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City Council to Crack Down on 'Rogue' ATMs

By DNAinfo Staff on October 25, 2010 6:53pm

The City Council is trying to crack down on ATMs like these, which are not regulated by the city.
The City Council is trying to crack down on ATMs like these, which are not regulated by the city.
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Courtesy of the New York City Council

By Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

CITY HALL — The city is hoping to crack down on so-called "rogue ATMs" illegally crowding city streets.

While ATMs inside of banks are regulated by state rules that mandate lighting, cameras and other protections, ATMs in bodegas and sidewalks are currently unregulated by both the city and state.

"Many of our ATMs are dangerous," said City Councilman James Vacca, chair of the Transportation Committee, which held a hearing Monday afternoon considering a new bill introduced in May that would give the city control of the placement and appearance of non-bank ATMs.

Vacca and others raised a host of concerns about the machines, including ATMs that don’t inform users of fees and have no contact information posted in case something goes wrong.

Others complained that illegal bulky machines are "eye sores" that eat up valuable sidewalk space and attract graffiti and garbage.

Brooklyn Councilwoman Diana Reyna described ATMs on the dark street corners with no lighting or mirrors as "an invitation for predators."

"It’s mayhem. Everyone's running wild," she said.

Under the proposed legislation, sponsored by Reyna, owners of sidewalk ATMs would have to install surveillance cameras, mirrors and lighting next to every machine.

Operators would also have get permission before putting ATMs on public property and would have to clearly note who runs a machine and how to contact them in case something goes wrong.

Because the city does not regulate the ATMs, it has no way of knowing exactly how many there are. But a 2009 report by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s office, entitled "Sidewalks Under Siege," counted 950 ATMs in Manhattan — four out of five of which were non-bank ATMs.

Most of the machines identified in the study had been placed illegally on the sidewalks and "virtually all" are were independently owned by "entities unknown to the city," the report read.

The report also found that the machines tend to be found in clusters, with at least seven outdoor ATMs counted on two blocks of Bleeker Street between MacDougal and Thompson streets in the West Village, and a whopping 70 in the East Village on East 13th and East 14th streets between First Avenue and Avenue B alone.

"At this point the city has to cut bait or fish," Vacca said. "Either we protect consumers by making them safer, or we ban them from the sidewalks outright."

David Woloch, deputy commissioner of the Department of Transportation, testified at the hearing that his agency, which is charged with keeping sidewalks clean, would like to see ATMs wiped from city streets altogether.

While the Department can give property owners notices that they are violating sidewalk rules and issue $250 summonses, he said that physically removing the machines is too big a burden to bear.

Community Board 4 Transportation committee Co-Chair Christine Berthet said there are enough ATMs indoors and argued that they shouldn't take up crowded public space.

“What portion of the population needs to withdraw cash every 25 feet?” she asked.

The committee will now consider the legislation, which must pass a vote before it goes to the full council.