot for the 25 yrs I have lived here so why boycott the Goose? They didn't say you could park there did they? And were they the ones who had your car towed?

  3. The signs are pretty bad, mostly worn away. Joyce, maybe it was better 25 years ago. And yes, it sounds like the Goose owner is the same as the lot and i'm sure it's their customers getting towed a lot. no tow truck company should make $100k off of one small lot with inadequate posting.

  4. Bottom line is if people are getting towed while shopping at the Goose because the signage is poor, that's bad for their business. I don't care if it's been that way for 1,000 years. Their stuff is expensive enough let alone top it off by paying a towing fee.

    Keep on LaMattina's office. They have been OK when I've had an issue in the North End. Better, yet, pay his office a visit. That usually works better.

  5. I'm with David, Annette, JohnP and Jimmy on this one. Those spaces are the parking equivalent of "gotcha fine print" in questionable contracts. Visitors and many residents can't see the parking signs, even with a reasonable, pro-active search. The tows border on outright scam.

    I've never been caught in that trap. But, it wasn't because I saw signs… I've just been too suspicious of the street's parking status.

  6. Isn't it marked as a private way? It could probably be more prominent, but given that all parking in the area is 1. residential, 2. restricted somehow, or 3. metered, does it really seem likely these spots are open? I've seen the signs, but I'll have to give them another look on my next time through.

    I do wish the GG wouldn't hog the public spots in front (meant precisely for customers) with their delivery cars, particularly when they could use this lot!

  7. As I read it, Mr. Orlandella owns the building the Goose is in, but not the store itself. If you boycott the Golden Goose you are hurting the wrong people.

    I lived in the North End for 5 years but never owned a car, and even I knew that that street was off limits. The kid just back from Afghanistan– I can understand his aggravation (though it is a bit naive to think of driving to the north end for dinner and parking on the street a block away with no permit for FREE). But anyone who has lived in the neighborhood for more than a month or so must be living under a rock if they are getting duped by this.

    Also, seriously, are that many people DRIVING to the goose? If you live beyond walking distance you have better options, and if you are unable to transport your groceries THEY DELIVER, thats why that Golden Goose van is taking up the precious parking space in front of the store!!!

  8. I agree with Pierce. I don't have a car, but have known that those spaces are private parking even before I moved to the North End. I didn't need to see a "no parking" sign, it was the absence of "resident parking" or "visitor parking" signs that tipped me off.

  9. The point is not that if you're savvy, you should just know not to park there or hunt down small faded signs down on the corner. The point is that if you're going to tow cars, you need to clearly mark what you own. To any reasonably intelligent person, those spaces in the photos look like spaces for the adjacent businesses' visitors.

    Other private lots are well marked. Use them as a model.

    But, a few things I agree with: if you drive to the GG, you're bananas. Just walk or drive to Trader Joe's. I also don't get the boycotting. Boycotting won't work and if it does anything, it will hurt the wrong people (cashiers, etc).

  10. I agree 100% with David. I have lived in the neighborhood for over 10 years and watched as the tow trucks circle through the lot at least every 20 minutes or half hour during prime visitor times. Of course they don't care about posting signs, because it would cut into their rackett. Most people who live in the neighborhood know of this scam and are not effected. It is a trap from those who visit the North End from out of town who leave with a bad experience. Let's try to be good neighbors and see that signs are posted.

    To penalize the Golden Goose is misdirected. I have seen Steve out in front fo the store arguing with the towing companies for taking a patron's car. The Golden Goose may be a little expensive, but it is not easy to compete with national chain stores, it is very convenient, the quality of the Goose has improved dramatically over the past ten years, and it is a tremendous asset to our neighborhood.

  11. I agree 100% that this towing scheme is a joke. They are taking advantage of people and it should be stopped. Post some large, professional-looking and well-lit signs.

    In addition to the towing issue, this street is kept in terrible shape. Terrible potholes, broken glass, trash, etc. I hope the owner tries to act like a 'good neighbor' and repave the street. I don't think it has been paved in 25 years.

    I have never had a problem with LaMattina's office. In fact LaMattina had the city fill in some bad potholes last winter when things got really bad. However, we don't want our tax dollars going to fix a private street where the owner makes significant income from parking. It is a private street in a beautiful part of the North End and I hope the owner addresses some of these problems (or someone forces him to).

  12. There really should be better signage. While it may seem obvious to those of us who live there, there is no clear indication to a visitor that it is a private way, and the shortage of signage is inexcusable. The fact that the tow company is making so much money off that one street is evidence enough that something should be done. For the record, the owner of the Goose is not the owner of that lot – obviously they would not want their customers getting towed.

  13. This issue has bothered me for years as well. It is obviously a profit making scam between the owner of the lot and the DAR towing company. I mentioned the poor signage to the tow truck operator recently and he told me hurriedly while attaching his chain to the latest tow victim that there were 13 signs on the street that clearly specified the parking
    restriction, "Count 'em!" . He could have added, 'and get outta my way!'. However, he neglected to point out that many of the signs are placed well below eye level, obscured behind parked cars or posted in dimly lit areas.
    Even the older ladies who reside at the Christopher Columbus Park apartment know this is predatory territory and warn innocent and out of town drivers who park there unsuspectingly.
    Unfortunately, their gracious civility doesn't fully outweigh the mean-spiritedness of others in the North End.
    I ask, Mr. Orlandello, are you willing to put up visible, obvious, sufficient signage on Commercial Street West so that drivers who park there clearly know they are putting their cars at risk? I, among others, would appreciate that courtesy.

  14. I have been watching this blog from a distance and finally feel obligated to step in with a correction. With all due respect to Margaret (above), there are not 13 No Parking signs on Commercial West. There are eight. I would call only one a serious No Parking sign. The others basically belong on the front porch of an antique store in Vermont – where they might be better seen than here in Boston. .

    But for the sake of the owner, who appears to be taking a few hits here, let's call it eight signs for (I counted 'em) 45 parking spaces, or 5.625 parking spaces per sign. As far as I can tell, anywhere else in the North End, the ratio of parking places to signs posted by serious owners is 1:1.

    Towing is not an issue of enforcement on Commercial West. It's the sequel to entrapment: Predation.

  15. Tony Orlandello has typically been a good neighbor, and likely pictures evil interlopers being towed to deliver $100K to the tow truck driver and who knows what else to which folks. Does anyone know him well enough to call and tell the story of the poor soldier and unsuspecting neighbors with a ZIP car? If Tony hasn't seen this fine article, one could suggest better signage, perhaps underwritten by the Goose to avoid losing customers' cars.

  16. I recently moved out of the Christopher Columbus Plaza (the building to the right of the lot) after living there for the past 2 years. We lived on the 4th floor right above Commercial Warf West and I can speak from experience that D.A.R towing runs a lucrative towing ring. Not only does he wait for unsuspecting victims, but he blocks their cars in so even if they come out and try and move the car he demands money. I have seen MULTIPLE people get in fights with the tow truck driver. He is rude, mean and quite an ass hole. He tows on average 2-10 cars per night with loud alarms. I have also witnessed him damage dozens of cars. I have seen him destroy wheel wells and dent cars into another car. On occasion he even called in a a second tow truck to help him pull cars out who were parked at an angle. On warm summer nights I would often call down to people and tell them not to park there, however only a few took my advise and would look for another spot. Someone needs to stop this from happening. This man is just a jerk who makes money on others just trying to enjoy our neighborhood. Signs need to be better posted. The Golden Goose should help in this effort, as their business is effected by these complaints.

  17. I live directly across the street from this area and have watched as many as a dozen cars get towed in one day. It has bothered me so much that two weeks ago I went out and purchased no parking signs with my own money from Home Depot. I am planning on posting these signs in certain areas in that lot. The problem I am having is finding a way to get them to stay on the wall/building. In most areas it's brick and the wall and doesn't make it easy to have them stay up. Of course with the proper tools it shouldn't be a problem (something the owner should have paid to have done to the lot).

    Sal L. should have paid attention to this. This is only one of the dozens of complaints I have against Sal.

    (edited per comment policy)

  18. Hello i work in the salon on that lot……and the owner of the goose does not own the lot……he has nothing to do with it….and Tony does not live in somerville…..there are signs on both sides of the lot…..although they could be bigger….anyone with common sense should know that free parking anywhere, let alone boston does not exist!…..and i have gone out there on many ocassion to warn people…but usually i get sweorn at..and told off….that i should mind my buisness….so really it is too bad for them….people don't know that this is private street….lot whatever you wanna call it…but there are signs everywhere…

  19. Dear "me" from the Salon. These signs are not well lit. They are not posted at eye level or even close to it. They are old, decaying and not placed close enough to the all the parking areas. I will take photos this weekend and submit them to this website for consideration to post.

    To think the fall back rule should be anyone with common sense should know there is no free parking is not a smart way to look at the problem.

    The Golden Goose – while they don't own the lot – should at a minimum have signs posted in their store to their customers making them aware of the scam. A good business owner would not only do this – but would talk to the lot owner to demand that they fix this scam. People have been turning their heads away from this issue for too long.

    This is a very easy problem to fix – if the owner of the lot wanted to fix it. For a few hundred dollars adequate signs could be posted and this problem would disappear. But then the tow company and owner of the lot would lost over $100,000 annually in tow fees.

    Where is Sal on all this? I thought he was our NE representative. Or does he only care about making people move their cars everymorning for street cleaning.

  20. Here are two solutions, one for the whiners who think they are entitled to park on private property and not get towed: STOP WHINIING , DON'T PARK THERE, DON'T EXPECT THE GOOSE TO WARN YOU, AND STOP THINKING YOU ARE SO DAMN ENTITLED and having your car towed when you park on privated property is a scam.


  21. TO RUkidding?

    No one stated that they feel entitled to the parking spots. The point is the lot does not have the proper signage to make people aware that it is private parking. No one is saying they should be allowed to park in the spots.

    I also live in the area and this scam is been going on too long. It's about time residents near the wharf stood up and fixed this.

  22. I am all about having people towed away for parking violations. But there has to be proper signage so people know that they aren't allowed to park. I feel that the owner of Commercial Wharf West has taken calculated measures to make sure that people are not aware that they aren't allowed to park in that area, and he quickly has them towed away so that he can profit from this. It's no surprise that the towing company is making a ton of money off this, (edited per comment policy), because there is literally a tow truck going through Commercial Wharf West a couple times every hour of the day.

  23. I make signs for a living,and for $150.00 cash I can make 5 metal NO PARKING signs and install them on the building,,on a late Sunday/Monday,,,SURPRISE to the tow company!!

  24. @ signguy: Nobody has the right to post no parking signs on private property EXCEPT the property owner. I wonder what legal action he might take against you. I would bet the tow truck operator would be on the phone ASAP to verify they were placed by the property owner.

  25. First for the author of this article you should some research, there 8 sign posted on the lot, and they are the exact same size as the city signs for street cleaning/parking. I park in the lot and pay to park there and it is not $3000.
    per year in fact it is the best deal on the waterfront, and is not for North End residents, but for occupants of Commercial Wharf West. Also I would like to know how you arrive at $100K in towing? Before you go blabing you should do your research. Futher more why not go to the city hall and take a look at how much taxes is paid on that parking lot. As far as the Goose gos perhaps they should put signs in the store telling people not to park there.

  26. If it is a private way fine, but the signs need to be more prominent so that people know that. The signage is poor and barely visible. Recently parked for less than 10 minutes to run in and out of the Golden Goose on the way home from work. In that span of 10 minutes, the tow truck came out of nowhere (which makes me wonder where he is locared). He was just driving past us, but then parked perpendicular to our car, blocking our ability to back out. For a few seconds we thought he wasn't going to move so we could get out of our space. Whoever described the tow truck driver as a jerk hit it right on the head. We now know better than to park there, but how about the unsuspecting people who don't see the barely noticeable signs?

  27. The tow company has to have made a small FORTUNE towing from this lot over the last few years. Here's an example of the notoriety: food delivery drivers won't leave their cars if you have food delivered there because the towing vultures are so vigilant/opportunistic there.

    Also, even for towing guys, these guys (*edit*) are particularly nasty (*edit*). I had a buddy waiting for roughly 30 seconds to pick me up before the tow truck driver came by and yelled at him to beat it. They constantly cruise through the lot like they own the place.

    Finally, they treat the cars they tow brutally. If you get your car towed from there, don't be surprised if you get it back with a little more "character". I watch them roughly jimmie the windows open like pro car thieves every night (it seriously takes them less than 5 seconds to get in the car). You can hear the scrapes as they pry their tools down into the doors. They fly out of the lot in easily 2 minutes total with a car in tow. These guys have to have a side job in lifting cars.

    Thankfully, they've never got me in this lot b/c I was forewarned a long time ago and didn't have to rely on seeing the invisible signs.

    *modified by editor per comment policy*

  28. Joyce..why do you think I would need CASH and it would be done late night Sunday/Monday?..NO ONE would see me Liquid Nailing them high up on buildings,,and they would be a (*edit*) to remove BUT just think of the lost revenue for the owner and his sidekick tow driver,,even if it was for a day or two!

    *modified by site editor

  29. I could care less about the people that get towed in that space. They deserve it. Anyone who has lived here for any amount of time knows that that place is off limits.

    More often than not the people that get towed are the same ones that cruise the North End looking for any open spot on their weekend night out, and usually end up taking a resident spot in the area. On top of that, those spots are clearly marked as 'resident' and they dont care.

    So you want to skip out on paying the $20 – 25 for a garage parking spot? Fine, I hope DAR is on the job when you do.

  30. "I was only there for 10 minutes." You knew it was illegal to park there but still did? Then I guess you were 10 minutes too long.

  31. "I was only there for 10 minutes." You knew it was illegal to park there but still did? Then I guess you were 10 minutes too long.

    I am not certain if this comment was intended in reply to my original post, since I was the one who mentioned the 10 minute time frame when I stated that in the 10 minutes it took for me to run in and out of the Golden Goose on the way home from work, the tow truck appeared out of thin air.

    However, in the event that Joe's comment was meant in response to my previous post, I would just like to add this. Echoing what some of the previous posters said, the signage is not noticeable. Invisible would be an even better description, much like the tow truck that mysteriously materializes out of midair.

    Now that I know the place is off limits–as the charming tow truck driver who blocked us in as we were attempting to back out of the space made it absolutely clear to us–I would never park there again. We actually deciding if we would need to call the police because he was blocking our ability to back out and would not move. I would have loved to see him try to tow the car with us in it

    Had some legible, visible signage been there that we didn't have to hunt down for, we wouldn't never dreamed of parking there to begin with. It's a private way, you can't park there, I'm fine with that, I think everyone is fine with that. However, I don't think it is asking too much that the owner of the property post signs, that don't require you to either use a magnifying glass to read, or look all over creation for, warning the public of that fact.

  32. "I could care less about the people that get towed in that space. They deserve it. Anyone who has lived here for any amount of time knows that that place is off limits."

    Also wanted to clarify for Joe that I have lived here all my life, as did my mother's family, and I never realized those spaces were off limits until the episode with the tow truck driver. I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person, but lack of signage/poor signage, combined with the fact that most people aren't psychic, would make it hard for even a Harvard professor to know those spaces are off limits.

  33. I wanted to publicly thanks Aaron Michlewitz, our State Representative for fixing the problem. If you have not noticed, brand new signs were posted in the lot in all the key eye sights. The difference is night and day. SIgns were also posted in the Golden Goose warning of the towing scenario.

    Kudos to everyone involved for getting this problem taken care of.

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