Despite a push from Mayor Adams to address the ongoing issue of ATVs, dirt bikes and other unlicensed vehicles taking over the streets in packs, videos have continued to circulate and complaints to be aired, especially after this past weekend, as traffic again was thwarted by the brigades.
Councilwoman Joann Ariola (R-Ozone Park) said it has been “three Sundays of absolute terror,” as the collection of unlicensed off-roaders bombard the streets of Rockaway, Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Woodhaven, Ozone Park and even the boardwalks.
She said a combination of 300 to 500 motorcycles, ATVs, dirt bikes and more fly through at high speeds, jump curbs and terrorize neighborhoods.
And the problem, she said, affects the greater Queens County.
Their route, she said, seems to be from the Marine Parkway Bridge, along the Rockaway Peninsula, over the Cross Bay and Addabbo bridges and through Howard Beach and Woodhaven.
Videos shared to social media show the packs blatantly disregarding traffic rules and halting the flow.
Some even take to Facebook to warn others, like one user who posted in the Howard Beach Dads group on Sunday warning Howard Beach residents to stay off Cross Bay Boulevard at that time because what she said looked like over 100 ATVs and dirt bikes were “flying through and driving recklessly” in Broad Channel. She called the scene “unnerving.”
Phyllis Inserillo, co-president of the Howard Beach Lindenwood Civic Association and Ariola’s chief of staff, said she was caught in the middle of it on Sunday while trying to turn onto Cross Bay.
“I had the green light to go,” she said. “They had no care in the world. They were giving me the finger … cursing me out like I was doing something wrong. I could not believe it.”
Then she watched as a woman leaving Cold Stone Creamery got knocked right over on the sidewalk by the motorists, launching ice cream everywhere.
At the end of June, the NYPD and Adams announced in a press conference that nearly 100 of the vehicles had been seized and were crushed and he laid out a summer plan that included appointing patrol borough inspectors to map motorbike ride-outs, hosting weekly strategy sessions, utilizing field intelligence officers to identify storage and meeting spots and analyzing 311 complaints.
Councilman Bob Holden (D-Maspeth) said he has been pressing law enforcement at all levels to increase enforcement but the only solutions he has heard are to find out where the vehicles are stored.
He argues that it is not enough to try and seize each bike one at a time, however.
Back in June, a young boy named William was being walked in a stroller by his grandmother when he was hit by a scooter bike on Eliot Avenue.
Police at the 104th Precinct originally let the driver go but then Holden stepped in. He says it seems that officers do not even know which vehicles are and are not legal.
“Now … the 104 is cracking down on these,” he said.
Holden is also against police publicly saying that they will not chase the drivers because it lets them know they can get away with it.
“It’s a sign of the erosion of our quality of life in New York City that these guys are above the law,” Holden said.
He contends that police should utilize the technology they have available and gather intelligence to perform roadblocks and follow the riders to where they congregate.
“A cop really doesn’t want to get involved with a lot of these quality-of-life issues because it can escalate into problems, especially if you’re going to confiscate it and the guy gets nasty,” Holden added.
He would consider introducing a resolution in the City Council to address the problem and require all motorized vehicles be registered and insured but there is only so much that can be done because it is a statewide issue.
The unlicensed vehicles are immune to red light and speed cameras, which is not lost on residents who gripe that such devices will run 24/7.
Ariola, who is also a member of the Council’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, added that she is working with law enforcement and the mayor to take the “rioters causing mayhem” into custody and have the vehicles confiscated and destroyed.
She said a task force is in the works to stop the activity.