New York

I-Team: Privileged Parking Permit Holders at Local Airports Furious Over Port Authority's ‘Extortion' That Forces Them to Charge More

Owners of the privilege permits have said the Port Authority has not lived up to their end of the deal, and let unauthorized lots offer thrive by offering drastically lower prices

What to Know

  • In 2013, offsite airport parking lot owners were told they need to pay for the privilege of transporting passengers to the 3 NYC airports
  • The Port Authority's fee started at $200 per parking space per year. For a handful of owners, it has amounted to over $2,000,000 already.
  • But owners said the Port Authority has given them no privilege, and let unauthorized lots offer thrive with drastically lower prices

A group of offsite airport parking lot owners are banding together to fight the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey accusing them of unfair business practices.

“I think this was extortion,” said Jim Sparro, an offsite airport parking lot owner. “Bill Baroni said either you’re going to sign or you’re out of business.”

In 2013, Sparro and his business partner, former New York Jet Greg Buttle, say Baroni, who was then deputy executive director of the Port Authority, told them they would need to pay for the privilege of transporting passengers to the three airports. In return, they would receive a “privilege permit.”

“If you don’t sign,” Sparro recalls him saying, “You’re going to be subject to criminal trespass.”

The fee started at $200 per parking space per year. For a handful of owners, that has amounted to more than $2,000,000 already.

And owners have to pay high premiums for insurance and be licensed with the department of consumer affairs.

In the contract, the Port Authority promised designated drop off areas and that their businesses would be listed at airport Welcome Centers. But the owners say this didn’t happen. And then there was an influx of other operators —dozens of offsite parking lots offering parking at drastically lower prices.

The I-team found one of these businesses, which is run out of a takeout joint in Queens. Cars were left on the sidewalk, one of them half on the sidewalk, and workers couldn’t tell us where the cars would be parked.

One family with children had just dropped off their car that day. They were going away for the week and paying only seven dollars a day.

This parking lot and dozens of other ones do not pay for privilege permits. For many years, the owners have sent letters and pictures to the Port Authority asking them to enforce their own laws. What happened next surprised even the owners.

“In the end the Port Authority tells us,” said Sparro. “We can’t do anything about these illegal lots. I almost died.”

In an email sent June 2018, the Port Authority told the parking lot owners that the “Queens DA’s office determined that the criminal trespass statute really does not apply to non-compliant operators.”

“That’s when we knew it was a shell game,” said Buttle. “Nothing for us and we were just paying a fee to the Port Authority.”

Some of the owners are now suing the agency. They want to end their contracts and to get a sum of money back. Because of this lawsuit, the Port Authority declined to comment for this story, citing pending litigation.

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