State Police are now regularly patrolling some bridges and tunnels in the city — and drivers are feeling the pinch. NY1 has learned that state Troopers and MTA cops have issued drivers more than 5,000 tickets in the city so far this year. That is many times the usual number. Criminal Justice Reporter Dean Meminger hits the highway for this exclusive story.
It's not your usual sighting of cops in the city. These are State police — out in full force.
One area, along the Henry Hudson Parkway in the Bronx and Manhattan, night and day for several weeks they have been pulling cars over.
Bronx resident George Gonzalez was stopped.
"It is about revenue man, it is about stopping people for whatever they can," Gonzalez said. "And getting them on a ticket for this, that or the other thing. But the fact, now the state is down here. This is a police state, this is what this seems like."
Gonzalez says he was pulled over for unpaid tolls. He is far from alone.
We've obtained the numbers, and they are astounding. State troopers write an average of 50 tickets a year in the city. But already this year, they've written more than 3,000 tickets.
Police who work for the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority — part of the MTA — a state agency, have written another 2,200 tickets since January 1.
Many of the tickets are for toll evasion, but drivers complain they are also being cited for violations like broken taillights.
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz represents Riverdale, on the Bronx side of the Henry Hudson Bridge.
"If we had extra police in our area to make the neighborhood safer, fight crime," said Assemblyman Dinowitz. "People would probably be happy with it. But the people who have reached out to me are not happy they have seen state troopers and TBTA police because it appears to them their only purpose there is to give out tickets."
The ticket blitz follows Governor Cuomo's said state troopers would be posted at TBTA bridges and tunnels to help with the transition to cashless tolls, and to help the city with counterterrorism efforts.
Some saw the deployment as another slap at Mayor de Blasio in their cold war.
State police deny any hidden motive. Officials say the crackdown has snagged bigtime toll evaders, including 47 deadbeats who collectively owe $250,000.
Gonzalez was stopped after the automatic license plate readers in the cashless toll system alerted cops his registration was expired because of unpaid tolls.
"It shows you haven't paid 177 tolls," he said. "Which is ridiculous because I paid close to two thousand dollars to clean that up."
Gonzalez says he didn't know what kind of police were stopping him. A part of the confusion, TBTA police recently started driving around in dark blue cars, just like state troopers do.
Both have the authority to conduct traffic stops wherever they see violations.