After a four-year-old boy was critically injured by a suspected hit-and-run dirt biker in Queens last Sunday, calls have grown all this week for greater enforcement of illegal dirt bikes and ATVs on city streets.
Argenis Rivas was charged Thursday with felony assault, endangering the welfare of a child, leaving the scene of an accident, among other charges, for allegedly striking the boy, Jonathan Beauchamps, with his motorized bike at a parking lot in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park just before 6 p.m. last Sunday. The boy was taken to a local hospital where he was listed in critical condition, but was steadily improving. Rivas reportedly confessed to the crime on a Tik Tok video, blaming the boy’s parents.
Rivas’ attorney, Martha Koutsogiannopoulos, said her client is not a flight risk, categorizing the incident as merely an accident.
“The City has seen an unacceptable increase in defiant drivers of all types of vehicles driving illegally and hurting people,” Melinda Katz, the Queens District Attorney, said. “It is time we stand together to prevent further harm.”
ATVs have been omnipresent across the city in recent years, and have operated with some impunity since the NYPD does not chase ATVs, believing a chase can ultimately endanger the public. But they have launched several operations in confiscating them. In the past three months this year, the NYPD seized 565 ATVs and dirt bikes.
The increased worries of speedy riders coincide with the increased number of 311 complaints for drag racing. Data shows there were 1,599 complaints for drag racing so far this year compared to 780 exactly the same time a year ago.
“There’s far too many still out there, and anyone with information, where you are seeing them stored, meet up or anything else, give us a call,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said on NY1 this week.
Days before the incident, Bronx Councilmember Mark Gjonaj, who represents the 13th Council District in the East Bronx, proposed legislation to increase fines on drivers illegally operating dirt bikes. Currently, the fines run from $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for the second offense. His legislation would increase fines to $750 for the first offense and $1,500 for the second offense. Any seized dirt bike or ATV is usually destroyed by the NYPD.
Eric Adams, the Democratic nominee for mayor, called the issue unacceptable and believed the hands-off approach doesn’t work. On the Brian Lehrer Show on Monday, Adams proposed a special unit pursue and seize illegal bikes, and consider a designated place such as Floyd Bennett Field to allow ATVs to ride around.
The question was asked after a caller from Elmhurst said his neighborhood in Queens has turned into the “Indianapolis raceway” because of the dirt bikers.
“The packs are getting larger, they’re becoming more frequent,” the caller said. “The current policy is not working.”
The proposal was broached to Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday, who appeared open to the idea, telling reporters “I think it’s worth exploring.”
“We’ve got to be very aggressive because of the dangers and the impact on quality of life,” de Blasio said. “And if we want to make a change then we have to change the laws with it.”