MANHATTAN (CN) – A ubiquitous sight and sound of the summer, New York City’s fleet of ice cream trucks saw their ranks cut by 46 Wednesday with a lawsuit alleging that they ducked nearly $4.5 million in traffic summonses through a web of shell companies.
“This seizure marks the end of the road for these scofflaw ice cream vendors,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, who announced one month earlier that he is running for U.S. commander-in-chief.
De Blasio’s “Vision Zero” initiative aims to avoid vehicle fatalities, and his national agenda has been tough on the corporate shenanigans of President Donald Trump, a man whom the mayor calls “Con Don.”
Dubbing his ice cream bust “Operation Meltdown,” de Blasio swirled his public-safety goals with his campaign against corporate malfeasance.
“The defendants operate ice cream trucks in the most densely congested streets in New York City – Midtown Manhattan – creating, for their own profit, unjustifiable risks to public safety by flouting traffic regulations while evading the financial consequences of doing business in that fashion by shuffling corporate assets,” the city’s 107-page summons and complaint states. “Between 2009 and 2017, the city issued in excess of 22,495 summonses to the defendants’ trucks, all of which have gone into default.”
Photos of aberrant ice cream trucks fill the court papers. One is depicted illegally standing in the bus lane on Fifth Avenue at its intersection with East 79th Street, just south of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and another is parked illegally across the street from Lincoln Center.
A map of the violations shows repeat offenders congregating at popular Midtown tourist destinations.
Prosecutors say the trucks pulled a hustle for four years on Department of Motor Vehicles registration forms, known as MV-82s, to keep parking and standing at these hot spots without worrying about potential fines.
“Between 2013 and 2077, the defendants conspired with one another to file hundreds of MV-82 forms for the 76 ice cream trucks at issue here, including the 46 ice cream trucks that the city seeks to attach,” the complaint states.
New York corporation counsel Zachary Carter called the scheme as a threat to the safety of the city’s most vulnerable.
“We all know from common experience that ice cream trucks are magnets for children,” Carter said in a statement. “In order to protect this particularly vulnerable category of pedestrians, our traffic laws must be strictly enforced.”
Some of the trucks racked up astonishing traffic fines in short order. One chart shows that a company Ace Ice owed more than $132,000 for parking violations between April and July 2016. Another named Avery Ice owed more than $187,000 for parking violations in that same period.