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Brookfield Office Properties Under Fire For Confiscating Bikes

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A Toronto woman who thought her bike was stolen only to discover security guards from a nearby building had confiscated it has launched a social media campaign to warn other cyclists with missing bikes.

Lisa Ferguson, a communications strategist, posted her story Twitter on Wednesday evening.

Ferguson claims her bike "disappeared" from a utility pole on the sidewalk outside the Hudson's Bay Centre at the corner of Yonge and Bloor. When she asked a security guard about scanning through surveillance footage, he informed her the building's parent company, Brookfield Office Properties, demands security staff cut the locks and take the bikes.

"Yeah, I cut some bikes in the last hour and a half," said the employee, according to Ferguson.

"Yeah, we get several angry cyclists in here a day."

Ferguson's original account of the incident has since garnered hundreds of retweets and more than 3,000 Facebook shares.

Despite the Toronto Transit Commission signage on the pole, CBC News reports Brookfield maintains the property is, in fact, private. A representative for the company also told the network they intend to “put up a sign warning cyclists not to park there.”

Kristyn Wong-Tam, city councillor for Toronto-Centre Rosedale, is conducting her own investigation about the legality of the guards' actions. She posted to her Twitter account: "WANTED: Info from folks who had bikes "stolen" from NE corner Yonge & Bloor. What happened, where & when."

A spokesperson for Toronto Police Services told Canada.com the legality complaint would be a "tough" scenario to adjudicate, as they would "need to see where the property lines are."

Brookfield Office Properties is worth $306-million, and is owned by a multi-billion dollar parent company with real estate holdings in Vancouver, Los Angeles and Australia.

In this specific case, The Hudson's Bay Centre handbook states, “the Landlord and Property Management shall not be responsible for any loss or damage to bicycles however caused or incurred.”

Brookfield also has a similar rule in place for one of its properties in Calgary.

The company has since commented on this controversy, and issued this statement to Canada.com.

QUOTE -- “As adjacent property owner, we have the right to remove a bike or otherwise affixed object to property and the TTC pole on the sidewalk outside of our building if it poses a perceived risk to pedestrians. It is our first and foremost responsibility to protect the health and safety of our tenants and all those that visit the building. There have been numerous instances at this location where pedestrians have tripped over or have otherwise been injured by bicycles affixed to the pole.”

Ferguson writes she is "absolutely LIVID" about this event, and the building's policy. She is demanding Brookfield reimburse her with $134, plus tax, to replace her damaged lock.

This isn't the first incident to erupt between the real estate company and cyclists. Global News employee Shauna Rempel parked her bike outside of Toronto's First Canadian Place on Thursday, and tweeted a photo of an impound notice, which read:

"Your bicycle has been found in violation of building policies and therefore has been double locked. Please contact Security at 416-862-6319 or attend the King Street Security Desk."

Past bike removal and lock-cutting incidents also occurred on company property in Perth, Australia in Dec. 2012, and New York City in Sept. 2012.

Ferguson claimed her bike on Wednesday night.

The Huffington Post Canada has reached out to Ferguson for comment, but has yet to hear back.

UPDATE: BlogTO reports the area where Ferguson parked her bike is indeed public property.

Has your bike been "removed" or "stolen" from an area near a Brookfield property? Sound off in the comments below.

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