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Parking practices at downtown lots raise complaints to Buffalo Place

WBFO file photo/Mike Desmond

The cost of parking a vehicle at several downtown Buffalo lots, as well as the means by which lot operators enforce payments, has one board member at Buffalo Place accusing the owners of price gouging. The president of a local parking lot business, though, says what they're doing is fair, legal and reflective of market demands.

Parking prices have generated controversy in downtown Buffalo before, at sporting and other special events. This time, complaints were aired following the three-week run of "The Lion King" at Shea's Performing Arts Center.

Rocco Termini, a local developer and board member of Buffalo Place, says many of the complaints were detailed in letters to the Buffalo News, describing stories of placing boots on cars which were found not to be paid for in downtown lots. 

"It's gouging, price gouging to pay 40 dollars for parking," Termini said. 

He aired his own complaints Wednesday, saying that it does not help downtown Buffalo's reputation in the eyes of suburbanites who already have negative perceptions of coming into the city. 

"When you give them this reason, where the parking fees are more than the tickets, it's ridiculous," Termini said. "Most of these people don't know that you can park other places for less money, because they never come downtown. The first lot they come to, they pull in and they want 40 dollars."

Joe Puinno, president of Pay 2 Park, defended the parking rates, telling WBFO they are adjusted just like ticket prices are adjusted to match market demands.

"Every show, for the same seat, isn't the same price," Puinno said. "It depends on the act, if you're going to a matinee or an evening show, if it's a Saturday show, they have different prices for seats. If you want to sit in the center front row, you're going to pay more than the person in the last row balcony. Same thing goes with our parking. Our rates are adjusted, depending on the market."

Puinno told WBFO only about one percent of people who park in their lots fail to pay for the spaces. He also defended the use of boots on the tires, suggesting it's a kinder and less-expensive option than towing the vehicle away. 

It's also perfectly legal. Termini told WBFO the City of Buffalo passed an ordinance several years ago allowing parking lot operators to utilize that method.

But he is seeking to reverse that. He says he has spoken with State Assemblyman Sean Ryan and State Senator Chris Jacobs about developing and passing legislation that would forbid booting or ticketing those who fail to pay for the parking space.

Puinno, meanwhile, says Pay 2 Park's lots provide sufficient signage warning users of the consequences if they do not purchase the time.

"We have a sign that's clear as day," he said. "If you take a look at any of our lots, you'll see the sign. You see it right at the entrance, what happens if you don't pre-pay for parking."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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