RED HOOK — Jim Wisz was biking down Richards Street with his 8-year-old son riding behind him when he heard the sound of danger — a deep, loud rumbling coming from a nearby road.
Suddenly, three all-terrain vehicles and a dirt bike came whipping out of an alley and shot past them on Richards Street near Visitation Place, he said. He shouted for his son to stop just in time, as the riders came “screaming” out of the lane, nearly colliding with the boy's bike, he said.
“[The riders] think they have control of the situation 'til something goes wrong,” said Wisz, 48, who has lived in Red Hook for 12 years, but has only noticed the groups riding in the past several years.
“They’re small but they’re very powerful and extremely loud,” he said.
Wisz said he told police that the riders had almost hit his son, but said they did not pursue charges after hearing that the child was not harmed, he said.
The police did not confiscate the dirt bike or the ATVs, according to Wisz.
Deputy Inspector Jeffrey Schiff said Red Hook's precinct has recently received calls from people complaining about the ATVs and dirt bikes in the neighborhood.
The precinct did not have any official reports regarding dirt bikes and ATVs in Red Hook, cops said.
Wisz said the drivers apologized to him for the near accident, and he doesn't think they're out to hurt anyone.
“They’re not bad guys,” said Wisz, but he added that the bikes are a potential danger in the neighborhood if left unsupervised by police. Last week, a gang of two-dozen motorcyclists attacked the driver of an SUV in front of his wife and 2-year-old daughter after chasing them in upper Manhattan, cops said.
According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, dirt bikes "are not allowed on any street, highway, parking lot, sidewalk or other area that allows public motor vehicle traffic." Riders can be arrested for violating the rules, according to the website.
Like dirt bikes, ATVs are also manufactured for off-road trails and must be registered to be driven on public or private property, according to the state website.
ATVs can be driven in public areas where signs indicate their use is allowed and on private property with permission from the owner, under state law.
Aside from the hazard to pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles, the ATVs and dirt bikes can be particularly noisy in Red Hook's isolated waterfront neighborhood, locals say.
“They are very loud,” said artist L. Nichols who has noticed the riders popping wheelies and careening through Red Hook, usually during the day or before sunset.
Despite the noise levels, listening to the group ride through Red Hook isn't the worst nuisance that Red Hook might face, Nichols said.
“I would rather they ride their dirt bikes than do other things,” she said.
But not all could dismiss the neighborhood disturbance.
“It was like being at the Indy 500,” said Ann, a Red Hook local who said the noise can suddenly become unbearable even inside her apartment when the riders pass through.
On Sept. 23, Ann tweeted to the 76th Precinct, complaining that the riders were racing through Red Hook.
“@76PrecinctNYPD Please stop the dirt bike riding around #RedHook NOW. Thanks.... We are not a disposable neighborhood. #Wolcott & #Richards,” tweeted Ann, who declined to give her last name, using the handle @annarchy_blog.
She also tweeted “@76PrecinctNYPD Also Four Wheelers using #Richards Street as a F---ing #Racetrack! #Really ?!!!! #RedHook”
Ann said the isolation of Red Hook gives bikers a chance to rev their engines.
“You can’t go to fourth gear unless you have a space to do it,” she said.
However, that seclusion was a feature that brought her to the waterfront neighborhood four years ago.
“We live down here because it’s quiet,” she said.