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Speeding Drivers Make Flushing Meadows a Race Track After Dark, Police Say

By Katie Honan | October 13, 2014 7:25am
 The NYPD handed out nearly 200 summonses in August, but drivers returned. 
Speeding Drivers Make Flushing Meadows a Race Track After Dark, Police Say
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CORONA — These guys are fast and the neighbors are furious.

Drivers in souped-up cars are using a Flushing Meadows parking lot as their personal raceway and have been undeterred by hundreds of summonses and other enforcement actions, usually returning days later with revved engines and loud music, according to the local police precinct and neighbors.

The parking lot and road next to Meadow Lake at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park have been used as a track for “drifting” — when a driver speeds up and oversteers their car, then lets their wheels spin out — for years, according to neighbors and the local precinct commander.

But it was worse this summer and the car crews kept coming back despite increased enforcement from the local precinct, which gave out nearly 170 summonses on one August weekend alone, police said. 

Around 200 summonses were given out so far this year for lack of registration, being in the park after dark and excessive tints, among other violations, according to the NYPD. Arrests are for reckless driving, but it was not clear how many have been made.


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A dozen cars were also seized in recent months, mainly as arrest evidence, but the drivers remained undeterred.

It’s a “thorn in our side,” said Deputy Inspector Ronald Leyson from the 110th Precinct, who addressed the concerns at a recent community council meeting.

Policing the dozens of cars that show up at the park uses a lot of manpower and he estimated it can take nearly 20 police officers to break up the events and give summonses to drivers.

“It’s a very difficult task,” he said.

Leyson said he’s met with the Parks Department to find ways to curb the problem and even suggested closing a road near the lake to deter drivers from getting in after dark.

The road connects drivers to the Van Wyck Expressway and Grand Central Parkway, but he said it’s worth it to close after dark to prevent the chronic problem.

“Quality of life concern outweighs the few cars that go through that area,” he said.

A Parks Department spokeswoman said they've been working with the NYPD and are "grateful for their support on the issue."

"We are discussing the feasibility of closing the gate at night, and also considering other preventative measures including installing a combination of wheel stops and/or barricades and speed bumps in the lot," she said.

At times, nearly 100 cars descend on the park to race and drive, Leyson said. Some are equipped with large speakers that blast music that can be heard nearly a mile away. Two of those vehicles were seized this year.

Neighbors call 311 to complain as well as the precinct itself, Leyson said, but it can be difficult to visit the park for every instance since 911 emergency calls take priority, he said. And sometimes the crews are broken up by the time police officers arrive.

Videos posted to YouTube from as early as 2011 show drivers speeding along the lake after dark.

One Forest Hills woman came to the Corona community meeting and said she’s been woken up randomly throughout the summer by the sound of cars and loud music.

“It was every other week on a different night — Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday,” the woman, who asked that her name be withheld, said.

“It sounds like a disco club,” she said. At night she can see the lines of headlights by the lake and hears the cars from her eighth-floor apartment.

The drivers even returned hours after she complained at the meeting, waking her up at 2:45 a.m. on Friday morning, she said.

While the NYPD has made arrests and even confiscated some cars, the punishment is minimal, Leyson said.

He has even chased cars out of the park himself after hearing the screeching and revving while driving on the Grand Central Parkway, he said.

Some drivers have their cars seized, usually as arrest evidence, but they can usually get them back the next day if they pay a fine.

Drifting is one of many issues plaguing the park, the largest in the borough.

It had the highest crime of any other park in the city with the exception of Central Park, which has its own precinct, according to the most recent data available from the NYPD. 

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