Florida car dealer Ed Napleton on Tuesday defended his company’s decision to park its new cars at public parking garages in West Palm Beach and at a garage at Florida State University before Hurricane Irma’s arrival.
The part-time Ocean Ridge resident said in an interview that he made arrangements with both CityPlace garage and FSU to pay to park his dealership cars at the properties.
But the social media backlash has been intense, and Napleton said Tuesday he never intended to harm the public, who also wanted to park their cars in garages as Hurricane Irma churned toward the state.
“We would never try to hurt our local constituents,” Napleton said from his offices in Illinois. “We made arrangements well in advance” of the storm.
Indeed, social media has been in an uproar since late last week, when people went to park in the garages and found brand-new Napleton vehicles taking up spots.
On Napleton Hyundai’s Facebook page Tuesday, people posted scathing comments, calling the CityPlace parking job “bad business practice” while others said using the garages for vehicle inventory was “abhorrent, immoral and disgusting.”
Making matters worse: After CityPlace on Wednesday said the public could park at its garages for $10 a day, Mayor Jeri Muoio on Thursday said that CityPlace and West Palm Beach would open their garages to the public for free starting at 5 p.m. Friday.
As it turned out, by 2:30 p.m. Friday all five downtown garages were full and CityPlace’s garages were filling fast.
The CityPlace garages have 3,000 spaces. A CityPlace spokeswoman said Napleton took up 350 spaces but Napleton officials said it was 400. Roger Dean Chevrolet also parked at CityPlace garages, taking up another 200 spots.
Napleton said it was a Weather Channel report early last week that gave him the idea to park some of his inventory in garages, shielded from what seemed to be an unprecedented storm heading straight for the east coast of Florida.
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