Police Reopen Eighth Avenue After Investigating Suspicious Vehicle

By Ben Fractenberg | October 20, 2010 2:06pm | Updated on October 20, 2010 1:54pm

By Ben Fractenberg, Patrick Hedlund and Michael Ventura

DNAinfo Staff

MANHATTAN — Police briefly closed sections of West 43rd Street and Eighth Avenue as they investigated reports of a suspicious vehicle parked outside the Westin Hotel.

The dark green Chevrolet minivan was left unattended in the middle lane of West 43rd Street with its hazard lights blinking.

The NYPD brought in police dogs to determine whether the vehicle was an actual threat. Police at the scene had said a man was seen running away from the minivan.

Police deemed the vehicle was not a threat after identifying and finding its owner.

At roughly 1:45 p.m., Eighth Avenue was reopened.

Five minutes later, West 43rd Street was reopened after police pulled the minivan over to the curb.

"This van parked in the middle of the street, I thought it was very weird," said Alfred Bastauross, 43, who works at Gourmet New York Marketplace directly across West 43rd Street from the hotel. "I was concerned."

Marion, 50, a guest at the Westin who declined to give her last name, said the vehicle looked "more than suspicious" and that dozens of police officers responded to the scene.

"Who just runs from their vehicle?" she said.

Eighth Avenue was shut down between West 42nd and West 45th streets on Eighth Avenue. West 43rd Street was also blocked off, between Seventh and Eighth avenues.

Benjamin Root, 29, of East 25th Street appeared on the scene at roughly 3 p.m. and identified himself as the van's owner. He said the van was stolen from him and found out once police came to his door.

"We just got a knock on the door telling us it was stolen," Root said. "I was shocked when I came here and saw the police going through my car. We just bought the van five days ago."

He and his wife, Lior Root, 25, were planning to take the van on a road trip to San Diego, Calif.

"If the car is fine, we'll still go," he said.