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DMV service outage adds to already frustrating waits for Long Islanders

Chris Gallagher of Wantagh spoke about the lines outside of the Department of Motor Vehicle in Bethpage after a nationwide outage of The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators network that connects motor vehicle agencies across the United States to each other, and to various verification services, experienced an outage at around 10 a.m. Monday, the group said.  (Credit: Barry Sloan)

Long Islanders, already facing extended stays at the DMV over a new law allowing immigrants here illegally to get driver's licenses, had another reason Monday to dread the wait — an hourslong computer glitch that shut down Department of Motor Vehicle offices nationwide.

“It’s just the worst run thing I have ever seen, “said Diane Mallay, 54, of South Hempstead, who had been standing in line at the Bethpage DMV office since 11 a.m. to renew a driver’s license. Mallay left just after 2:30 p.m. because the bottleneck of customers never eased up.

“It’s ridiculous," she said.

Added her daughter, Samantha, 31, who recently moved back to Long Island from the West Coast: “This makes me want to go back to California.”

The scene at the Bethpage DMV mirrored that at other Long Island offices, including in Massapequa and Medford. Officials said they have yet to determine a cause for the four-hour problem.

Computers at DMVs across the country shut down at 10 a.m. but were operating again by 2 p.m., said a spokeswoman for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators network, which connects DMV agencies across the United States to various verification services.

"AAMVA continues to monitor the network and will conduct a full analysis to determine the root cause of the outage," spokeswoman Claire Jeffrey said.

Anger and frustration were high among Long Island DMV customers when told of the glitch. They've already dealt with longer-than-usual lines since December when the so-called Green Light law allowing driver's licenses for immigrants living in the country illegally took effect statewide.

Some 15 states have now given people in the United States illegally the right to drive, with New Jersey becoming the latest in December.

Advocates have estimated that about 30,000 immigrants in the country illegally will obtain driver’s licenses on Long Island. There are approximately 100,000 immigrants on Long Island living in the U.S. without legal permission.

At the Bethpage DMV Monday, people crowded around the locked entrance and shouted at an employee who finally opened the office's door to allow some of those waiting inside. As customers started squeezing in, the employee told them to stop pushing.

It appeared that only some of those who arrived earlier in the day and got appointment times were allowed in.

The line outside stretched along the front of the building and a little bit around the corner.

“I have not seen anything like it,“ said Debbie Tolkach, of Farmingdale. “There’s no organization here. It’s utterly ridiculous.”

She was there with her son Thomas, 21, who was trying to renew a license before it expires Jan. 20.

Tolkach said her son had an appointment on Friday at the Massapequa DMV office, but never got in, so they decided to try Bethpage on Monday.

By 2:30 p.m., they were still waiting.

“We’re hoping they don’t close at 4, “ she said.

State DMV spokeswoman Lisa Koumjian said the department has hired 320 new employees and is continuing to recruit more staff, including through a job fair it held this week in Massapequa.

Chip Bzdewka, 58, of Massapequa, said he went to the Bethpage DMV office last week to renew his license, waited an hour and a half, and then gave up.

“I just decided I had enough,” Bzdewka said, adding that he has diabetes, which made it difficult to stand in line the entire time.

He showed up at the Massapequa office at about 2:45 p.m. Monday to see if he could get in.

The whole situation, he said, is “really messed up."

Ronni Braunski, 36, of Amityville, was more sanguine — or at least resigned to a long wait at the Massapequa DMV — as she stood in line to get a learner's permit for her 17-year-old son.

“You expect it to be like this at DMV," said Braunski, who arrived at noon. She was still in line outside the office at 2:45 p.m.

Smithtown resident Mark Viola, 35, said he went to the Port Jefferson office two weeks ago and simply walked away because of the huge lines.

On Monday he decided to try Medford. Viola showed up in the afternoon for what he thought would be a half-hour process to trade in some license plates. He waited two hours.

“It’s pathetic," he said. “It’s still crazy.“

With Robert Brodsky

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