Police look to crack down on drag racing along Rockland roads and state highways.
By STEVE LIEBERMAN
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: October 25, 2006)
NANUET - Police said yesterday that they were cracking down again on car-club drivers known to drag-race on Route 59 and a nearby state highway.
More than 50 summonses were issued Sunday night to owners of the hot rods and souped-up cars who meet almost weekly in the Thruway Plaza strip mall parking lot on Route 59 or at the park-and-ride across the highway.
The tickets were for violating laws on car safety and other motor vehicles violations, police said.
But the main issue for police was drag racing.
"We got them as they congregated, before they went racing, as a deterrent," state police Sgt. John Antonelli said. "We don't want to see people tragically killed on the highway."
For years, the loosely knit car club has taken over the strip mall parking lot on Sunday nights. The drivers come from New Jersey, Orange County and Rockland, police said.
And police suspect that many of the drivers drag-race along the Garden State Parkway extension in Chestnut Ridge. In 1997, state police arrested nine drivers for drag-racing there.
More than 100 people hang out in either parking lot on most Sunday nights, Clarkstown police said. Police have received complaints about loud noises from mufflers and revving cars, as well as litter being scattered in the parking lot.
"It's fine for them to show off their cars, but when they get into having loud mufflers and creating a nuisance, it becomes a law-enforcement issue," Detective Gerard King said. "And it wouldn't be a major problem for law enforcement if they were not drag-racing and if they cleaned up after themselves."
At times, there had been reports of racing in Spring Valley, but that was years ago, Sgt. Jim Hoenniger said.
"We haven't dealt with them in a long time," Hoenniger said. "Once in a while, we had a problem back then. The major concern was people might feel intimidated by those cars and the large number of drivers."
This past Sunday night, more than 25 New York and New Jersey state troopers and Clarkstown police officers inspected more than 100 cars at the park-and-ride lot.
The police checked registrations, licenses, ownership and traffic and vehicle law conformity. Aside from the tickets, two of the cars were towed for violations and one person was charged with possessing marijuana, a violation, police said.
Antonelli said police used an electronic scanner to check license plates in an effort to determine if any of the cars were stolen.
As part of the six-hour operation, the county police helicopter looked out for drag racers and troopers watched the Garden State Parkway extension in Chestnut Ridge, Antonelli said.
Many of the recent drag-racing complaints came from Chestnut Ridge residents whose property backs the Garden State Parkway, the village's mayor, Jerry Kobre, said yesterday.
Kobre said he had called state officials. In 1997, following similar complaints, state police watched and one operation led to arrests for drag racing.
"We told them that the drag racing was starting again," Kobre said. "This is the second time the state police have responded. It made a big difference last time and hopefully this time as well."
Antonelli said Sunday's operation with Clarkstown and other agencies went beyond the norm.
"Surprisingly, we haven't had accidents there," Antonelli said of the parkway. "We stopped cars and gave out several summonses after clocking them going over 100 miles per hour."
Antonelli said police would conduct several more large-scale operations such as Sunday night's in the future.