Tag Archives: cars

Car break-ins increasing in Glendale, police and residents say


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Joann Guidici

Glendale is seeing a rise in car break-ins this year, according to police.

During a community meeting on May 20, Capt. Christopher Manson, commanding officer of the 104th Precinct, said that compared to last year, there was a rise in thefts from automobiles.

He was unable to provide exact stats at the meeting, but, through May 18, the latest state available on the NYPD website, there were marked increases in both grand larceny (up 21 percent) and petit larceny (up 16.5 percent).

The spike in crime is leaving many residents of this usually quiet neighborhood surprised and frustrated with cops.

Joann Guidici, a resident of Glendale, found her car broken into on a recent Saturday morning. The car had been parked on 72nd Street and the driver window was smashed but nothing valuable had been stolen from the car.

“They must’ve done it for the high,” she said. “Because they didn’t take any of the valuable stuff.”

She noted that there had been two pairs of expensive, designer glasses in the car that were left untouched.

Brian Dooley, a member of the Glendale Property Owners Organization, had a similar experience.

“My car was broken into twice,” he said. Unlike Guidici, there were no broken windows. “The first time I thought that we had left the car unlocked. But after the second incident, I knew that they must be using a magnetic device of some sort.”

Manson echoed Dooley’s suspicion about the use of a magnetic device.

“Most of the cases we’ve responded to are with cars that don’t have any broken windows or picked locks,” he said during the meeting. “So we think that whoever is doing that is using some kind of magnetic device.”

Police say they are doing everything they can to stop the spike in car break-ins, which are mostly occurring in Glendale with a few also in Middle Village. But Guidici said that it isn’t enough.

“This has been an issue for over a year,” she said. “The 104th Precinct wasn’t very helpful. They need to step it up.”

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Taking a test drive: Do it right


| ara@queenscourier.com

When shopping for a new or used car, the test drive is an essential part of the process. While the test drive may be exciting, experts advise car shoppers keep emotions in check and evaluate the car in its entirety to make a good purchase decision.

“A test drive shouldn’t be just a joyride,” said Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor at Cars.com, who test drives more than 150 cars each year. “This is your chance to size up the car when it’s stationary, and to drive it like you plan to every day and make sure it’s the right car for you.”

When test driving a used car:

* Check for any unusual or bad smells, sounds and sights.

* Write down anything that seems damaged or suspicious; refer to this before you make that big purchase.

* Bring a second person along to act as a second set of eyes and ears.

* Bring the car to a trained mechanic to inspect the vehicle, detect overlooked faults and predict future maintenance costs. If the seller doesn’t allow you to take it to a mechanic, walk away.

For both new and used vehicle test drives:

* Explore the car fully before you drive; you can’t concentrate on everything at once.

* Make sure you are comfortable in the car.

* Check the visibility in all directions.

* Figure out whether this car fits your lifestyle. For example, can you install that child seat without trouble? Will your bike fit in the trunk? Is there enough room in the cargo area for a dog kennel?

* Judge if the car you’re testing has the right options; dealers may have more of the same model with different options, or you may consider ordering a car to suit your preferences.

* Come prepared ahead of time. Do some research on the automaker’s website if you know what kind of car you want, as well as on unbiased third party sites like Cars.com.

* If you are not allowed to test drive the vehicle, walk away and consider a different seller.

“Really drive it,” said Wiesenfelder. “Take it to common places you drive. Will it fit in your garage or parking spot? Are you willing to drive this car to work every day? Can you maneuver it in tight quarters with ease? These are all questions to answer before and during your test drive.”

While emotions can be the biggest influencer on a test drive, experts recommend that you be prepared to walk away if you are not completely satisfied.

“There are plenty of other new and used cars in the market,” said Wiesenfelder.

 

Five ways to get real and consistent savings at the pump


| ara@queenscourier.com

Whether it’s shopping for groceries or clothes at the mall, we’re always on the lookout for the best deal. Though it may be through more subtle means, you can apply the same money-saving principals toward other everyday expenses. The money you spend on gas is a perfect example.

By making a few adjustments like changing driving habits and shopping smart, you can make the most out of each gallon you pump into your tank. Here are five tips for getting real and consistent savings at the pump.

* Follow simple maintenance procedures. The most practical way to improve your fuel economy is making sure your tires are inflated properly. You can find the correct tire pressure for your vehicle on the placard inside of your door, or in your car’s owner’s manual. Using the recommended grade of motor oil can also increase your fuel economy by 1 to 2 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

* Use rewards programs to your advantage. While a few cents may not seem like a lot, the dollars add up quickly over the course of time when you consistently use rewards programs.

* Reduce weight and drag. You might not notice your carrying rack affecting the quality of your ride, but racks and other add-ons to your vehicle cause a lot of drag, taking a big bite out of your fuel efficiency. It pays to take them off when you aren’t using them. Removing extra weight, by cleaning out everything you don’t need that’s stashed in your trunk or car, can also help.

* Watch the way you drive. Most cars travel with highest fuel efficiency in the 50 mph range which begins to drop significantly the faster you go. Keeping your highway speed to the posted speed limit not only keeps you safer, but can greatly improve gas mileage. Aggressive starting and stopping also puts more stress on your engine, and uses more gasoline.

* Technology is your friend. Your mobile GPS unit can help you get where you need to go in the most efficient way possible.

Shopping smart at the pump may be easier than you thought. By putting a few of these simple fuel-saving tips into practice, you can get real and consistent savings.

 

How older drivers can cut vehicle costs


| ara@queenscourier.com

For most of us, driving is a necessity, and so is doing it as cost-effectively as possible – even in retirement when most of us stay in our suburban homes. Saving money on automobile-related expenses like gas and insurance can help free up cash for other important things.

Fortunately, many tactics can help you minimize vehicle costs, from doing basic maintenance tasks yourself to taking a driver safety course that could qualify you for insurance discounts. The driving experts at AARP recommend drivers 50 and older focus on three key areas of opportunity for cost-reduction:

Insurance

Older drivers have lower rates of police-reported crashes per capita, limit their driving to familiar routes and better weather, and drive fewer miles than other age groups, but accident rates per mile start increasing when drivers reach 70, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Even if your personal driving record is clean, your age may put you in a demographic that insurance companies view as higher risk – and you’ll pay higher auto insurance premiums because of it.

Shopping around for auto insurance may help you secure a better rate, but if you’re facing very high premiums, it may make sense to take an extra step. Many insurers offer discounts to drivers who complete driver safety courses. Check with your insurance company to see if such a discount is available to you, then look for a program, like AARP Driver Safety’s course, that is specifically designed to help people 50 and older refresh their driving skills and adapt to age-related changes. There are no tests to take for the course. To find an in-person course near you, visit www.aarp.org/findacourse, or sign up for an online course.

Fuel efficiency

After insurance, fuel can be one of the highest costs of operating a vehicle, especially for those who travel far, such as older drivers commuting from winter to summer residences. Car makers have improved overall fuel efficiency for many newer vehicles, but you can take steps to cut your gas costs more – even if you have an older car.

AARP offers these tips for improving fuel efficiency:

* Lighten the load. The heavier your vehicle and contents, the more gas it will consume moving down the road. Remove excess weight from the trunk and avoid traveling with luggage or bike racks that create drag, add weight and decrease fuel economy.

* Watch your speed. While it’s important to safely keep pace with the flow of traffic around you, keep in mind most cars are at the optimum fuel efficiency around 50 mph.

* Drive smoothly. Abrupt stops and starts, and fast, erratic movements in traffic all decrease fuel economy.

* Try to consolidate trips. Rather than making one trip to the grocery store today, then the doctor’s office tomorrow and your book club the next day, try to group errands together. Starting a cold engine consumes more gas than keeping it running longer.

Maintenance

With the average age of cars on the road approaching 11 years, according to R.L. Polk & Co., an automotive market research firm, routine maintenance is more important than ever. Doing simple tasks like oil changes, windshield wiper replacement and air filter changes yourself can help save you money.

Tasks that you can easily perform yourself include:

* Changing the oil and oil filter.

* Changing the air filter.

* Monitoring tire inflation and adding air if needed.

* Checking and cleaning battery connections.

* Replacing worn windshield wipers.

* Replacing headlight or brake light bulbs.

Other DIY tasks, like replacing brake pads or sparkplugs, or flushing the radiator, require a bit more know-how. Fortunately, plenty of online resources offer step-by-step guides for doing more complex vehicle maintenance tasks. And, you can always check with your local community college to see if they offer a basic auto maintenance course.

Car maintenance made easy with simple tips from a gear head


| ara@queenscourier.com

Everyone knows car maintenance is important, but if you’re not a gear head – someone who loves working on vehicles – the idea of doing routine car maintenance can be very intimidating.

“Whether on the set of “Top Gear,” at NASCAR races or just in my garage at home, I’m fortunate enough to be around cars a lot,” said Rutledge Wood, SpeedTV correspondent and host of “Top Gear USA.” “I love driving them, repairing them and tinkering with them. However, for a lot of people, cars can be a confusing and even intimidating piece of machinery to work on.”

To help people feel more comfortable in maintaining their vehicles, Wood offers some simple tips that can make anyone feel like a gear head.

Change your oil.

While many don’t find the prospect of being under a car messing with greasy filters their idea of a fun Sunday afternoon, changing a car’s oil isn’t as daunting a task as it seems. Here are a few easy tips:

1. Make sure your engine is cool before you start, then safely jack up your car and support it with jack stands. Lay a piece of cardboard under the engine, just in case you spill any oil.

2. Position a recycling container under the oil pan that’s on the bottom of your engine, then undo the drain plug and let the old oil pour into it. When the old oil’s out, put the drain plug back on and tighten it to your car’s torque specification.

3. Next, remove your old oil filter using an oil filter wrench; turn the filter counterclockwise until it’s free, but watch out you don’t spill the old oil that’s still in it. Make sure the rubber gasket comes out with the old filter.

4. Then, taking your new oil filter, lubricate the rubber gasket with some new oil and fill the new oil filter with oil to about two-thirds full.

5. Carefully screw the new oil filter clockwise into place (holding it upright); tighten only as much as you can with one hand, don’t overdo it or else it can cause a leak.

6. Now it’s time to fill the engine with oil, so unscrew the oil fill cap on the topside of the engine and insert your funnel. It’s smart to check your owner’s manual to find out how much oil your engine holds if you’re unsure, then pour a little more than three-fourths that amount into the engine.

7. Finally, start your vehicle and let it run for about a minute. During that minute, take a peek underneath to make sure you don’t have any leaks. After a minute, turn off your vehicle and check the oil level on the dipstick, adding more if necessary.

Clean up cloudy headlights

It may seem obvious that your headlights are one of the most critical safety features on your car, but what’s not always top of mind is how quickly they can become yellowed, hazed or dull from rough road conditions and exposure to the sun. This can lead to severely diminished visibility for yourself and other drivers, especially when driving at night or in poor weather.

Check your tires

Worn treads are a major safety issue while on the road, leading to hydroplaning, poor traction as well as reduced fuel efficiency. Luckily, checking your tread wear is simple. Look at the tread pattern. You’ll probably see something called “tread wear bars.” These are small bridges between your treads. Look at the tread pattern and you’ll see the beginnings of these bars start to form between the treads, or running across the tires. As the tires wear, these bars will become flush with the tire’s tread. If they are, then it’s time to change your tires.

Another simple trick is to head for the change jar. Just grab a penny and place it upside down with Lincoln facing you in the center of the tread (at the thickest part of the tire). If you can see the top of his head it’s time to get new tires.

“By following these tips, you might not quite be ready to join a NASCAR pit crew just yet, but you’ll be well on your way to becoming a true gear head,” said Wood.

How your smartphone can help you care for your car


| ara@queenscourier.com

If you can resist the temptation to reach for it while you’re behind the wheel, your smartphone can be a great asset as you care for your vehicle. A smartphone can give you instructions for maintenance procedures while you are under the hood, help you find a part that needs fixing and get you to a trusted mechanic quicker and easier than ever before.

Whether you’re a weekend mechanic or simply enjoy being able to keep a handy and accessible maintenance log, here are few ways your smartphone can help you take better care of your car:

* How-to videos. YouTube isn’t just a great place to check out the latest hilarious viral video, it’s a great resource for finding videos that can lead you through common car maintenance procedures.

* Parts catalogs. With a smartphone-ready parts catalog, you can not only see your options for replacement parts, but place your order on the spot while you continue to work.

* Maintenance diaries. If you’re like many conscientious car owners, you probably keep a log book in your glove box detailing everything from maintenance procedures to oil changes and even gas mileage from tank to tank. The good news is there are now a number of mobile device “apps” that can make this task even easier for you. A good car maintenance app will organize and present the notes you keep in a logical way, and even allow you to keep notes on multiple vehicles. Some even have the ability to send you reminders when you are due for an oil change or other routine maintenance procedures.

* Garage locaters. If you end up breaking down in unfamiliar territory, a smartphone can be of great assistance in finding a reputable shop. Your map app can help you locate the shops closest to you and then you can take to the web, visit a shop’s site and read reviews collected by mobile-friendly services to learn what other customers said about repairs they had done at the shop.

* Car buying info. Your smartphone can also help you if you’re in the market for a new car. If you’re on the showroom floor, you can use your phone to browse vehicle specifications and read reviews. Many car magazines now have mobile sites, making things that much easier, and you can even get a quick answer on what kind of fuel economy to expect at fueleconomy.gov/m.

Taking a road trip? Tips for making the best of night-time driving


| ara@queenscourier.com

Fall is a great time for a road trip. With clear, cool days and less traffic now that the summer vacation crowds have dwindled, many people are feeling the lure of the open road. But with shorter daylight hours night-time driving will be an unavoidable necessity.

It’s important to keep night-time travel as safe, comfortable and convenient as possible for everyone who rides in your vehicle. If you’ll be driving at night here are some tips to help ensure you enjoy good travels:

Prepare your vehicle

Before you begin your trip, make sure your vehicle is in top shape for traveling at night. Take care of any necessary repairs or maintenance, no matter how minor they seem, including things like checking that tires are properly inflated and the air filter is clean and functioning properly.

Visibility is an important consideration for night driving. All windows, headlights and tail lights should be clean and unclouded. Check headlights to ensure they’re properly aimed; poorly aligned headlights can make it difficult for you to see the road, and can blind drivers in other vehicles.

Don’t overlook the importance of comfort and convenience. Outfit your vehicle with accessories that will make operating it in the dark as easy as possible.

Look after your passengers

Before setting out on your driving trip, be sure interior climate controls function properly and that all passengers have the proper safety restraints. Infants and children should ride in the back seat throughout the trip.

Although it may be tempting to allow children to lay down in back seats and sleep during night drives, children should be properly buckled up whenever traveling in a vehicle. Put infants and toddlers in car seats appropriate for their weight and age. Children younger than 12, shorter than 4 feet 9 inches, or less than 80 pounds should use a booster seat, according to SafeKids.org.

Do provide accessories like neck pillows, night lights and soothing music to encourage kids to rest during night-time driving.

Take care of yourself

As the driver, you are the most important piece of safety equipment in the vehicle. Make sure you are well-rested before setting out on the road. Update eyewear prescriptions and take all necessary medications with you inside the vehicle so you’re not tempted to skip a dose while driving.

Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, but never drink alcohol and drive. The National Safety Council also recommends you avoid smoking while driving, since the nicotine and carbon monoxide in smoke can hinder night vision.

Finally, avoid frustrated driving by minimizing distractions. Plan your route before you leave home so that you don’t have to deal with confusion over where you’re going or the distraction of trying to figure out directions while driving. Ask your passengers to take any incoming phone calls or texts on your phone – unless you’re driving in an area that prohibits cell phone use in the car.

With a little preparation and a few well-chosen supplies and accessories, you can help ensure every hour on the road is as safe, convenient and enjoyable as possible.

Don’t let return charges on your leased car put a dent in your wallet


| ara@queenscourier.com

The allure of a new car and low monthly payment options draw many people to lease a car, even though they could face serious fines and extra charges when they return the vehicle at the end of the lease term. If you’re leasing a car, however, you can take steps to avoid getting dinged by lease return charges.

Sweat the small stuff

Just about every vehicle on the road has some scratches, nicks, chips and dents; parking lots and garages can’t protect a vehicle completely. Inevitably, doors get dinged and bumpers scuffed. And even if the blemishes on your leased car are small, don’t think the dealership won’t notice. Even small flaws can quickly rust and grow into large headaches, so fixing the problem as soon as possible is always the best solution.

Tire check

Like a pair of shoes, constant use will cause tires to wear down quickly. Tires are often one of the first places a dealer will look when inspecting a vehicle, and besides being a safety concern, bald or damaged tires can cost you big when your lease is up. Tires with less than one-eighth of an inch of tread need to be replaced before the dealership’s inspection. An easy trick to get an idea of whether your car needs new tires is the “penny test.” Simply place a penny in the tread of each tire with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If the top of Lincoln’s head shows, it’s time for new tires.

To get the most life out of your leased car’s tires from the get-go, check tire pressure regularly and rotate your tires about every six months. When your lease end date draws near, do a full check on all tires and replace any that show cuts, cracks or bulges in the sidewalls or treads. Purchasing new tires may seem expensive, but paying for them to be replaced by the dealership will likely cost you even more.

It’s in the details

Before you hand over the keys for inspection, make an effort to get the vehicle looking and working exactly as it did when you drove it off the lot. Check that all features, including the sound system, keyless entry, windows and any other components, work properly and that all extras, from luggage racks to the spare tire cover, are accounted for. Though these extras may seem insignificant compared to the vehicle itself, the leasing company will check every single aspect of the vehicle when you return it.

To give your lease a good-as-new appearance, consider having the vehicle detailed before inspection. Turning over a vehicle that has already been thoroughly cleaned will make for an easier and less costly trade-in.

Driving green for dummies: It’s easier and cheaper than you think


| ara@queenscourier.com

Green driving is easier and more important than many people think. It’s important because, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, highway vehicles account for 28 percent (1.5 billion tons) of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions each year.

The good news is that you don’t have to buy a new car or dramatically change your lifestyle to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. Just follow these easy steps:

* Upgrade lubricants. Next generation lubricants such as Royal Purple motor oil are formulated with unique advanced additive technologies that allow for longer intervals between changes. This means fewer oil changes which saves you time and money, and helps the environment. Additionally, Royal Purple motor oil has been reported to improve fuel economy by as much as 5 percent compared to ordinary lubricants. It’s also been reported to increase horsepower and torque, so you can switch to an environmentally friendly product without sacrificing performance.

* Take care of your tires. Underinflated and/or misaligned tires can increase fuel consumption by as much as 4 percent, according to the U. S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Making sure your tires are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure will maximize fuel economy and improve the safety and longevity of your tires.

* Replace a clogged air filter. If you have an older vehicle with a carbureted engine, replacing a clogged air filter can improve your fuel economy by up to 6 percent. Air filters keep impurities from damaging the interior of the engine, so replacing the dirty filter will save gas and protect your engine.

* Stay tuned. Keep your car in shape by following the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance. Fixing a vehicle in need of a tune-up can improve gas mileage by up to 4 percent.

* Recycle. If you do your own oil changes, find a place that will accept your used motor oil by visiting www.earth911.com.

Learn more at www.fueleconomy.gov.

 

Pluses and pointers: How to buy car parts


| ara@queenscourier.com

With the average age of vehicles on the road nudging 11 years, more car owners will be looking for the most cost-effective ways to maintain and repair their used vehicles.

In January, automotive market research firm R.L. Polk & Co. placed the average age of cars and light trucks on America’s highways at 10.8 years, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. Parts suppliers were among the auto industry segments that Polk’s global aftermarket practice leader, Mark Seng, predicted would see increased business, the Times reported.

Auto parts expert Joe Ferrer, star of the national cable television network, SPEED’s, new “Hard Parts: South Bronx” series, agrees. Hard Parts airs at 10 p.m. EST every Thursday.

“The parts industry has grown a lot in the last five years,” Ferrer said. “Box stores have moved into urban areas and the Internet has driven a tremendous explosion in business within the automotive industry. My retail business is probably the fastest growing part of my business because people are buying their own parts.”

Once, only do-it-yourselfers would have purchased their own parts. Today, many vehicle owners are finding value in buying parts themselves and bringing them to the mechanic along with the vehicle. Buying car parts can be tricky, however, especially given that car manufacturers seem to change part specifications every year these days.

“Many new parts come to market every day,” Ferrer said. “Vehicle technology is changing so fast that the parts you used before are often not the same anymore. For instance, with hybrid or electric cars, a part that you would use five years ago for a combustion engine would not be the same part that you use today.”

If you’re interested in buying your own parts – whether you’re an amateur mechanic or just want the best possible price and will have a professional do the work – Ferrer offers some advice for navigating the complex parts market:

* Be cautious when buying parts online. “If you buy parts online, you may not know where the product is coming from or if it’s a name brand or not,” Ferrer said. You will also have to wait to have the part shipped, so if you urgently need a part to complete a repair, online buying may be too slow. You’ll also need to be very sure you know exactly what part you need, because if the seller ships the wrong one, you may not know it until the car is up on the lift and ready to be repaired.

* Check out resources like the parts manufacturer’s website. Most will offer information and training about their products right on their website, often complete with video.

* Build a relationship with your local auto parts seller. While the number of traditional auto parts stores may be dwindling in your area, they still have value for consumers seeking knowledgeable service and vast inventory. “Sales people at a big box store may not have the level of expertise you would find at your local mom and pop parts store,” Ferrer said. Consumers may find better prices, warranties, exchange policies and customer service at a traditional parts store.

* Be aware of car part warranties. Chain stores may charge you for a warranty on a part. Before you make a purchase – either in person or online – make sure you understand the warranty on the part, and what the seller’s policy is on exchanges and returns.

* Buy new. Unless you are restoring a classic car or need a highly specialized, difficult-to-find part, it pays to spend a bit more and buy new, Ferrer advises. “With used parts, you never know what you’re going to get,” he says. “You never know how long a car has been sitting or in circulation. It’s just never good to buy parts used.”

Finally, Ferrer says, it’s almost always a good investment to maintain and repair a quality used car than to replace it with a new vehicle. “As long as the car is safe and it’s able to pass inspection, the investment is always better to keep the vehicle,” he says. “There is no reason to buy a new car unless you are doing it as a social standard and you want to have a new car every year. Then, all the rules get thrown out the window.”

 

Easy tips to curb car care costs


| ara@queenscourier.com

Did you know it’s possible to save hundreds of dollars a year when it comes to automotive expenses? You can save money and keep your car running longer by doing a little research and by upgrading some of the car care products you already buy.

Here are some easy tips for you to keep your car running great while keeping more money in your pocket:

Worth the upgrade

Improve your car’s fuel economy and engine life by upgrading to high performance synthetic motor oil. When compared to conventional motor oils, premium synthetic oils will allow you to go more miles between oil changes, reducing maintenance costs and time spent in the shop.

Keep your tires inflated

Improve your gas mileage by keeping your tires properly inflated. The U.S. Energy Department reports that 50 to 80 percent of the tires traveling on U.S. roads are underinflated which can increase fuel consumption by up to 3 percent. Make sure you inflate the tires to the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure and not by the number on the sidewall of the tire. Tires are produced to fit a broad range of vehicles, but manufacturers spec tire pressures that are specific to the car’s components. For more fuel savings tips visit www.fueleconomy.gov.

Tune it up

Check your manufacturer’s manual for the recommended tune up interval, but the general recommendation is two years or 30,000 miles depending on conditions such as extreme temperatures, weather and use of the vehicle. A tune up can include replacement of the fuel filter if applicable, changing the spark plugs, and replacing worn belts. Scheduling recommended tune ups is an important step in preventative vehicle maintenance that will make sure the vehicle gets the best gas mileage possible and will uncover problems before they become expensive to repair.

Get a quote

Take advantage of insurance companies that offer free quotes for your auto insurance. Prices can vary from company to company, so it pays to do a little research. Obtain at least three price quotes by using the Internet or calling an insurance agent directly. Have your current policy and coverage in front of you so you can compare the quotes you receive for the best value. For more ways to reduce insurance costs visit the U.S. Insurance Information Institute’s website at www.iii.org.

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Monday: Partly cloudy. High of 82. Winds from the WNW at 5 to 10 mph. Monday night: Partly cloudy. Low of 72. Winds from the WSW at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT of the DAY:  Movie Night in Astoria Park

Come see a free outdoor screening of the animated movie “Cars” at the Astoria Park Lawn. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

City crews cut down more cherry trees behind Queens Borough Hall, further angering environmentalists

The city took the axe to two dozen more cherry trees behind Queens Borough Hall on arborists’ advice, fanning the flames in a dispute between environmentalists and City Hall. Read more: NY Daily News

Middle Village residents, cemetery officials team up to clean up street

Middle village residents and organizers from All Faiths Cemetery joined hands Saturday to clean up a nearby neglected street and overgrown property. Read more: NY1

Congressional candidate Halloran on Israel trip

Republican Congressional candidate Dan Halloran is making a trip to Israel. The city councilmember is running in the Sixth Congressional District, which covers parts of Queens and has a large Jewish population. Read more: Wall Street Journal

Call for probe in jet ski JFK breach

The outraged head of the Port Authority police union today demanded an investigation into how a swamped jet skier was able to breach Kennedy Airport’s troubled $100 million security system. Read more: New York Post

Family of deranged man fatally shot by cops in Times Square upset over use deadly force

Relatives of the deranged knife-wielding man gunned down by cops in Times Square say they are upset about the NYPD’s use of deadly force in the confrontation. Read more: NY Daily News

New Yorkers celebrate the conclusion of the 2012 Olympic Games

The London Olympics are over. The flame was extinguished Sunday night at the end of the closing ceremony, signaling the end of 16 days of the games. Read More: CBS New York

Romney seeks distance from Ryan’s budget plans

In Paul Ryan’s high-energy debut as Republican vice presidential candidate, Mitt Romney made one thing clear: His ideas rule, not his running mate’s. “I have my budget plan,” he said, “And that’s the budget plan we’re going to run on.” Read more: AP

Gas prices increase for first time in more than 2 months


| brennison@queenscourier.com

File photo

For the first time in nearly three months, gas prices in the city have increased.

The average New York City price at the pump has risen to $3.75, according to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report, three cents higher than a week ago.

Last week, gas had fallen to its lowest cost since January.

Over the past month, prices are still down 12 cents.

At this time last year New Yorkers were paying $3.98 for a gallon of gas.

Nationally, the average cost for a gallon of gas is $3.38, a five cent increase over a month ago.

 

City scofflaws to face the boot


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

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Motorists with multiple parking tickets might soon find a pesky boot anchored to their car wheel as the city revs up to roll out its wheel lock program.

The initiative, set to begin in north Brooklyn on Monday, June 25 and spread to the outer boroughs over the summer, targets scofflaw vehicles – those with an exorbitant amount of unpaid fines against them. City marshals, currently responsible for towing cars with outstanding tickets totaling over $350 will continue to operate separately from Paylock, the new-program proliferators.

Paylock was selected by the Bloomberg administration for the no-bid pilot program, expected to rake in $70 million for the city. Employees from the New Jersey based business can scan for cars with unpaid fines using automated license-plate-reading software, sweeping blocks in seconds. Once they get a hit, workers strap a lock to the whip’s wheel. Motorists must call the company and fork over their fines via credit card. Paylock then gives the driver a pin number to be entered into the boot’s keypad, releasing the contraption.

The motorist is responsible for paying a $180 boot fee, $70 to the city and a five percent surcharge, as well as all acquired ticket fines. Along with the Paylock-administered fees, the driver must return the boot within 24 hours or otherwise face additional charges of $25 every day until it is brought back to a designated location.

A spokesperson from the Department of Finances (DOF) called the program “a more efficient, more customer friendly method of collecting outstanding parking fines,” mainly because it erases the confusion and worry incited upon discovering your car has been towed.

The spokesperson claimed that a motorist whose car has been towed pays an average of $306 to reclaim their vehicle, not including parking fines incurred prior to towing. With a booting program, the spokesperson alleged, drivers will owe about seven percent less on average in fees to have the boot removed.

As the city gears up to reboot the plan, tow truck companies and their contractors fear they may be flattened by the monopoly of the program’s city-picked proprietor.

John Hughes, an Astoria resident who works for a city Marshall Program, fears the new initiative will leave contractors like him out of a job, estimating that around 200 people will be forced out of work.

“They’ll do business exclusively with one tow-truck company,” said Hughes. “You’ll pay $600 to $1000 more for something that costs nothing except for your tickets.”

Hughes fears the program could cause public safety issues, arguing when more than one car on a street is booted, it could prohibit a fire truck or ambulance from accessing a place or person in need.

He added that western Queens will struggle the most with this, predominantly due to previously present parking problems.

- Additional reporting by Phil Hertling

 

More charging stations coming to Queens


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

In an effort to put a “charge” into fostering clean energy, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently awarded $4.4 million to 10 companies and municipalities to install 325 new electric-vehicle (EV) charging stations throughout the state.

Queens residents can expect some of these charging stations will be plugged into the borough as well.

“It is expected to add more than 100 electrified parking spaces in New York City,” said Kate Muller, a representative of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). “It is anticipated that some of these EV charging stations will be located in Queens.”

Muller added there are currently 15 EV sites in Queens, but NYSERDA doesn’t know where the new stations will be placed because the companies that received the grant money have not finalized the locations of the charging spaces.

Beam Charging LLC, which will be receiving $400,000, is planning to expand on its four Queens charging stations.

“More of them [electric vehicles] have been selling every day and the demand has been increasing every month. It’s the way of the future,” said Beam Charging president Joseph Turquie. “We’ll sprinkle some more in Queens with our other partners. Queens is a very important market to us.”

EVs provide a fuel-efficient alternative to gas and diesel-powered vehicles while helping reduce the dependence on fossil fuels, according to NYSERDA.

The governor said the initiative will ease the pressures of high prices at the pump and make electric vehicles more “affordable and convenient,” among other benefits.

“Creating an infrastructure to accommodate electric vehicles will create jobs and new economic development across the state, while reducing our carbon footprint and helping protect the environment,” Cuomo said.

The initiative also follows President Barack Obama’s plan to develop one million plug-in vehicles on the street nationwide by 2015.

In New York State, approximately 1,100 electric passenger vehicles have been registered since 2011, a Department of Motor Vehicles official said, adding that specific county breakdowns have not been recorded.

With the introduction of the new stations, local politicians expect the number of electric car drivers to improve.

“I think there is willingness for people to want to use it,” said Senator Michael Gianaris. “We need to establish the infrastructure to make using it convenient and that’s why making these charging stations will be beneficial.”