Drag Racing Complaints Quadruple As Coronavirus Limits Traffic

Anna Quinn

NEW YORK, NY — City dwellers terrorized by noisy drag racing cars and motorcycles speeding through their streets have more than quadrupled since the coronavirus stay-at-home order emptied New York City's roadways, data shows.

More than 400 New Yorkers have called 311 to complain about drag racing since the city began sheltering in place on March 20, more than four times the 87 drag racing complaints that came in during the same period last year.

The make-shift racetracks have made for a particularly aggravating time for New Yorkers forced to stay in their apartments, where, for some, they are woken up by the speedsters every night.

"It has been incredibly loud," one West Side Highway neighbor told Patch in an email. "Mostly guys (maybe girls) with souped-up motorcycles and muscle cars, revving their engines so loud that you can feel it vibrate through your body. And I'm on the 25th floor."

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Like those living near the West Side Highway, many of the 311 complaints have unsurprisingly been from those living near major thoroughfares.

The spike in calls also doesn't appear to be just because more New Yorkers are at home, not at work, and hearing the drag racing. About 125 of the 405 complaints between March 20 and June 12 were between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., with a large portion of the other 280 happening in the middle of the night.

Manhattan seems to be the hardest-hit. More than a third of the complaints have been in the borough.

Most center around Uptown neighborhoods like Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood in zip codes near major highways like Harlem River Drive or Henry Hudson Parkway, data shows.

One Washington Heights resident, Peggy Moore, who lives on the corner of Broadway and Arden Street, said speeding motorcycles during warm months in the neighborhood are nothing new, but that neighbors have noticed they're louder since the pandemic began.

The early warm weather and emptied out streets have also made it so they got an earlier start than past years, she said.

"Something other people have mentioned in other threads is that the noise is strangely worse with less traffic. Go figure," Peggy told Patch. "The sound is unreal."

Queens had the second-most complaints, with 108 New Yorkers calling into 311 since the shutdown. The zip codes with the most calls in that borough also appeared to be near major roadways, like the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and Queens Boulevard.

The Brooklyn zip code with the most complaints was Greenpoint's 11222, which is sandwiched between the Long Island and Brooklyn-Queens expressways. The borough had 92 complaints in total.

Of the remaining calls, 43 were in the Bronx, 18 were in Staten Island and there were 28 that did not give a location.

When asked for data about summonses or arrests related to the drag racing, the NYPD pointed Patch to its traffic data, though they noted speeding and other violations aren't necessarily related to drag racing incidents specifically. They did not answer a request for comment on whether there has been an increase in drag racing in particular.

Both neighbors who spoke with Patch said they haven't been satisfied with the NYPD's response to the drag racing incidents so far.

"I called 311, reported it on the 311 website, called the local precinct, emailed the local neighborhood representative. Nothing. No response. No help," said the West Side Highway neighbor, who asked not to be named.

But the traffic data does show cops have been catching more speedsters.

Though overall summonses are down with the decreased traffic, the rates of speeding violations have soared since the city's shutdown.

Speeding tickets made up 61 percent of traffic violations in April, compared to April 2019, when speeding accounted for just 15 percent of traffic summonses.

And, at least according to their social media, the NYPD have been using the cases to warn other drivers.

"Since the start of COVID-19, NYC streets and highways have become much less congested — unfortunately, some motorists see this as an opportunity to drive recklessly," the NYPD Highway District wrote on Twitter. "Rest assured #NYPD officers are out there to keep EVERYONE safe, and will enforce speed limits when necessary."

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This article originally appeared on the New York City Patch