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Bill de Blasio

Call Him ‘Wheels de Blasio’ — City Vehicle Fleet Grows Under SUV-Riding Mayor

4:49 PM EDT on September 17, 2018

Mr. Car Culture himself. Photo: 78th Precinct.

UPDATE (9:50 pm) | Shotgun! Mayor de Blasio's car-buying binge continues.

The city fleet now comprises 31,002 vehicles, up from 25,585, or 19 percent, since the mayor took office. In the fiscal year that just ended, the city added 965 more vehicles, a 3.2-percent increase from last year, according the just-released Mayor's Management Report [PDF].

The de Blasio buildup has completely erased the reductions made by previous Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who reduced the city fleet from a peak of just under 30,000 in 2008 to just under 26,000 at the end of his term in 2014. De Blasio's fleet size is the largest since the city started tracking this stat in 2000.

"Nobody in the city administration cares about this or is watching it," said TransitCenter Communications Director Jon Orcutt, who was DOT deputy commissioner for policy under Bloomberg. "They’re just okaying any vehicle request that comes in when they approve the budget."

The largest culprit for this year's increase, however, was the NYPD, which added 444 new vehicles — mostly "light duty" patrol cars. The term "community policing" suggests getting cops out of cars, yet the opposite appears to be happening.

City Hall got back to us after this story was published and said the expansion in the size of the fleet stemmed from post-recession expansion in headcount and services. The expansion includes:

    • 1,333 additional on-road police response units and 302 additional on-road fire-fighting units and ambulances.
    • 80 additional on-road haulster plow units for DSNY to enhance snow removal after the Jonas storm.
    • 47 additional units to support ACS inspections and protective services and 72 to support additional Health initiatives.
    • 73 units to support additional Department of Buildings inspections.
    • An unspecified increase in to off-road vehicles that support units like light towers, forklifts, generators, tar kettles, chippers, stump cutters, backhoes and trailers. There are over 1,100 light towers and forklifts alone.

That follows comments by de Blasio spokesperson Wiley Norvell on Twitter, where he attributed the fleet's growth to the overall expansion of city government since the mayor took office. Norvell variously argued that the much of the increase was among emergency vehicles, that the vehicle increase was a non-issue because the new vehicles are energy-efficient, and that the increase includes vehicles purchased for "post-Sandy emergency preparedness."

Any way you slice it, more city-owned vehicles on NYC streets simply sends the wrong message by a government that has put a cap on Uber, Lyft and other app-based caps and is considering creating its own congestion pricing scheme to charge drivers for entering downtown.

"We’re just not sending any kind of signal that city government takes [its role in congestion] seriously, and wants to decongest the city and promote any other ways of getting around," Orcutt said. "The mayor thinks expanding government is good. I don’t want to argue with that, per se, but there’s nobody watching the overall picture in terms of transportation."

The city, which is divesting its investments in oil companies, spent $65.5 million on fuel alone last year.

Update: Story was updated to include information from City Hall.

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