Freeze, it's the police: NYC impounding ice cream trucks with $4.5 million in tickets

City alleges scheme to re-register the trucks and avoid the fines

Mister Softee would be disappointed. Ice cream might be a little more scarce in New York City this summer, as the city has begun taking 46 ice cream trucks off the roads. The sweet-treat trucks have reportedly avoided paying traffic fines that total roughly $4.5 million. NYC is calling it "Operation Meltdown."

Ice cream trucks are staples of NYC summers. They're scattered throughout the boroughs, parked and posted in random spots as they wait to deliver a soft serve cone or a Sonic the Hedgehog ice cream head. But it turns out a lot of those trucks weren't always parked legally or playing by the rules. According to the de Blasio administration, the trucks have racked up more than 22,000 citations between 2009 and 2017 for infractions such as running red lights, and parking near fire hydrants or in pedestrian crosswalks.

In a press release, the city said 46 trucks were being seized from a small number of owners and operators. The owners were able to intentionally skirt the charges and fines by "creating dozens of 'shell' companies to avoid enforcement efforts by the Department of Finance." Essentially, the owners would repeatedly re-register the trucks and leave little trace of their connections with the previous registrations that took on the fines.

"No New Yorker is above the law — especially those who try to ignore public safety laws and create dangerous situations for pedestrians, bikers and drivers," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "For years, these owners have ignored public safety laws and have driven dangerously in one of the busiest areas of the city. This seizure marks the end of the road for these scofflaw ice cream vendors."

Taking the trucks off the roads is just the start, as the city is seeking damages.

"The city's investigation has untangled this web of fraudulent transactions," Corporation Counsel Zachary W. Carter said. "The court has allowed us to take an initial step towards recovering the money owed to the city, with interest, and damages, and to permanently enjoin defendants from again putting profit over public safety."

In total, the fines piled up to more than $4.5 million. The city is launching a lawsuit that will go after the worst of the worst, owners who owe more than $10,000. NYC did not name a specific company or brand, but a video from The Hill shows trucks branded "New York Ice Cream."

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