Drivers Booted at Coconut Grove Charity Race Are Still Waiting for Refunds
Randy Katz is a stand-up guy. An emergency room doc at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, he recently raised $35,000 for a buddy, Jeff Fogel, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — Lou Gehrig's disease. The money helped Fogel buy a high-tech wheelchair to deal with the malady that is stealing his ability to move even a finger.
This past May 10, Katz woke up before dawn with his sons, 10-year-old Jaden and 9-year-old Gabe, to run in the ALS Recovery Fund 5K/10K race in Coconut Grove. Though Katz contributed $200 to participate — all to help ALS victims — he was running a little late for the 7:30 a.m. start. So after cops directed him to a lot on the corner of Mary Street and Tigertail Avenue, the trio jumped out of the car and hoofed it down to the race start on South Bayshore Drive.
"There was no attendant, and I knew I might get a ticket," he says. "But I never expected what came next."
After jogging five kilometers in the steamy subtropical heat, Katz and sons returned to find a bright-yellow boot locked onto a front wheel. Indeed, 27 cars in the lot had been immobilized. All of the drivers had run or walked the race. Most had contributed hundreds of dollars. All had been confused by signs that were at best unclear — and all had to pay $89 to get their wheels back.
"It was a way to make money off people who were doing right," Katz says. "There was no warning or sign. It was entrapment."
After Premier Booting Services collected more than $2,300 from those in the lot, I wrote a blog post chastising those responsible. There was a Coconut Grove Bank sign at one entrance, and the real estate is owned by two of Miami's biggest developers -- the Terra Group and the Related Group. "Shame on you" was the post's first line.
Soon, a bank president, those in charge of the lot, the booting company, and dozens of runners would work themselves into a lather. Paradise Parking, the concessionaire, would promise to return the money paid by the parkers and to suspend booting in the lot. And both Paradise and Terra would vow to contribute to ALS research.
But a week after the event, the president of the booting company knew nothing of a suspension. Neither Paradise nor Terra had come up with an amount to give. And two of the three people I'd interviewed that morning in the Grove had yet to receive a refund or an apology.
"This is wrong," said Alexandra Castilla, a young woman who was booted after walking several miles. "It's evil."