Jeffrey and Jennifer Tenczar, owners of Greg’s Auto Repair in Northampton, didn’t understand why their lot was filling up on a Saturday morning to the point that it was affecting their business until they called police about getting the vehicles towed and learned people were parking there to participate in the protest against gun violence called the March For Our Lives.
Following their decision to tow more than a dozen of the cars that were parking on their property, they are being accused of towing the cars for political reasons.
“We’re receiving hate messages on our phone,” said Jeffrey Tenczar.
They said they didn’t realize until they called the police that people were using their lot between Riverside Drive and Milton Street to attend the March For Our Lives, a national day of action to protest gun violence, that was meeting at Northampton High School. The Tenczar’s said that both their lot and the triangle lot were so full that a tow truck bringing a car to their shop had to leave it in front of their entry door and that the taxi company that they rent parking space to, GoGreen Cab Co., was unable to access their vehicles.
After speaking to the Northampton Police, Jeffrey Tenczar had the vehicles towed.
“I’m not trying to do anything malicious,” said Jeffrey Tenczar. “It was more than anything because I couldn’t use my lot.” Jennifer Tenczar said that they were just trying to continue to serve their customers and that towing the vehicles was not politically motivated.
Leigh Dunlap, 56, of Florence said that she and many others whose vehicles were towed assumed that towing the vehicles was politically motivated because vehicles park there regularly and haven’t been towed in the past.
“I know that’s what a lot of us assumed,” Dunlap said. “I will admit that my first thought was, I guess he’s not in support of this cause.”
Some are translating those assumptions into negative online comments. Multiple one star reviews of Greg’s Auto Repair have been posted on Google since Saturday that imply that towing the cars was politically motivated.
“I strongly encourage anyone reading this review to take your business elsewhere. Why support a business that so abhors free speech and, apparently, condones the slaughter of school children?” wrote Leslie Hoffman.
“Greg’s is a horrible business that attacks its community members. They had dozens of cars towed from their completely unmarked lot during the March for Our Lives in Northampton on Saturday 3/24. They’ve never had cars towed before, so this was clearly a political move,” wrote Tim Daly.
The Advocate attempted to contact Hoffman through Facebook, but did not hear back. No contact information was available for Daly.
Jeffrey Tenczar said that people parking in the lot has been an ongoing hassle, but that the volume of cars on Saturday prevented him from doing business. He said that he hasn’t needed to put signs up until this point, even though he did have the signs made. Signs were put on the Greg’s Auto Repair building and in the nearby triangle lot they also own on Sunday. Greg’s was closed on Saturday, but Jeffrey Tenczar said that his customers need access to their lots all week long.
“I’m a business and my customers drop off and pick up on the weekends,” Jeffrey Tenczar said. “They get towed in 24/7. I did what I had to to conduct business”
Dunlap and her daughter Noa Miller, 17, also of Florence parked in the triangle lot before the march. Dunlap said that she has parked in the lot before for her daughter’s field hockey games, and that she assumed it was overflow parking for the high school because it was unmarked.
“There were no signs that showed any affiliation (with Greg’s Auto Repair) and they were closed that day anyway,” said Alexandra Pigeon of Amherst, whose car was also towed.
Jeffrey Tenczar said that before having the vehicles towed, he called the Northampton Police Department to ask what he should do.
“They said that it’s 110 percent legal to do this,” he said.
Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper confirmed that a call was made to the dispatch center from Greg’s Auto Repair. While she didn’t hear the conversation, Kasper said that burden of understanding proper signage is on the property owner.
Fourteen vehicles were towed on Saturday to Ernie’s Towing in Northampton. Operations Manager Brett Pietraszkiewicz said that two vehicles were stolen on Saturday when people reclaimed their vehicles without paying the towing fee. There is security footage of the cars being stolen.
Kasper also confirmed that there is an open investigation on the two vehicles that were removed from Ernie’s Towing yard without paying their bill.
“While we were releasing one vehicle and dealing with another customer, someone went into the gated area and drove out,” said Pietraszkiewicz.
According to Dunlap, she was charged $186 to get her daughter’s vehicle back from Ernie’s and was told that her vehicle was towed for trespassing.
“I have never in my life parked in restricted parking,” Dunlap said. “I’m just infuriated. That $186 is obscene. If we had known that we couldn’t park there, we wouldn’t have parked there.”
Jeffrey Tenczar emphasized that they would not have had the vehicles towed if they had not received confirmation from the Northampton Police Department that it was legal.
Dunlap said that several people who had vehicles towed are talking about taking the issue up at small claims court.
Meg Bantle can be reached at email@example.com.