May 4, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
Dozens of illegal riders on dirt bikes and ATVs ripped through Astoria Park Sunday pulling wheelies, revving engines and sending dust flying – before eventually being chased out of the park by police.
The unruly sight, which left park-goers angered – and others covered in dust – occurred at around 6 p.m. at the southern end of the park where families were soaking up the evening sunlight and skateboarders were riding the ramps of the skate park.
A long stream of raucous bikers were seen traveling southbound along a pathway inside Astoria Park before descending on the skate park that was full of young children who were forced to flee for safety, video footage obtained by the Queens Post shows.
One biker pulled a “doughnut” just before entering the skate park which showered people in dust, according to Ben Kennedy, a skateboarder who witnessed the disruptive scene.
“It was a complete dust storm for a couple of minutes,” said Kennedy, who estimated that the group consisted of more than 100 vehicles.
The bikers essentially forced the pedestrians off the pathway and one mother pushing her child in a baby stroller could be seen waiting for the dangerous activity to subside before accessing the walkway, the footage reveals.
The bikers, Kennedy said, then essentially took over the skate park by driving around the concrete purpose-built area leaving irate skateboarders with no choice but to leave or else face being run down. Many of the bikers were not wearing helmets.
Around 10 cops showed up a few minutes later and chased the bikers away, Kennedy said. He said the police confiscated two dirt bikes at the scene after some riders decided to drop their vehicles in order to evade the cops on foot.
“It actually became even more dangerous when the cops attempted to apprehend the bikers because they started to scramble away at speed,” Kennedy said about the hectic episode.
It is unclear if any arrests were made. A police spokesperson did not have any information pertaining to the ugly incident when called for comment.
Kennedy said that bikers have been driving recklessly in groups at the park since the weather began to heat up this year.
“It wasn’t a surprise to see them and everyone is mystified as to why they are not being stopped,” he said. “It’s not safe.”
Other residents said that the illegal activity has been taking place at the park since last year.
CB1 District Manager Florence Koulouris said that the board received a complaint about the lawless group on Monday and she urged residents to file complaints with 311, then follow up with CB1 with a 311 reference number.
“CB1 is an intermediary between residents and the city,” Koulouris said. “We need residents to be the eyes and ears of the community. If you see something say something and we can follow up with the NYC Parks Dept. and the police to make sure people are taking action.”
A spokesperson for NYC Parks said the department is aware of Sunday’s incident and is taking measures to stop it from reoccurring.
“We are currently exploring options to deter the use of illegal dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles in parks across the city,” said Charisse Hill, a spokesperson for NYC Parks.
Hill, however, did not specifically address solutions for Astoria Park and was referring to parks citywide.
“We have assigned additional Parks Enforcement Patrol Officers (PEP) to help educate visitors about park rules [across NYC] and take enforcement action, if necessary.”