The disruption caused by superstorm Sandy had one silver lining for gas-starved motorists in New York City: the number of parking and traffic tickets written fell off the cliff and disappeared in some areas as police responded to the emergency.
During the week of Oct. 29, the day Sandy flooded low-lying areas, police and traffic agents wrote only 6,162 parking tickets and 3,070 moving violations, compared with 21,844 tickets and 15,158 violations in the same week of 2011, according to police records.
Those numbers represent drops of 71.4 percent and 79.4 percent, respectively, in the year-to-year comparisons. They also mean less ticket revenue for the city, although no estimates were available.
In some of the hardest-hit areas, like the 100th and 101st Precincts covering the badly damaged Rockaways, the 60th in Coney Island and the 122nd in Staten Island, parking and traffic tickets virtually disappeared. Only one parking summons and one moving violation summons were written in the Far Rockaway area, police said.
"Traffic safety and traffic movement took precedence," NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said of the drop in summonses.
Police and traffic-enforcement agents now are concentrating on parking violations at fire hydrants and bus stops, but not other infractions, Browne said.
Summonses had recovered citywide somewhat in the week ending Sunday, with police and traffic agents writing 9,679 parking tickets and 6,165 for moving violations.
In a related development, the NYPD formed a special working group to deal with reports of fraud and thefts committed by some tow-truck operators.
Some operators towed storm-damaged vehicles without the owners' permission, Browne said. Others took vehicles, stored them at private facilities and charged owners "exorbitant" fees, ranging from $1,000 to $2,300, to get them back, Browne said.
Police arrested some tow-truck operators and charged them with larceny, Browne said. The number of arrests was not available Wednesday.
Also Wednesday, the NYPD added more traffic-enforcement agents to ease congestion in lower Manhattan, especially during the limited rush hour when more motorists use the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.
The traffic agents also help motorists navigate around streets in the Financial District, where numerous generators, temporary boilers and other emergency equipment are being used to provide electricity and heat to 40 to 50 buildings still without power.