New York

Crushin' it: NYPD uses bulldozers to wreck renegade cycles

  • A pile of 70 confiscated motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles are on display after the New York Police Department crushed some of the 700 confiscated vehicles at the Erie Basin tow pound in Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood Tuesday, May 17, 2016, in New York. New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton, who attended the event, said the department has been cracking down on unlicensed drivers who operate ATVs, mini-bikes and motorcycles without helmets. So far this year, more than 679 bikes have been confiscated and dozens of drivers arrested on such charges as reckless endangerment. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

    A pile of 70 confiscated motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles are on display after the New York Police Department crushed some of the 700 confiscated vehicles at the Erie Basin tow pound in Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood Tuesday, May 17, 2016, in New York. New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton, who attended the event, said the department has been cracking down on unlicensed drivers who operate ATVs, mini-bikes and motorcycles without helmets. So far this year, more than 679 bikes have been confiscated and dozens of drivers arrested on such charges as reckless endangerment. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)  (The Associated Press)

  • A driver rides a bulldozer atop 70 confiscated motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles as the New York Police Department crushed some of the confiscated bikes stored at the Erie Basin tow pound Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood, Tuesday, May 17, 2016, in New York. New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton said the department has been cracking down on unlicensed drivers who operate ATVs, mini-bikes and motorcycles without helmets. So far this year, more than 679 bikes have been confiscated and dozens of drivers arrested on such charges as reckless endangerment. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

    A driver rides a bulldozer atop 70 confiscated motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles as the New York Police Department crushed some of the confiscated bikes stored at the Erie Basin tow pound Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood, Tuesday, May 17, 2016, in New York. New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton said the department has been cracking down on unlicensed drivers who operate ATVs, mini-bikes and motorcycles without helmets. So far this year, more than 679 bikes have been confiscated and dozens of drivers arrested on such charges as reckless endangerment. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)  (The Associated Press)

  • New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton waves a checked flag to signal the start of the crushing of 70 confiscated motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles at the Erie Basin tow pound Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood Tuesday, May 17, 2016, in New York. Bratton said the police department has been cracking down on unlicensed drivers who operate ATVs, mini-bikes and motorcycles without helmets.   (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

    New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton waves a checked flag to signal the start of the crushing of 70 confiscated motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles at the Erie Basin tow pound Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood Tuesday, May 17, 2016, in New York. Bratton said the police department has been cracking down on unlicensed drivers who operate ATVs, mini-bikes and motorcycles without helmets. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)  (The Associated Press)

On the Brooklyn waterfront, with the Lower Manhattan skyline visible in the background Tuesday afternoon, two bulldozers rumbled into place on either end of a line of about 70 motorcycles leaning on their sides like a shelf full of half-fallen books.

New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton walked down the line, briefly surveying the bikes, before stepping onto a small riser to launch the destruction with a wave of a checkered flag. Then the bulldozers lifted their scoops and crawled back and forth over the bikes, flattening them with a thrum of metallic clatters and creaks.

"We want to send out a very strong message to the nitwits and knuckleheads who insist on operating these vehicles on the streets (and elsewhere)," Bratton said. They are "creating extraordinary dangers for not only themselves, but for the public."

The department has been cracking down on unlicensed drivers who operate ATVs, mini-bikes and motorcycles without helmets. So far this year, more than 679 bikes have been confiscated and dozens of drivers arrested on such charges as reckless endangerment.

Chief of Patrol Carlos Gomez said nearly 80 percent of the confiscated vehicles remain unclaimed — some are pricey, others are homemade. "And this is their ultimate fate," he said.

The department usually gets about 2 cents a pound from a salvage yard for the wreckage; an auction wouldn't be worth it and there's no telling whether the bikes could be outfitted for legal riding. The idea to crush them came from Bratton's tenure as head of the police department in Los Angeles.

"They're just a plague on the city. We receive a tremendous amount of calls on these things," he said, noting police weren't targeting licensed, law-abiding riders.