Eyes on the Street: A Monster on Court


The sheer size of this vehicle, which I encountered while walking down Court Street in Brooklyn the other day, was what made me stop and take a picture. As you can see, the traffic enforcement officer’s head basically just reaches the hood. (Makes you wonder what the driver’s visibility is.)

Right, the traffic enforcement officer. I waited to watch her write a ticket for the vehicle, which had been left idling with no one behind the wheel, blocking a fire hydrant and parked a couple of feet out into the lane of travel (it’s a sharrow lane to boot), while its owner apparently made a stop in the bodega.

DSCN4118.jpgBut she just kept walking.

"Aren’t you going to write him a ticket?" I asked.

"Can’t ticket a placard," she replied with a shrug.

I could barely see up onto the dashboard, but there was some kind of placard there. Then I noticed the letters "VAS" on the plates, which apparently stand for "Volunteer Ambulance Service."

You’d think a Volunteer Ambulance Service member would realize that leaving an unattended vehicle idling is unsafe. You’d think someone trained to save lives might think twice about it. You’d think.

  • Kaja

    So glad to see this post.

    He seemed to be making deliveries at bodegas in Cobble Hill and on Court Street Tuesday, I walked by him a few times over the course of an hour. Always illegally standing, unoccupied.

    The driver made his business quickly at each stop, whatever it was.

    If I see him again I’ll ask what’s up.

  • Yeah, in the wake of what happened in Chinatown, it is hard to believe someone would leave a monstrosity like that idling. Sheesh.

  • J-Uptown

    Wasn’t it an unattended idling vehicle that killed two children in Chinatown a few weeks ago?

  • mike

    You can, in fact, ticket a placard. Unfortunately many traffic enforcement officers are not aware of this, or are cowered into not doing so.

  • Come to San Diego – you see these everywhere, everyday. Along with hundreds of white Dodge Ram pickup trucks.

    Very classy.

  • I’m skeptical that a “Volunteer Ambulance Service”-plated vehicle isn’t subject to traffic laws.

    My hard-copy NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law (1996/1997 edition) has a Subsection 404-f, “Distinctive plates for members of volunteer ambulance services.” Other Section 404 subsections cover distinctive plates for: volunteer firefighters (404-b), former POW’s (404-c), members of organized militia and reserve (404-d), purple heart recipients (404-e) … on up through 404-p, congressional medal of honor recipients. Nowhere did I see a reference to law exemptions.

    I could easily be wrong and encourage others to check. But on the face of it, I’d say the driver/owner got away with one — four, actually: parked more than 12 inches from curb; hydrant; idling (hmm, possibly not if temp was below 32 degrees — another loophole!); obstructing traffic.

  • I can’t believe those wheels are street legal.

  • The self-entitled VAS jerks are some of the worst violators of car-free park hours, too. They tend to be from the Hasidic Jewish communities, and have found this loophole big enough to drive a monster truck through.

  • Rhywun

    idling with no one behind the wheel, blocking a fire hydrant and parked a couple of feet out into the lane of travel

    And just for good measure, he ran over a couple dogs while parking it.

  • J-Uptown, you’re right. I hope there is a big turnout at Monday’s rally concerning that (demanding that Morgenthau prosecute that driver). It’s this Monday the 9th, on the corner of Worth and Baxter, 11:45am – 12:30pm.

    “Can’t ticket a placard.” And Kaja’s comment makes me wonder if the driver was doing anything at all relating to the purported involvement with “Volunteer Ambulance Service.”

    I’m still disgusted how a traffic agent got formally penalized for ticketing an *unmarked* vehicle that turned out to belong to NYPD Transportation Chief Scagnelli: http://tinyurl.com/c2m77g That article says the penalty was erased but she still lost a week’s pay and endured an ordeal–all for doing her job. Couldn’t big mister cop boss man have simply gotten the ticket dismissed? Of course he could have, but he also just had to see this agent get in serious trouble–for doing her job. Outrageous, high level corruption.

    Gee, does the Mayor have any power over this garbage? [holding breath]

  • Shemp

    Have you ever ridden in an ambulance? These aren’t all high-minded humanitarians.

  • Vehicles like the one pictured above are numerous around my area of North Florida. They are driven without any care for who or what that would be unlucky enough to get in their way.

    So how does one convince the masses they are perfectly safe in a 3 foot wide strip with hordes of those monsters buzzing you, yelling things at you and even throwing whatever they may have handy at you as they pass at 45 miles per hour or more?

  • I saw this guy go through the Slope the other day, and I noticed his VAS plates then. When that truck is moving, the engine is laboring and the tires are singing, it is quite loud. Not sure what you need a truck like that for volunteer ambulance service, nor do I see the point of really ever needing a truck like that in NYC.

  • Can you reprint the photo with the license plate more visible?

  • Stu

    Man, I’m tempted these days to just open up the door, switch the key to turn off the vehicle, and then throw the keys as far as I possibly can.

    Counterproductive, I guess, but satisfying.

  • “Man, I’m tempted these days to just open up the door, switch the key to turn off the vehicle, and then throw the keys as far as I possibly can.”

    Yes, that would be a bad idea. Drop them in the nearest storm drain.

  • “Man, I’m tempted these days to just open up the door, switch the key to turn off the vehicle, and then throw the keys as far as I possibly can.”

    Stu & Mark – Bike mechanic Hal Ruzal once told me a story where he did exactly that back in the 1980s to a driver who nearly killed him and then a few blocks later pulled over, and got out of his car to buy a hotdog and left keys in ignition with the car double parked on Avenue of the Americas. And as Mark suggested, Hal threw them in the sewer.

  • That’s only a couple of blocks from my apartment; I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.

  • So was this an ambulance? My brother drives an ambulance and explained to me the need to always park in the fire lane when going to the store. They can go out and about while they are on the job since they have radios with them, but they have to be ready to leave at a moments notice if a call comes in. Engine stays running and the ambulance stays parked in the fire lane. It sounds like that could be what this guy was doing. So it really is supposed to be about saving lives rather than putting people in danger. I can’t tell by the picture whether the driver might actually be endangering anyone in the lane, though I’m sure the driver isn’t considering the fact.

    Don’t throw his keys in the sewer because when you get run over by a vehicle down the street he won’t be able to come take you to the hospital. 😉

    The question one has to ask is, should the ambulance crews be out and about while they’re on the job? In this case you can’t fault them for much if they’re not getting paid.

  • JM, if you could see the picture you’d know this wasn’t an ambulance. It’s big enough to be an ambulance, but it isn’t.

  • Give me a break. That is NOT an ambulance. It’s some self-important jerk’s giant Hot Wheels car.

    As for “engines running to be ready on a moment’s notice”, also give me a break. It takes, what, 3 seconds to start an engine? That goes for all these idlers. I work around Wall Street and the neighborhood is overflowing with cop cars, SWAT trucks, buses, and commercial vehicles idling for hours on end–for no reason other than laziness.

  • I can see the picture and it definitely doesn’t look like anl ambulance. But if it isn’t an ambulance, why does it get a placard that keeps it from getting a ticket?

  • karma dude

    “Aren’t you going to give this man a ticket?”
    Are you so bothered that others are extended privileges that you are not, that you have to encourage a parking pig, a person who makes a career of harassing, robbing, raping, and in general pissing on your average Joe Taxpayer like you and me, to give someone else a ticket?!
    If you want to blog about the injustice of people abusing their privileges, I have no problem with that. But to ask one of these degenerates to ticket someone else because you can’t stand their status, that takes a certain type of sicko.

    And FYI, as a volunteer medic, who doesn’t abuse his privileges, we carry narcotics that have to be temperature regulated. In the winter I very often leave my car running with the doors locked if I am running in to a bodega, pizza shop etc. etc. so my narcs don’t get too cold.
    Don’t jump to conclusions because you can’t keep your jealousy in check.

  • john

    If this is an ambulance, we must have the best EMS coverage on the planet as these monstrosities are common in the Midwest.

  • Lee

    Here in Baltimore the catalytic converter would be stolen repeatedly on a jacked-up truck like that – easy access and lots of platinum, the value of which has skyrocketed. Lots of scrap metal yards here that don’t ask questions.

  • Karma dude,
    It seems to me that the anger brought on by this action is not breed out of jealously, but concern for the safety of others. Leaving a very large vehicle like this unattended with the engine running in the middle of the street is not very safe. Lest we forget the tragedy of an unattended van left running in Chinatown. Most of the posters on this blog do not drive so you could hardly say they are jealous of this privileged that is abused recklessly. Even when you are a medic whose job it is ease peoples pain you must be mindful of the potential to create suffering that even your smallest actions can have.

  • Karma dude — so enforcing a law you don’t like is “raping”? I’m hoping the karma payback you get is just a ticket and not that you end up killing some innocent person because you think you are above the law.

  • Rhywun, as for “a moment’s notice,” a cop (not an ambulance driver, or “volunteer,” mind you) in a parked, idling patrol car did once tell me that there actually is a rule that they have to keep their engines running. That is, of course, a moronic rule, for the reason you point out. He suggested I complain to Bloomberg. I never did, but perhaps I will now.

  • Rhywun

    a parking pig, a person who makes a career of harassing, robbing, raping, and in general pissing on your average Joe Taxpayer like you and me

    Cool your jets, motorist. Have you ever given one moment’s thought to the fact that parking enforcement is necessary because otherwise you would never be able to find a parking space?

  • Rhywun

    that there actually is a rule that they have to keep their engines running

    That’s just… unreal. Doubly so because we have to pay for it.

  • Where’s one of NYC’s famous car thieves when you need one?

  • JM, if you could see the picture you’d know this wasn’t an ambulance. It’s big enough to be an ambulance, but it isn’t.

    I’ve seen ordinary automobiles with VAS plates, that are definitely not what you think of as “ambulances.” They, however, can call a real ambulance in an emergency if one is really needed. They are often sent out first if they are in the neighborhood just to assess the situation.

    No one with any type of placard should be exempt from traffic or parking rules if they are not engaged in an emergency situation at the time. It is ridiculous how traffic enforcement agents will ignore the rules when they see placards.

    I once questioned a police officer why he was not ticketing people in a “No Parking Anytime” zone and he responded that since the cars had placards that they were attending church services, they could not be ticketed. (He was ticketing cars without placards.) I’d like to know what law states this. Ha Ha.


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