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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Courtesy towing leaves students distressed and confused

A cone on the curb of Cardinal Avenue with a sign reading “no parking” and “violators will be towed,” Feb. 25. PHOTO: MAX KELLY ’24/THE HAWK

St. Joe’s posted an announcement Feb. 12 notifying students on Hawk Hill that all cars parked on Cardinal Avenue must be moved by 6 a.m. Feb. 13 or they would be courtesy towed due to nearby subsurface blasting for the construction of a new residence hall.

Courtesy towing, when legally parked cars are towed at no cost to another location to clear areas for things like construction and special events, is often utilized in Philadelphia

“Cars without an SJU parking pass will be relocated at no cost to neighboring streets,” read the Feb. 12 university announcement. “Cars with an SJU parking pass will be relocated at no cost to the parking lot behind the Morris Quad Townhouses.”

Construction began in fall 2023 for Sister Thea Bowman Hall, which is slated to be “substantially complete” in spring 2025 and open in fall 2025, according to the university master plan.

The towing announcement came too late for Chloe Palm-Rittle ’26, who had her car towed from Cardinal Avenue Feb. 7. While she was later told by the Office of Student Life that sidewalk signs were set up and flyers were placed on the windshields of parked cars, Palm-Rittle did not receive a warning.

“I’m sure there were signs, just not very visible signs that people paid attention to,” Palm-Rittle said. “And as for the flyers on windshields, I did not receive one prior to my car being towed. I received one Saturday or Friday night, after the towing occurred.”

Kevin Mueller, senior director of construction and planning, said courtesy tows are carried out by public utilities and their contractors for required construction on public streets, who are required to post “no parking” signs beforehand.

“Sometimes this work is related to SJU as in the case of the February 12th announcement, or other times unrelated and unknown to SJU,” Mueller wrote in response to written questions from The Hawk. “While we have a good relationship with the public utility companies, sometimes communication and messaging are lost.” 

Feb. 7 wasn’t Palm-Rittle’s first time being courtesy towed from Cardinal Avenue. When she left Sourin one day last October, her car was nowhere to be seen.

“I didn’t realize it was towed at first. I thought that someone stole my car,” Palm-Rittle said. “I thought I just lost basically a $20,000 commodity that my family needs, that I need, and a commodity that I’m not going to be able to replace.”

Palm-Rittle said she was informed by a construction worker that her car had been towed to an unknown spot in the Wynnefield neighborhood at no cost but with no exact location of her vehicle. 

“It is nearly impossible to track down every car,” Mueller said. “SJU can track down owners of cars with an SJU permit but cannot for owners of cars without an SJU permit.”

Palm-Rittle wasn’t able to look for her car until that night.

“Because I’m a very busy person, it had to be at night, around nine or ten o’clock, when it’s dark out,” Palm-Rittle said. “I’m a woman, and I don’t like to be walking alone at night. It was me wandering around hoping that I could find my car at some point. It was definitely not a pleasant experience.”

With help from friends, Palm-Rittle located her car within a few hours. She later purchased an Apple Air Tag, which helped her easily track down the location of her car when it was towed again Feb. 7. 

Mariana Arnabar ’26, who also had her car towed in October, was similarly distraught when she couldn’t find her car while trying to leave to meet her parents in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, for the day.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it definitely got stolen,’” Arnabar said. “I didn’t know who to tell or what to do. It was just really nerve-racking.”

Arnabar called the Office of Public Safety & Security after searching campus and records from towing companies in Philadelphia, and Public Safety informed her that her car was towed to an unknown location in Wynnefield. She drove around the area with her parents and found her car a few blocks from campus.

Palm-Rittle said she hopes nobody has to go through the experience of being towed without an adequate warning.

“If we are gonna have courtesy towing in the future, I just want people to have plenty of time to prepare for that because I would have gladly moved my car somewhere else if I just would have had a day or two heads-up,” Palm-Rittle said.

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Max Kelly
Max Kelly, Website Manager/Multimedia Editor
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