By Sabina Mollot
Stuyvesant Town garage customers who were given a rent increase earlier this year without any notice can expect to see their money refunded.
The refunds of $60 will be paid in the form of credits to customer accounts in September, following the garages’ parent company, Citizens Icon Holdings, agreeing to pay a $1.2 million settlement. The settlement was announced by the Department of Consumer Affairs last Wednesday.
Council Member Dan Garodnick, who’d alerted the DCA to the increases after becoming concerned they were invalid due to the lack of notice, said he felt it was necessary to go through the enforcement authorities in order to get results from Citizens Icon, which runs Icon and Quik Park garages.
The $1.2 million is to be spread around its customer base in various garages around the city, since, according to Garodnick, “They were doing different sorts of things in different garages.”
For example, customers in other Icon or Quik Park garages had reported seeing an increase for a “New York City Living Wage Assessment Fee.” However, according to the DCA, this was a misleading explanation because the company had raised wages to comply with the New York State minimum wage increase, not in response to New York City law or to actually reach a living wage. The DCA also noted that customers were not warned of the increase in a timely manner.
Along with the settlement, which refunds a total of 22,756 monthly garage customers who were charged a $30 fee in February and January, Icon will also pay a $100,000 fine. In the future, the company will also have to provide adequate notices of increases to their customers as well as the DCA.
“They were acting improperly and got caught,” said Garodnick. “Let this be a lesson for all New York businesses — if you take advantage of your customers, we will fight back.”
Garodnick added that this case demonstrates the importance of customers speaking up when a charge or increase doesn’t feel right.
Council Member Helen Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side, also blasted Icon for the improper charges.
“For a company to misleadingly use a minimum wage increase to disguise an ordinary price hike was a deeply cynical violation of the public trust,” said Rosenthal.
“From the moment constituents alerted me to this issue last December, it was clear things did not add up.”
Late last year, the garage giant also planned to charge Stuyvesant Town garage customers a fee for non-electronic payments. However, that plan was nixed after Stuy Town management got wind of it and asked the company not to implement it.
A call to Quik Park CEO Rafael Llopiz was not returned.