Targeted and Towed, Midtown Motorcyclists Call for Permit Street Parking

Motorcycles park together for safety on W. 44th St. (btw. Ninth & 10th Aves.). | Photo by Christian Miles

BY WINNIE McCROY | Parking is always cutthroat in Midtown Manhattan — but earlier this month, say some local motorcyclists, parking officials targeted them with mass ticketing and towing on the day after motorcycle registration expires, while they were waiting for their new registration sticker to arrive in the mail. Now, they’re out hundreds or thousands of dollars in fines just for parking in their own neighborhood. And they’re asking the City Council to make some changes to protect the rights of resident riders.

“They need to be corralled a bit from what they’re doing,” said Hell’s Kitchen resident Christian Miles about parking officials. “My motorcycle was towed for not having a license plate, but it does have a license plate, in compliance with the law. Then they towed it again on April 30, the day when all motorcycle registrations expire. I had renewed online, but I didn’t receive the sticker yet. But they had the ticketing agents ready to go. They were aware of that date and took full advantage of it, and anyone without a sticker was towed immediately.”

Miles, who is a freelance photojournalist for NYC Community Media, said that his hands were tied, as he was waiting for the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to send him his renewal sticker. His motorcycle was towed from W. 44th St. between Ninth and 10th Aves. — a street very popular for motorcycle parking — to the NYPD Tow Pound at 12th Ave. and W. 38th St. Miles said he ended up forking out about $2,000 to get his bike back.

He could have saved himself the trouble. According to him, when the NYPD first towed his bike for “missing plates” on Feb. 7, he went to the Tow Pound, and the supervisor verified that he did in fact have a license plate all along. But Miles said they had used a grinder to cut through the Caliper lock, inadvertently cutting through the brake rotors in the process. In a potentially life-threatening situation, he drove his motorcycle home, unaware that he had no brakes. That didn’t stop the NYPD from towing his cycle again on April 13 for the exact same reason. He paid $185 to retrieve it.

Miles said that he renewed his registration online, and was given a temporary registration certificate verifying that he was in compliance. Still, on May 1 — the day after motorcycle registrations expire — he received two tickets, one for an expired registration and another for no plate, despite the fact that registration stickers are affixed to the license plate. He contested the tickets, and is awaiting his fair hearing.

By May 3, his motorcycle was again towed for an expired registration. He was forced to pay $60 for the Tow Pound to store his bike over the weekend until he could get to the DMV that Monday and secure the necessary registration sticker. And the towing inflicted yet more damages to his motorcycle’s electrical system.

Miles said he spoke with two other men who park their motorcycles on the block, both of whom say they were also targeted while waiting for their new inspection stickers to arrive in the mail.

Christian Miles said he’s been towed and ticketed multiple times for no license plate, despite having one clearly affixed to the back of his bike (as seen in this photo, taken at the NYPD Tow Pound; plate numbers blurred for privacy). | Photo by Christian Miles

Similar Circumstances
Ibrahim Barrie was also parked on W. 44th St. between Eighth and Ninth Aves., when his motorcycle was towed. He too said he was waiting for the city to send him his inspection sticker when he was ticketed.

“I renewed mine and was waiting for it in the mail, but I didn’t get it,” said Barrie. “I had to go in person and pay more to take care of it there. Between the renewal and towing, I had to pay $2,000.”

And Gabriel Solano managed to get out of this latest motorcycle crackdown for only about $300, but he isn’t thrilled at what he views as discriminatory treatment of motorcyclists, especially as the towing and storage rates Manhattan NYPD Tow Pound charges are the same for cars and trucks as they are for motorcycles.

“I got my bike ticketed and towed, and I had a valid inspection through the end of May,” said Solano. “The city needs a solution to feasibly allow motorcyclists to park responsibly without worrying about their bikes being towed, knocked over or kicked down. We take only a quarter of the space of a car.”

But Solano is less than optimistic. Before he even had a chance to affix his new registration sticker to his license plate, his motorcycle was towed again, despite the fact that all of his information was legal and up to date.

Adding insult to injury, said Solano, is that when faced with a shortage of parking, motorcycle riders cannot always opt to put their motorcycle in a garage, as many don’t accept them. He would like to see the city mandate that parking garages accept motorcycles. For now, he tries to park near other motorcyclists, saying it’s safer. Some of his neighbors have just given up, and found off-street parking at any price.

“I found a monthly parking garage that I can pay $200 for,” said Barrie. “Motorcycles have only two wheels, and we’re often smashed up by cars trying to back out. I can’t leave it on the street because police are cracking down. And it’s a residential area, so police are cracking down on people who actually live in New York City. The city should give motorcycles the same deal as bikes have — a special parking section.”

Miles was forced to invest in a similar option, paying $200 a month for a spot in a parking garage, saying, “They really keep hitting us below the belt. I just bought a new bike and after I get it, I will have to keep it in a garage,” said Miles, noting that many Midtown parking garages do not offer motorcycle parking. “Ultimately, it would be great if every street just had parking for motorcycles. For the length of two cars, you could fit 10 bikes.”

Chelsea Now reached out to the NYPD DCPI for official comment, and shared information about the situation with Midtown North Precinct officer Anthony Bellantoni, who said he would look into it.

Standing Up for Motorcyclists | Community Board 4 (CB4) has a long history of advocating for the rights of motorcyclists. Back in a June 2010 letter, they petitioned the city Department of Transportation Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione to create “three on-street motorcycle and scooter dedicated parking areas” in the area. Requesting a 12-month pilot, CB4 even recommended several ideal spots, based on the observations of the New York Motorcycle & Scooter Task Force ( and CB4’s Transportation Planning Committee (

After new bicycle lanes were completed, CB4 sent a follow-up letter in June 2013, again asking for dedicated motorcycle and scooter parking — in seven locations. Their observations revealed that providing this parking would prove more efficient, reduce motorcycle damage, reduce congestion and pollution and increase “daylighting” at intersections (i.e. removing large, sight-obstructing vehicles), thus increasing pedestrian safety.

And Miles was further encouraged by the proposal of recent City Council legislation Int. No. 848 that would require the DOT to implement a residential parking permit system in designated parts of the city (between 60th St. and Inwood) that reserves 80 percent of street parking for New Yorkers.

In a statement, Manhattan City Councilmember Mark Levine said, “For too long suburban commuters have taken advantage of free street parking in Northern Manhattan and crowded out the people who actually live in our neighborhoods.”

A second, similar bill that would cover all of New York City and would implement permit fees was introduced by Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, who chairs the Transportation Committee. Any such plan would need authorization from Albany.

“I think the idea is to charge a small fee for a permit sticker or something, as a lot of communities do,” said Miles. “It would be wonderful to have access to those spots, and people driving into the city for the day can have access to parking garages. But right now, they are clearly targeting us.”

Miles said that in some cases when your motorcycle is legally parked but ticketed with a Traffic Violations Bureau conviction, you can take a picture, and ask to have a DMV Appeals Board verify it. But you still have to pay a nonrefundable appeal fee, whether you’re in the right or not. If you’re penalized from a parking ticket, you must take your argument to the local court or parking violations authority. And if you’re towed, the tow yard charges you $185 for the tow plus a $20 daily fee, which can quickly mount up. Even if the DMV decides you’re in the right, good luck getting reimbursed. You’ve got to submit paperwork within 30 days, and wait a month and a half for a check.

“Trying to get your money back is very difficult. It takes six weeks and many steps, and in most cases you have to go there, because it doesn’t work out very well doing it online,” said Miles. “You have to take the day off, appear before a judge, fight the ticket, and then if you win they give you a reimbursement form, which you have to fill out, send in, and wait six weeks before you hear a reply. It’s a daunting process, especially if you’re doing it six times a year.”

Why six times a year? Miles said the supervisor at the Manhattan NYPD Tow Pound confided to him that if you live in New York City and park your vehicle on the street, you can expect it to be towed an average of six times a year.

Said Solano, “The whole thing is very time-consuming. You go to court and hope for a refund back from the tow pound. You have to deal with the inconvenience of fighting it in court, and you still have to pay a daily fee for each day your bike is in the Tow Pound. Some people just don’t have that kind of cash lying around.”

For now, Miles, Solano and Barrie are bringing this to the attention of their elected officials to help figure out a solution. They have several suggestions: paid parking permits for locals; street sweeping moved to after-work, off-peak hours; or dedicated parking on every block for motorcycles.

Said Barrie, “The city should give us the same benefits as bikes have: a special parking section. Instead we have to squeeze into tiny spots that damage the bike, and our mirrors get all bent up because cars hit them. We’re asking for parking in the residential area we live in, because police are cracking down on us: people who actually live in New York City.”

One Response to Targeted and Towed, Midtown Motorcyclists Call for Permit Street Parking

  1. Wow!! what gives you the motivation to write about motorcycles?

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