Forget bandits; the New York City government may be taking your legally-parked car off the street without your permission.
Cliff Bruckenstein returned from a funeral this morning and found a tow truck operator hooking up his car – even though it was parked perfectly legally. When he stopped the tow truck operator for an explanation, a City Marshal appeared, and told Bruckenstein they’re under orders to remove cars damaged by Superstorm Sandy.
Bruckenstein’s car did have damage, but it still had plates and a valid registration, and, at Emmons Avenue and Weber Court, was not in an Alternate Side Street Parking spot. Rather than scrap the car, Bruckenstein had planned to save some money and repair it himself, and the tow truck operator unhooked his vehicle.
Bruckenstein is luckier than some others.
“They must have taken 100 cars off Emmons Avenue today. Over 100 cars. There’s a million tow trucks parked in this neighborhood now,” he said. “I want to know how they determine which cars to take. Some cars look very flooded, others aren’t very obvious. From what I heard, it’s the tow truck driver’s determination.”
The process for determining cars to remove remains unclear. As is who ordered the cars removed.
Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo said she received no notice that a major operation to clear the street would kick off this week, but noted that hundreds of cars have been towed to Shore Boulevard in Manhattan Beach since Monday. There, they’re put on a multi-car transport and taken out of the neighborhood.
“I heard not a word about it. As far as I’m concerned, if my car has plates, a valid registration, and is parked legally, who the hell is the city to come and tow my car away? That’s my private property,” Scavo said.
Scavo said a police rep told her that it was a mayoral initiative to get the streets clear so that Alternate Side Parking and meter rules can be restored.
Police at the 61st Precinct said they were unaware of where the orders came from, and were not involved in the operation. However, they say they’ve received several complaints from residents, and are informing them that the cars have been relocated to a Red Hook lot and there is no cost to car owners.
Sheepshead Bites has contacted the Mayor’s Office and is awaiting a response.
UPDATE (3:46 p.m.): We just received the following response via e-mail from a spokesperson for the mayor:
Vehicles damaged during the storm and left on public roadways are being moved to lots where they will not interfere with use of the streets, response operations, street cleaning and debris removal by the Sanitation Department. Owners can call their local police precinct or 1-800-244-5094 to get information about where their vehicle is being stored. A notice -including the lot location and phone number – is left on the car 24 hours before it is moved.
UPDATE (4:00 p.m.): We checked with Bruckenstein, who said that no notice was left on his car.
When we spoke to the mayor’s office a second time, they added that cars are being moved as part of the state’s emergency order for debris removal, but that no city marshals are involved in the removal. In New York City, the contractor is Ashbritt Environmental, a disaster recovery firm, and car removals are being overseen by the Office of Emergency Management and the Sanitation Department. The mayor’s rep noted that the attempted removal of Bruckenstein’s car may have been unrelated, but they’re looking into the matter to investigate any inappropriate actions.