NYPD’s Bedford Avenue Circular Saw Massacre Caught on Tape

The NYPD’s 94th Precinct in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is working hard to build on its reputation for being New York City’s most infamous bike thieves. Too much demand for bike parking in the neighborhood? "I know what to do," says the 94’s commanding officer Dennis M. Fulton. "Bust out the circular saw!"

This time Greenpoint resident Ben Running caught the whole thing on video tape. Running says the confiscated bicycles seemed to be in use:

They didn’t look like beat up bikes that had locked up there forever —
they looked like they were being used,” said Ben Running, a Greenpoint
resident and cyclist who filmed police removing the bikes from a street
sign near the corner of North Eighth Street. “Bikes shouldn’t be
removed without some kind of notice.

But an officer from the 94th told the New York Post that the bikes had been there for at least three months. Officer Cole Pletka said, “From a distance, they might have looked like they were rideable, but the bikes were on top of each and both wheels were bent."

As Gothamist notes, The local community board around Williamsburg has long advocated for a sane and sensible “tag
and clip” policy, where police would tag apparently inactive bicycles with a flyer warning that they are in danger of being taken by cops.
Running said, “Bikes shouldn’t be removed without some kind of notice.”

  • Ian Turner

    At least nobody was arrested for filming:


  • Couple years ago cops towed my legally parked car more than a mile, dropped it in an illegal no-parking spot, and failed to report to any city agency where they put it.

    Attempting to report it stolen, the operator told me that the cops will occasionally do this, and she advised me to do a grid search of the surrounding neighborhoods before I committed to the police report.

    So I did a grid search (on foot, I didn’t bike yet), and found my car, sitting in a NO STANDING zone with two more parking tickets on it, and no indication of who’d towed it or for why. (The judge took my word when I plead not guilty on the two no-standing-zone tickets; also, I’m astonished I wasn’t towed a second time for that.)

    The cops don’t just steal bikes, they steal twenty thousand dollar automobiles.

    Try to remember stuff like this here video, Streetsblog, when you advocate solving any of our myriad issues with new laws for cops to enforce.

  • The cop citing the bikes’ unrideability is a logical fallacy; they’re someone’s property, and private property is not to be confiscated without a warrant. Fundamental law.

    Totally incidentally, nobody here needs to be told that an unrideable bike because bent wheel becomes rideable after you replace the wheel.

    If tying up to an NYC street sign is illegal, then that’s something we need to fix in law. Hell, the Kryptonite U-lock I use doesn’t even fit around the square-post CityRacks.

  • Danny G


    Yes, this is a law that should be addressed. Any ideas on how it can be done efficiently and en masse?

  • Danny: Sure. Either make it legal via a Council resolution; or sue them, employing the Federal precedent whereby the American governments may not selectively enforce laws. (This precedent is used to mandate (for instance) that roadblocks must check every driver and every vehicle, not just the ‘suspicious ones.’)

    I don’t expect either will work, due to the root problem, whereby American governments seek a status quo composed of coalitions of very large moneyed factions, who crowd out both the unmoneyed and anyone seeking a devolution of authority. But these are the proper channels and they do stand at least a chance.

    Bicycling will probably only be taken seriously by power when the middle classes participate in it, and despite DOT’s admirable efforts, I don’t believe it will happen on a large scale, because the middle classes nationwide are basically paid cash money to drive cars and act like pigs.

    Personally, I’m just trying to live well, make a bunch of money, and keep from death by cop, until shock from the ’08 oil peak wrecks this ship of state.

    But I’m willing to be pleasantly surprised!

  • zach

    Is there a logical opposition to tag-and-clip? A waste of a police officer’s two minutes of tagging a rack?

  • sajhie

    Public property, i.e. sidewalks is not a ride to deposit your items. I.e. if you put a TV on the curb, chained to a sign, do you expect it not to be taken away? I think the city’s transit (subway and bus system) is adequate enough where you dont need a bike. People need to walk more….

  • Chris

    This is ridiculous. The sanctimony of the idiots that read this blog is bordering on insanity. “Oh the cops are taking our bikes! So disenfranchised!”

    So we are supposed to go on “Running says the confiscated bicycles seemed to be in use”

    This is totally irresponsible and just feeds the bloggeridiots that read this.

    The sidewalks on Bedford Avenue are VERY narrow. Plus the neighborhood is filled with morons who don’t know how to walk on the right. And – there are TONS of bikes that have bent wheels and frames and have been abandoned. The business owners probably just got sick of looking at them and tripping over them for when they get their deliveries.

    – A daily bike commuter who is responsible enough to lock his bike up away from the street and not get it stolen.

  • Ed

    I feel like I’ve seen a notice on a derelict bike in the West Village once that the police were going to remove it, probably because of a complaint. But I can’t be sure…
    Copenhagen, in my opinion, has the best way of going about cleaning up the abandoned bikes. They tag the wheel after a period, then you have a few weeks or so before they are repossessed and sold back to the public through an auction. Great way to get a cheap bike – plus, most of them are really nice still.

  • Ian Turner

    The sidewalks on Bedford Avenue are VERY narrow.

    Classic fighting over the scraps. Why shouldn’t the sidewalks be wider? Why does the street provide ample space for people to leave their private automobiles are not bicycles, which are far more space efficient?

  • Everything that is not “why don’t the cops tag first?” is a red herring.

  • I assume that anyone posting on Streetsblog is able to correctly identify an abandoned bicycle, so the protests I am reading above seem purposefully disingenuous. Why doesn’t this get written up as “Cops improve bicycling conditions on Bedford Avenue by removing junk bicycles that are taking up parking spots?” In this wired age, why hasn’t anyone piped up to say, “I was visiting a sick relative on Bedford Ave, and when I came out of the apartment, my bike was missing?”

    As a livable streets advocate myself, I choose not to advocate for blanket permission for people to leave their non-GHG-emitting junk wherever they choose.

  • Brooklyn

    I’d like Ben Running to do something more productive — set up a time lapse where we can see how many people lock up then pick up their bikes through the course of the day. Tell me if the bike parking area is ever clear of bikes, or if every spot turns over at least every 24 hours.

    You won’t see either of those things. Most of those bikes are clearly abandoned or neglected by their owner. The place was unsightly, and even as a cyclist I would advocate their removal if this were my neighborhood. The racks are a great idea in principle, but like anything else in this city, they’re abused by the selfish.

    In the end, I don’t understand why you would choose to ride your bike all the way to the most crowded station of one of the most crowded peak-hour subway lines — is getting squeezed into a subway car that appealing? Why not just tackle that last leap of fitness and pedal it over the bridge?

  • To echo what Zach and Kaja said:

    I don’t know the others, but Jonathan, you’re a regular here. Would you mind not perpetuating the false dichotomy between abandoned bikes everywhere and saw-happy cops?

    This kind of reactive tactic indicates an underlying incompetence, similar to that at the RIOC. Why can’t Deputy Inspector Fulton get his act together enough to have his cops come around once a month and tag all the bikes, then remove all the ones that still have the tags two days later? How hard is it to plan something like that?

  • I haven’t been to that side of Williamsburg since early 2008, so I can’t say for certain how long the bikes that were removed had been parked there.

    If the officers drove up in that van shown in the video, they are auxiliary cops–volunteers–not NYPD. That’s an auxiliary vehicle by the coloring. So it’s not NYPD that should get the credit or the blame for the actions that were filmed.

    I’m not suggesting that it is only the valiant efforts of city workers that are keeping our streets free of junk bicycles. But I’ve seen plenty of junk bicycles locked to fixed objects in New York, and I’m willing to believe that city workers (in this case, volunteers) may possess the same discretion that allows me to distinguish between a junk bike and a working bike.

    As I asked earlier today, “Why doesn’t this get written up as ‘Cops improve bicycling conditions on Bedford Avenue by removing junk bicycles that are taking up parking spots?’ ”

    Show me a victim and I’ll reconsider my position.

  • If the officers drove up in that van shown in the video, they are auxiliary cops–volunteers–not NYPD. That’s an auxiliary vehicle by the coloring. So it’s not NYPD that should get the credit or the blame for the actions that were filmed.

    Huh? You mean that auxiliaries aren’t part of the NYPD? That they operate without instructions or supervision from anyone in the NYPD hierarchy? They can just drive around enforcing whatever laws they feel like however they want, without coordinating with the regular cops?

  • And again, Jonathan, don’t you agree that tag, clip and auction would be a much better way to handle this?

  • Cap’n Transit: The auxiliaries don’t do enforcement, because they are not police officers. I assume that their level of coordination with the NYPD varies depending on the relationship between the two groups in the specific precinct. I do know that they aren’t dispatched on the same radio channels as the NYPD.

    And “tag, clip and auction” sounds nice, but involves at least twice as much work for the public servants, because each junked bike is visited twice. I am assuming that the auctions you propose would be in bulk lots.


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