New York Noise Nazis

December 16, 2008

All Posts, News

If you have to ride through New York City, whatever you do, don’t stop.

The City Council of New York, the 51-member legislative body for the big-shot capitol of the East, is expected to pass a new law this Thursday, December 18th. And, if your lips move when you read you should take a really big breath now.

Big Breath Now

The law is officially titled: “Proposed Introduction Number 416-A to amend Chapter One, Subchapter Two of Title 19 of the Administrative Code; A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to prohibiting the parking of motorcycles equipped with straight pipes on the streets of the city of New York.” Call it PIN 416-A.

And, already you are saying to yourself, “Hey! No problem! I don’t have straight pipes. I have Thunderheaders.” Or, “I have Pythons.” Or, whatever you have. And, of course your are wrong. Again. Because you do not have a politician’s mind or a lawyer’s mind or a cop’s mind. You have a biker’s mind.

The catch in this fine example of the politician’s craft is the redefinition of “straight pipes” from what “straight pipes” means to you to what a lawyer can twist the phrase “straight pipes” to mean “legally.” As algebra may be legally defined to mean fire. Or, as snow may be legally defined to mean guano.

Freedom Means Slavery

“For exhaust pipes manufactured after December 31, 1982,” PIN 416-A says “straight pipe shall also mean exhaust pipes on a motorcycle that are not equipped with an exhaust muffler bearing the federal EPA required labeling applicable to the motorcycle’s model year, as set out in 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) § 205.169, and shall also mean exhaust pipes on a motorcycle that is equipped with an exhaust muffler bearing such federal EPA required labeling designating such muffler as designed for use on closed course competition motorcycles only.”

And, what all that crap means-unless you are riding one of the last shovels or earlier-is that if you have changed out your pipes you will soon be illegal in New York City. But, it is much worse than that. If you are among the 75 percent of Harley riders with a non-stock exhaust you will also be prohibited from “stopping, standing, or parking” in that city.

But it is much worse than that. Power to enforce this law has been extended from the New York Police Department to three other self-serving bureaucracies: The Departments of Consumer Affairs, Environmental Affairs and Transportation. So, say you park in your driveway in Brooklyn. And, your neighbor hates you. And, she happens to work as a secretary in “consumer affairs” for the city. And she sees that you don’t have stock pipes. Then, she can cite you.

Worse And Worser

But, it is still worse. Because “upon the issuance of a summons or notice of violation,” New York City will “seize the motorcycle or straight pipe in accordance with rules promulgated by the transportation commissioner and deliver the bike or pipe into police department custody. Upon such seizure written notice shall be given, where possible….” Where possible. They will let you know where they took your bike where possible?

But wait. You don’t even know about the fines yet: “(1) At least $500 but not more than $1000 for a first violation; (2) at least $1000 but not more than $2500 for a second violation; and (3) at least $2500 but not more than $5000 for a third or subsequent violation.”

A grand for the first violation. And, as the cops out here on the fault line like to say, “Have a nice day!”

The Author And Crafter

The author of this piece of crap law is the Honorable Peter F. Vallone, Jr., Democrat of Queens and Chairman of New York City’s Committee on Public Safety. Last Wednesday, when the bill was passed by his committee, Vallone gloated, “Today we go a long way toward taking the squeal out of the hogs.”

And, Alan Gerson, a Democrat from Manhattan who was credited by the New York Daily News with “crafting” the bill, told that paper that all he was trying to do was give police “an extra tool to get at what is truly a serious problem.” By which he seemed to mean a way to use confiscatory city power to attack a marginalized minority in order to make money for the city.

The Opposing View

A guy named Bill Ferraro, who leads the Union Ironworkers Motorcycle Club, Local 580, told the Daily News he thought the city was trying to close its budget gap “with confiscation of bikes and seizure.”

And, Imre Szauter of the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) protested the pending law the way the AMA usually protests, with a long press release.

“The issue is that the New York City Council is unfairly singling out motorcyclists because motorcycles are the only vehicles covered under the bill,” Szauter said. “If New York City officials believe they have a sound problem, then the problem should be handled through the existing noise ordinance and not through piecemeal legislation targeting specific modes of transportation.”

Szauter also protested that “requiring motorcycles-and no other motor vehicles-to have a stock exhaust system is particularly discriminatory. When the muffler wears out or breaks on a car, the car owner can go to a local muffler shop and get an aftermarket system that costs much less than an original equipment system. The proposed New York City law wouldn’t allow a motorcyclist to do that, forcing the motorcyclist to potentially spend hundreds of dollars more for an original equipment system, assuming that system is even still available.”

Nevertheless, the law will probably pass and become law. And, like most other really crappy laws in the new and improved America it will remain law and be capriciously enforced until a court challenge, five or six or seven years from now overturns it.

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