Car-owning New Yorkers have been eternally hassled by homeless men who volunteer to “make sure” nothing happens to their parked car. Taking their cue from the mob, this service is offered for a tip, of course, with the thinly veiled threat that non-tippers will return to find their vehicles damaged. But the cops are backing off the issue after courts last year awarded over $300K to panhandlers, saying it was within their First Amendment rights to beg in such a manner. One man alone got $100K.
“For an area that’s being revitalized, this is not something we need,” said Greg Gonzalez, who runs a parking garage and claims hustlers on 189th Street between Park and Webster avenues cost him business. One day last week, a Post reporter saw hustlers approach 30 motorists. Drivers pay the hustlers a dollar or two, believing they’ll watch their cars and feed the parking meters. But Gonzalez says the hustlers don’t feed the meters and don’t do anything to protect cars from vandals. “People still get tickets,” he said. And the hustlers “stand around smoking weed.” “It’s a quality-of-life issue for the neighborhood,” Gonzalez said.“These guys are bad news.” “It’s an implied thing: ‘Pay me, and I’ll make sure your car is OK,’” said David Miller, 36, who owns a locksmith business on the Fordham Road commercial strip.
As noted above, the problem is especially bad in the Bronx, but the area’s state senator, the mayhem-causing Democrat Pedro Espada, thinks the whole thing is a riot: “It’s pretty fucking funny, what these guys do here.”