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Morning Spew

More Cars, More Problems: NYC Paid Out $130 Million Last Year in Crash Settlements

Taxpayer money goes to the City’s car fleet, and also to payouts when municipal workers crash into other cars or people—to the tune of $130.1 million last year.

9:27 AM EST on February 13, 2023

(Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

New York City is a bad place to drive. The streets are poorly designed for pedestrians and cyclists, let alone the massively oversized car you're probably driving. Lots of New Yorkers bought cars during the pandemic. And the City has flooded its own streets with way more supersized vehicles over the past several years. Today, according to a new report from Comptroller Brad Lander's office, there are over 29,000 City-owned cars, a 10 percent rise over a decade; SUVs jumped from 10 percent of the City’s fleet in 2015 to 18 percent today. 

What's "driving" this change, you ask? The NYPD. Cops have traded in their sedans for SUVs, which present more of a risk to other drivers and pedestrians than the previously-used sedans.

According to the report, the City's payouts for car crashes involving municipally owned vehicles are also on the rise: $130.1 million in 2022. And unlike the scofflaws who drive around the city with fake license plates, it's theoretically easier to identify who's at fault (though these might be the same municipal scofflaws, just different municipal vehicles).

The NYPD alone was responsible for 181 settled claims last year, and between 2012 and 2021, the City paid out $246.8 million in NYPD crash claims, more than a third of the total spent by the City on crash claims overall. DSNY also accounts for 28 percent of total crashes resulting in settlements of more than $1 million. (They're serious about you needing to park close to the curb for garbage collection.)  

The comptroller's report found that crashes were concentrated in East Harlem in Manhattan; East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Prospect Lefferts-Gardens in Brooklyn; the South Bronx; and Southeast Queens—all areas with higher poverty rates than the rest of the city or their corresponding boroughs. Does this actually mean having more cops in a neighborhood actually makes its roads less safe? Who's to say!

To drive down the costs of settlements (and, oh yeah, make streets safer) the comptroller is recommending that the City slow down municipal cars (a pilot program is already trying this out), reduce the number of City-owned vehicles, and crack down on employees who drive recklessly. None of the recommendations directly address the NYPD's own supersized fleet.

But according to the report, if City agencies could reduce their crash claims by 20 percent, it would result in savings of $25 million per year—plenty of cash to cover the Adams administration's proposed cuts to the city's library systems.

Some links to start your “bad driver Monday” here at Hell Gate: 

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