‘You never see police here … but now they’re here’: City tows away cars from Willets Point demapped streets

Photo: Jacob Kaye/QNS

The NYPD wasted little time towing cars off newly demapped streets in Willets Point on Monday, July 8. 

Last week, the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development installed gates blocking off Willets Point Boulevard, 38th, 37th and 36th avenues in the industrial area. The roadways, in the shadow of Citi Field, had recently been removed from the official city street grid for potential redevelopment.

The agency also posted signs threatening a tow, a fine and potential jail time for vehicle owners who leave their cars on the demapped streets.

It appears that was not an empty threat. 

By 2 p.m. on July 8, three days after the department locked the gates, several cars had been towed from the former streets, according to workers in the area. 

About 15 workers in Willets Point gathered around the corner of 37th Avenue and Willets Point Boulevard on Monday afternoon as two police officers spoke with disgruntled vehicle owners whose cars were soon to be towed. 

“You never see police over here,” said Tomer Chazbani, a property and business owner in Willets Point. “But now after the gates, they’re here.”

An unrelated meeting between property owners, Community Board 7 members and Department of Transportation officials happened to be taking place at the same location and time of the towing.

“Let’s see if we could work something out,” Community Board 7 Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian told a vehicle owner whose car was soon to be towed. The pair went to speak with the two police officers blocking the demapped street. 

Several minutes later, Apelian and the vehicle owner walked away from the officers empty handed. The tow truck was already on its way. 

Editor’s note: After the publication of this article, Apelian reached out to QNS with a statement.

“Two (2) cars were towed but only because registrations were expired or vehicles didn’t have plates, so the decision was moot. However, NYPD did agree not to tow other vehicles, and that’s only because I spoke to them, so I didn’t come back ’empty handed.’ When I asked if anyone owned the (5) cars before they were towed, everyone feigned ignorance, until they realized the real threat of a tow and then (3) men leaped forward and said ‘oh yeah that’s my car.’ They were very lucky to have a second chance!”

The story was updated on July 9 at 5:35 p.m.