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NYPD Deploys Dedicated Tow Truck to Squeaky Wheel Queens Council Member’s District

A very rare sighting of an NYPD tow truck. File art

They're towing his line.

The NYPD has deployed a tow truck dedicated to a notoriously dangerous Queens neighborhood — but only after the area's Council member demanded that the agency do something about the reckless drivers and illegal parkers that plague the area.

It's unclear if the NYPD has made similar arrangements with other Council members — the agency declined multiple requests to talk to Streetsblog about the new operation or how it came about. Transportation Bureau Chief Kim Royster — whom Council Member Bob Holden specifically thanked for deploying the truck to his Maspeth/Glendale neighborhood — declined two interview requests.

Streetsblog put in the request because of ongoing confusion about how the NYPD goes about towing away the cars of reckless drivers or illegal parkers. Generally, the sheriff's office tows away the cars of drivers who accumulated more than $350 in adjudicated overdue tickets. The NYPD has a fleet of about 100 tow trucks which it uses to clear parking for movie shoots, to transport cars that have been involved in crashes to the precinct stationhouse for analysis, or to engage in periodic crackdowns.

Holden apparently got his dedicated tow truck after convincing the NYPD of the overwhelming need. "We receive constant complaints about illegally parked vehicles blocking driveways, hydrants, and crosswalks and causing problems," he said. "This tow truck dedicated to my district will help.” Holden said the truck would tow vehicles that are parked in crosswalks, on sidewalks, in front of hydrants "and other places that create hazards."

Typically, such cars would be ticketed, not towed. In 2019, the last full year unaffected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the NYPD issued 544,251 tickets for parking in front of a fire hydrant. Last year, that number rose to 831,760.

The 30th Council district includes parts of 108th, 102nd and 104th police precincts.

So far this year, there have been 513 reported crashes in Holden's district or an average of 5.4 per day. Those crashes injured five cyclists, 28 pedestrians and 180 motorists.

The most high-profile pedestrian injury occurred in mid-February, when a pedestrian was knocked down by a car driver at the corner of Cooper and Cypress avenues and then run over — twice — by a massive SUV. The man miraculously survived; the driver of the SUV was not charged.

The crash led Holden to demand more street safety improvements from the Department of Transportation — which promised to redesign the intersection, but has not done so yet — and more enforcement from the NYPD. In late March, the NYPD's barely heralded "Joint Visibility Corridor Enforcement Initiative" conducted a two-week enforcement blitz in Holden's district. In just the first week, the NYPD told that it wrote 683 moving summonses, 3,248 parking summonses and 108 truck violations. In addition, 112 vehicles were towed and three drivers were arrested, though it is unclear for what.

"The way to stop pedestrians being hit by cars is to crack down on reckless driving, and the parking has a lot to do with it," Holden's spokesman Kevin Ryan told Streetsblog. "We'd like to have that kind of enforcement all the time, but we were told there aren't resources. But now we will have a tow truck to help with getting cars removed when they are creating a dangerous situation. If you're parked at a hydrant, it's automatic."

Is it? Holden's office asked constituents to report parking violations to 311, but there is widespread evidence that police ignore many 311 calls related to parking or reckless driving, as Streetsblog reported last year. But Holden has repeatedly tried to hold the NYPD accountable for its failure to enforce traffic rules and even the placard abuse of its own members. He also demanded a probe of the agency's lack of response to 311 calls.

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