It was early on a Monday morning — very early — and Jeffrey Schifman’s family was fast asleep in their West 237th Street and Independence Avenue apartment.
The roar of car engines and the screeching of tires ended that slumber, echoing through the apartment, startling everyone awake.
Looking back, Schifman isn’t quite sure what the cars were doing — he originally described it as “drag racing” in a Facebook post, but later said it was a few cars doing doughnuts and other tricks in the street.
Yet, whatever they were up to, it was loud.
“I just don’t know what to call it,” Schifman said. The reckless drivers have been regular visitors to his Spuyten Duyvil corner over the last few months. They’d come around late at night and early in the morning, swerving and doing doughnuts with car engines altered or engineered to be extremely loud.
“Three o’clock, one o’clock in the morning,” Schifman said. “It’s obnoxious.”
A photographer by trade, Schifman has tried to snap pictures of the rude drivers, but each time they get away. More often than not, Schifman is half-awake when the disturbance starts, and is more focused on calming his son.
And the police?
“As far as I’m concerned,” Schifman said, “they are worthless.”
When he calls the 50th Precinct, Schifman is asked if the offending cars are still around — which, by then, they inevitably aren’t. There’s not much they can do, a sympathetic voice on the other end of the line tells Schifman: “They haven’t done anything.”
Police confirm they’ve been getting calls about the loud drivers, and overnight patrols are indeed on alert.
“We’ve let our units know to keep an eye out for them in those areas,” 50th Precinct community affairs officer Juan Ventura said.
The citywide speed limit is 25 mph, but it’s 20 mph by Schifman’s apartment thanks to a “Neighborhood Slow Zone” introduced in 2013 by Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz. Slow zones not only have lower speed limits, but they tend to include speed bumps as well — like several found along Independence Avenue south of West 237th Street. The slow zone runs between West 247th and West 232nd streets, between Henry Hudson Parkway and Palisade Avenue.
The state has a law against cars with mufflers or exhausts modified to sound louder, but only 154 tickets have been issued for such violations in the Bronx since 2014 according, according to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.
Dinowitz lives near Schifman and he’s heard the drivers, too. He couldn’t exactly remember when he heard them, but it was at some point in the evening, and the frequency of the incidents has increased over the past few months.
“I don’t know if they’re driving recklessly because I haven’t witnessed it, but I’ve heard the noise a few times,” the Assemblyman said. “To me it sounded like a motorcycle, but it could’ve been a car.”
Dinowitz encouraged people to call his office or 311 with complaints. If a pattern begins to emerge, police will take notice, he added.
Officials at 311 say they’ve received nearly 80 complaints about loud cars or trucks in the 10463 ZIP code since New Year’s, but most of them are complaining about loud music, not engines.
While the city should do something about the noise, Dinowitz is trying to keep expectations at least somewhat grounded. For example, no one should expect the 5-0 will plant a patrol car on Independence Avenue all day.
“I would certainly love them to nab the person that’s doing this, but I’m not going to call for a cop on this corner or a cop on that corner every time something’s going on that we don’t like,” Dinowitz said.
The 50th Precinct has limited resources, and Dinowitz says he trusts commanding officer Capt. Emilio Melendez to allocate those resources in the best interest of the community.
Schifman sees it differently. He gets hit with parking tickets all the time around his home. If the 50th Precinct has time for traffic enforcement, he says, they can provide a little more focus on stopping reckless drivers.
“Why don’t they just take an unmarked car and sit out here on the corner and wait for something like this,” Schifman said. These drivers “could theoretically kill somebody.”