NYPD Raid Nets Bikes and Bystanders

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This entry on the Village Voice Blog by Laura Conaway tells the story of an NYPD raid on parked bicycles last Wednesday night. When two residents questioned the officer in charge, they were arrested:

Sparks from the NYPD’s circular saws arced through the night. Police, some in plainclothes, were piling cycles by the dozen in a heap on the sidewalk. At first Robert Carnevale took still pictures, then he switched the digital camera into video mode. He approached the plainclothes lieutenant who seemed to be in charge and asked for his name. Carnevale says the officer gave his name, but got annoyed when asked to spell it. "You got my name," the officer says on the video. "I did you a favor. . . . Now I’m going to lock you up."

And he did, sending Carnavale to the pokey for 22 hours on a charge of disorderly conduct. The cop also rang up Carole Vale, a nurse who happened by and asked for an explanation. Vale spent 13 hours in a cell, on the same count. In addition to the two arrests, the NYPD collared about 15 bikes. Officers, some in plainclothes, loaded bikes into unmarked black vans. "Why is domestic spying being used on non-polluting transportation?" asked Time’s Up director Bill DiPaola at a press conference today.

City code does prohibit locking a bike to anything other than a city-approved rack, but there’s some dispute over whether that applies solely to abandoned bikes. The rusted carcasses of old cruisers, often picked cleaned of valuable parts, litter street signs and bike racks around the five boroughs.

Transportation Alternatives reports that the East Village police precinct, the 9th, started trying to identify and tag abandoned bikes in 2005. Cyclists generally see getting rid of useless junkers as a positive, since it leaves more room for bikes in daily use. Not surprisingly, they take less kindly to having their bikes cut loose and removed with no advance notice or information afterward about how to get them back.

Civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel, representing the East 6th Street riders at the press conference today, said the raid might have been prompted by a complaint from Community Board 3. He cited a court decision from September 2005, in which a judge ruled that the city had violated the due process rights of three cyclists by clipping their locks and hauling off the bikes with no warning. "The unlawful activity here is not by the cyclists, it’s by the cops," Siegel said.

OnNYTurf also covered the incident, as has Gothamist and NY1. You can view a slide show on the Village Voice Blog as well. Time’s Up! is interested in hearing from
other witnesses or anyone who had their lock clipped or their bike confiscated. You can email them at timesup@panix.com.

Photo: Caroline Dorn

  • This topic is being also being covered in this BikeForums thread: http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?t=304291

    There’s a first person account by the thread starter, “superslomo” — apparently the cops told him they are cutting locks on bikes that were there for more than 30 days. Meanwhile, a woman whose bike frame (not lock) was cut by the police had only just locked it up a half hour earlier.

  • brent

    Now I’m mad again. Amazing that car parking is provided along practically every street in the city, but a few bikes shackled on a block is grounds for martial law. I would be interested to know the square footage occupied by cars parked on E 6th compared to the bikes.
    I find that there is no bigger obstacle to a pleasant biking environment in this city than parking. Cyclists have few allies here- you have to carry 15 pounds of lock hardware, find a utility pole in some dingy street to shackle your rig to, then spend your time worrying about it- for good reason. I have been in a state of depression lately as I had a very nice, finely tuned commuter rig that was stolen a couple weeks ago. I used to ride every day but now have been relegated to riding the subway. Not the life for me. The conclusion is that the only real option is to water down the experience- buy a junker you can afford to have stolen by thieves or cops.

  • Kelly

    Does anyone know how to contact the NYPD, or otherwise make a complaint about these types of occurrences? I guess I’m asking if there’s any way for citizens to stand up and say that this is wrong. Also, anyone who hasn’t watched the video should really check it out – just another example of a cop with a power trip, arresting people for no reason.

  • db

    well kelly what i think needs to be done is this… these cops (and their bosses) need to be publicly humiliated. videos and photos along with the names of the cops along with descriptions of what they did wrong should be posted and passed around everywhere! blogs, youtube, signs on lamposts… whatever. the powers that be (the mayors office) seem to be powerless when it comes to cops bullying people therefore the people need to take matters into their own hands and start some sort of campaign by publicly humiliating officers who break the law. at least that’s one solutuon. i mean maybe next time a cop will think twice before arresting a nurse for questioning why someone else was being wrogfully arrested.

  • There’s a newer, fast-starting, embeddable version of the video available at:

    http://timesup.blip.tv/file/252942

  • Charlie D.

    Do these officers really have nothing better to do than harass bicyclists? Detain a guy for having a RI id? Apparently, they have solved all other crimes throughout the city and just have some free time to kill.

  • ddartley

    Spread it to everyone you discuss this stuff with.

    Another idea for police IDs: the name tags on their shields or uniforms should be BIG, like on army uniforms. This way you don’t have to ask them their name. You just see it.

  • Coyote

    I wonder if there is any connection between this action and all of the LE threats against cyclists that have surfaced on the Uncivil Servants website?

  • Pat

    Sorry to be the wet towel in this cyclist nirvana of indignation. But flouting of traffic and other laws by cyclists is probably the biggest quality of life issue here in the EV/LES since the days of the squeezemen. Near misses at intersections by cyclist blowing lights and stop signs, mostly in the wrong direction, are a daily occurrence. Most of the bike racks installed by the city are completely filled with abandoned rusting frames of what appear to be mostly children’s bicycles. Bicycles are chained to trees everywhere. At First Park, there are fifty to a hundred bicycles in various states of usability chained to the fence at any given time with handlebars, sprockets and other sharp components protruding through the fence into the playground ready to poke a child’s eye out.

    Conspiracy theories? How bout people are just getting fed up with the BS. Maybe Norman Siegel should try chewing on that one and see how it tastes.

  • galvo

    #7 the big plainclothes cop did not display any shield or police markings anywhere on hos body.
    sometimes you can zoom in on the shield number with the camera, or enhance it afterwards. In this case the lieutenant in the green shirt was not wearing his badge on a neck chain, Look at the video their is no badge displayed anywhere on him.
    #9 , bicyclist don’t have problems with cutting free abandoned bikes, it make more space to park working bikes.
    look at the pictures and video posted many of the bikes are fully intact with seats handlebars and even baskets, the majority were working bicycles, the police cut about 50 bikes free, about 20 were reclaimed by people saying they were the owners before the police loaded the leftovers in the van. People came and took their neighbors bikes and friends bikes, these were all working bikes.
    I don’t think anyone is against removing abandoned bicycles, the dumb ass cops cant figure out what is abandoned and what is working, some people do take their seat with them, and sometimes bring their front wheel inside too.
    #9 this has nothing to do with wrong way riders , unless you make the leap that if you steal all the bikes they cant go the wrong way?
    #4 i call shenanigans and steroid abuser on the big lieutenant.
    possessions of anabolic steroids are a felony in NYS and testing positive for steroids should be the end of this cops career. He exhibit all the tell tale signs, need a olympic testing facility, cops like this act like The SODOMIZER, VOLPE. steroids belong in sports not in police work

  • Pat,

    Your rant has practically nothing to do with what actually happened. If you watch the video, that cop arrested 2 people who did nothing wrong. On top of that, by all accounts, they were cutting locks on people’s working bicycles…not abandoned bikes. One woman in a restaurant said her bike was only locked up for 30 minutes. Where was the advance notice for removing “abandoned” bikes? Where’s the accountability?

  • Steve

    Police generally don’t tow autos without giving notice to the owner (“tow away zone” signage, multiple tickets, etc.). The rationale for taking these bikes away was that they were “abandoned property.” Bicycle owners are entitled to less notice that their property will be confiscated as abandoned than car owners? Why should that be?

    As for eyesores and dangers caused by abandoned bicycles, everybody seems to be in agreement that they should be removed by the police, as long as there is adequate notice. There is a controversey, however, when it comes to removing cops’ abandoned vehicles:

    http://nyc.uncivilservants.org/post/index/853
    http://nyc.uncivilservants.org/post/index/646
    http://nyc.uncivilservants.org/post/index/642

    Complain about abandoned bikes, the cops come running with saws and confiscate every bike they can find, even if the owner is standing there tyring to reclaim. Try complaining about cops’ cars abandoned in the middle of Central Park, they insult and threaten you.

  • Mary

    really disturbing actions. thanks to the videographer for documenting the abuses. attached is the link for the civilian review board where complaints can be entered online. everyone who witnessed this action can lodge a complaint. i wanted to just after viewing the video but I think you need to be an eyewitness. http://www.nyc.gov/html/ccrb/home.html

  • The City made all bike parking illegal back in 2005 in the apparent need to defend the NYPD’s cutting of parked bikes after Critical Mass rides. No official exemption was ever made for bike racks, as far as I could tell back then. See my article for the Five Borough Bicycle Club (5BBC.org) newsletter at this URL:

    http://5bbc.org/bicycletter/200509/bikeparkingillegal.shtml

    Or click on my name here to go there directly. The article has a link to the text of NYC Administrative Code 16-122(b) which outlaws leaving “movable property” on any “street or public place”. As usual, it doesn’t seem to apply to parked cars, even when they are parked on the sidewalk.

  • Step right up, ladies and gentlemen – our newest feature is Cops Gone Wild!

    We have cops arresting journalists for taking pictures of a fire (from The Villager), we have cops spying on peaceful anti-war groups (in all media, here’s a Villager report), and we have cops stealing bikes while their own personal cars are parked illegally on sidewalks using fake parking permits!

    And free today only, we have rookie girl-on-girl Cops Gone Wild videos, too! (No, not really, but at least that’s less disgraceful than these other police problems.)

  • What we have here is a clear violation by local government of the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution. It’s a clear example of the government (i.e., the City of New York) seizing private property without notice and opportunity to be heard. There are certainly grounds for legal action against the city, and punitive damages might be in order.

  • Dave

    Waaahhhhhh.
    The Big Blue meanies cut up my bikee lock!
    Mommy!!!!!

  • good to see that they were able to make this happen before the end of NATIONAL BIKE MONTH!

  • I can understand the issue…

    NYC living has people in small quarters
    no space for the bicycle
    not to mention the issue of taking the bicycles in and out of the building

    all forcing the cyclists to store their bicycles on the street

    sounds like the city could create bicycle lockers or bicycle lock zones

    just as there is car parking and motorcycle parking

    why is there no legal bicycle parking?

    clearly all the car drivers do not have to rent garage space

  • Steve

    There are certainly some legal bike racks installed by DoT through the “Cityrakcs” program or by property owners themselves, but they are too few. While the DOT is gradually sprinkling racks capable of holding 1-3 bikes around the City, it has been slow to recognize that some locations require parking for dozens or even scores of bikes. Why is it, for example, there there is not one single bike rack on any of the sidewalks bordering to Penn Station/MSG? Can anyone think of a more obvious place to install bike racks?

    Here’s an example of one of the self-help measures enmployed to address the inadequacy of legal bicycle parking:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/43954081@N00/385659996/

  • I broke this story Sunday.

  • Pat

    I take exception to you characterization of my post as a rant. If you read this weeks Villager, it reported the police were responding to a complaint by some local group called Safe Sidewalks or something like that. It also describes some in your face behavior by the couple who succeeded in getting themselves arrested as a result of their sticking a camera in the face of the lieutenant in charge and acting like BBC correspondents going for the atrocity angle in Gaza or Lebanon. Hey, I was just stating the reality of bad behavior by the majority of local cyclist and postulating that people are getting quite sick and fed up with it and demanding action. As it turns out, my speculation was correct.

    Personally, I wouldn’t think of locking my $650 Bianchi to a parking meter for more than a few minutes. I would think that unless you have some junker that you wouldn’t care one way or the other if it got ripped off, you wouldn’t do so either. Maybe the City should franchise a bike locking device contract where you place your bike in a secure devise and swipe a credit card to retrieve it. That would work for me. But it probably wouldn’t work for the majority of cycling scum who think they have a perfect right to do whatever they want, like blowing red lights and stop signs in the opposite direction and terrorizing pedestrians in the process. No rant on my end if there is no Norman Siegel on yours. Deal?

  • Pat

    Above in response to No. 11 Mike K

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Nice troll, Pat. Do you ever have anything constructive to say, or do you just scan every post looking for the side that most of us are on, and write something for the other side?

  • Steve

    Pat, There is room for rational criticism of bicyclists on the site. But using generalizations like “the reality of bad behavior by the majority of local cyclist” and ad hominem attacks like “the majority of cycling scum” just marginalizes you.

    You seem to believe that any bicyclist that doesn’t ride a bike too precious to park on the street should be kept off the streets altogether. I ride an inexpensive bike so that I can feel comfortable locking up in whatever neighborhood I care to stop in. Occasionally I will park overnight and rarely, for several days. The freedom to do so is a key virtue of using a bike for transport in NYC. Does that make me “scum”?

  • ddartley

    Pat, atrocities are more likely to occur in places where you’re NOT allowed to stick a camera in the face of a police lieutenant. Thank @#$% we ARE allowed to do so in this country, and shame on any cop or police force who arrests someone for recording police activity–’cause we’re @#$% allowed to do it.

  • Fascinated

    All the jumping on Pat, and nobody remarks on the name-dropping a $650 Bianchi? (Whoa!) Or maybe that’s the root of his angst: he bought a stock Pista and STILL the other hipsters won’t let him play.

  • The Villager article is available at http://www.thevillager.com/villager_214/bikeblitzone.html

    Pat, I don’t know where you get the “in your face behavior” idea, unless you were there. I mean, a 58-year-old St. Vincent’s nurse concerned about a needless arrest is in the officer’s face? Are you serious? Joking?

  • Revolution

    Most of us eagerly await the demise of the internal combustion engine powered by fossil fuels, whether it’s a direct infusion or indirect by coal or oil or gas via battery power. In the meantime, as demand for cycling infrastructure grows exponentially, may be the city could actually move to address this demand instead of blaming riders for attempting to function in outdated infrastructure.

  • Jim

    I filed a complaint through the CCRB. No, you do not need to have personally witnessed the incident. Anyone who wants to make sure this power-tripping cop’s behavior is made known, take the time to fill out a complaint form, and make sure you include the URL of the video.

  • Great work Jim.

  • I am heading out to Utah for the Front Runner Century bicycle ride and I am looking to see if anyone has ever used Map My Ride for the Front Runner Century Bicycle Ride. I have heard that people have used it for LOTOJA classic and for the Ulcer Ride as well as the Salt Lake City Century. If anyone has info for the Front Runner Century they could give to me I would be happy. Check out the http://www.frontrunnercentury.com and please let me know.

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