Forget bandits; the New York City government may be taking your legally-parked car off the street without your permission.

Cliff Bruckenstein returned from a funeral this morning and found a tow truck operator hooking up his car – even though it was parked perfectly legally. When he stopped the tow truck operator for an explanation, a City Marshal appeared, and told Bruckenstein they’re under orders to remove cars damaged by Superstorm Sandy.

Bruckenstein’s car did have damage, but it still had plates and a valid registration, and, at Emmons Avenue and Weber Court, was not in an Alternate Side Street Parking spot. Rather than scrap the car, Bruckenstein had planned to save some money and repair it himself, and the tow truck operator unhooked his vehicle.

Bruckenstein is luckier than some others.

“They must have taken 100 cars off Emmons Avenue today. Over 100 cars. There’s a million tow trucks parked in this neighborhood now,” he said. “I want to know how they determine which cars to take. Some cars look very flooded, others aren’t very obvious. From what I heard, it’s the tow truck driver’s determination.”

The process for determining cars to remove remains unclear. As is who ordered the cars removed.

Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo said she received no notice that a major operation to clear the street would kick off this week, but noted that hundreds of cars have been towed to Shore Boulevard in Manhattan Beach since Monday. There, they’re put on a multi-car transport and taken out of the neighborhood.

“I heard not a word about it. As far as I’m concerned, if my car has plates, a valid registration, and is parked legally, who the hell is the city to come and tow my car away? That’s my private property,” Scavo said.

Scavo said a police rep told her that it was a mayoral initiative to get the streets clear so that Alternate Side Parking and meter rules can be restored.

Police at the 61st Precinct said they were unaware of where the orders came from, and were not involved in the operation. However, they say they’ve received several complaints from residents, and are informing them that the cars have been relocated to a Red Hook lot and there is no cost to car owners.

Sheepshead Bites has contacted the Mayor’s Office and is awaiting a response.

UPDATE (3:46 p.m.): We just received the following response via e-mail from a spokesperson for the mayor:

Vehicles damaged during the storm and left on public roadways are being moved to lots where they will not interfere with use of the streets, response operations, street cleaning and debris removal by the Sanitation Department. Owners can call their local police precinct or 1-800-244-5094 to get information about where their vehicle is being stored. A notice -including the lot location and phone number – is left on the car 24 hours before it is moved.

UPDATE (4:00 p.m.): We checked with Bruckenstein, who said that no notice was left on his car.

When we spoke to the mayor’s office a second time, they added that cars are being moved as part of the state’s emergency order for debris removal, but that no city marshals are involved in the removal. In New York City, the contractor is Ashbritt Environmental, a disaster recovery firm, and car removals are being overseen by the Office of Emergency Management and the Sanitation Department. The mayor’s rep noted that the attempted removal of Bruckenstein’s car may have been unrelated, but they’re looking into the matter to investigate any inappropriate actions.

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  • BrooklynBus

    Mr. Bruckenstein should think twice about trying to repair a flood damaged car (especially since salt water was involved). My car drove fine after being flooded, but the insurance company declared it a total loss anyway. I don’t believe they would do this if the car could have been safely repaired.

  • Brightonresident

    King Bloomdoom is at it again!

    • nolastname

      If that piece of shit is behind this it is the only thing I will thank him for.

      • BrooklynBus

        But he is doing it for the wrong reasons. He couldn’t care less about emergency vehicles getting through. He is only thinking about the revenue the city is losing by not being able to ticket cars.

        I was watching a city council hearing yesterday and James Vacca was complaining how the city changed the direction of the street in the morning and gave tickets to every car on the block for facing the wrong way! They supposed to wait 7 days before ticketing when changing any signage for people to get used to te new signs. Rather than administratively dismiss all the tickets, DOT is insisting that everyone fight each ticket individually knowing that most will pay.

        Also, he is doubling the cost of municipal parking permits and sent out a letter that it was approved by the city council which is a flat out lie. He did the same thing the year before when he tried to increase rates then, then rescinded the letter in error. This year he sends out the same letter. Vacca asked how he could make the same “error” twice. He also stated that an inrease from $125 to $250 for a quarterly parking permit was excessive. DOT responded that over 50% of residents don’t own a car and no one needs one because our mass transit system is excellent.

        • http://www.brucebrodinsky.com Bruce B

          I see people constantly insulting Bloomberg for wanting to “raise revenue”. Then the same people are in favor of more and more government. Who’s supposed to pay for more-and-more government? Oh I get it. Somebody else. Anybody else, but me….

          This comment is not directed personally to you, sir, it just entered my mind when you mentioned “losing revenue”.

          • BrooklynBus

            I am not aware of anyone asking for “more and more government.” The cry is usually for less government.

        • nolastname

          Oh, a lying piece of shit.

  • nolastname

    So sorry for Scavo. NOT. It needed to be done. She should have lifted the suspension of alternates weeks ago. I was in the 61 today for private reasons and they were not aware of the suspension. WTF was she thinking? Oh, I can suspend the alternates forever? I said it before and I will say it again….it was a bad situation which she only made worse.
    The cars marked for towing should have been given grace…not the whole neighborhood.
    As closely as she works with the pct she should have known better, guess the 61 Capt. is not playing games. Lives were at risk because emergency vehicle would have difficulty getting through and cars are being stripped as shown in a previous story. SHAME ON YOU.

    • http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/ Ned Berke

      Neither Scavo nor the 61 Capt determines when ASP is suspended and when it’s not. They had no role in any of this.

      • nolastname

        Who is it that decided what districts would be suspended, please tell me.

        • http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/ Ned Berke

          Why do you think it’s a bad decision? What were car owners to do if their cars were dead and the insurance companies were backlogged?

          • BrooklynBus

            She thinks those cars should not have been ticketed, but others should not have been given a free pass. It is fairly easy to determine which cars are waterlogged since although insurance companies have not picked them all up, they have been tagged for removal.

          • nolastname

            BrooklynBus has part of what bothered me about it.
            On blocks where there are no damaged vehicle we had double parkers and cars in the alternate. Not so easy to maneuver around.

  • Andrew

    If it’s been parked in the same place since Sandy, it’s not legally parked anymore.

    From http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/trafrule.pdf:

    §4-08(m)(9) Street storage of vehicles prohibited. When parking is not otherwise restricted, no person shall park any vehicle in any area, including a residential area, in excess of seven consecutive days.

    Sorry.

    • BrooklynBus

      It used to be 24 hours but was extended to 7 days as alternate side parking was reduced in many areas.

      • Andrew

        How long ago was that? A 24-hour limit is silly, since it would force people to move their cars every single day even if they only use them a few times a week. It would also make it difficult to take even brief trips out of town.

  • Mister Natural

    “A notice -including the lot location and phone number – is left on the car 24 hours before it is moved.”
    a damned contemptible lie. my car was parked for less than 7 hours before i received a lojack alert. they didn’t notify anyone. they just took it

    the malignant dwarf bloomberg just unleashed the scumbag vutlure towtruck drivers and let them run wild
    too bad nobody’s shot one yet

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  • http://www.facebook.com/myselfrickey Rickey Jones

    The same problem am facing in Auckland and my dear all I must say that, that was horrible.
    On that time I find a auto shop named free auto removals who are able to help me out. I sincerely very much thankful to them
    but just think that if the same problem I am facing some inner village places then what was my fortune?