Police say Joel Grasman, 51, a veteran NYC Transit worker...

Police say Joel Grasman, 51, a veteran NYC Transit worker stole a 66,000-pound crane truck from the rail yard where he works and drove it through his Elmont neighborhood. (Aug 27, 2013) Credit: Howard Schnapp

The extended arm of a stolen New York City crane truck struck several power lines as a joyriding transit employee drove it through his Elmont neighborhood Tuesday morning. Unfortunately for suspect Joel Grasman, however, lightning didn’t strike at the right moment, he wasn’t traveling 88 mph and the vehicle lacked a flux capacitor.

Grasman’s original plan wasn’t so heavy: Head to Jamaica transit yard in Queens, where he works, and steal welding equipment in the dead of night. Seems like a fairly run-of-the-mill workplace theft, especially for someone who was previously charged with larceny.

But the veteran Metropolitan Transit Authority worker couldn’t fit the equipment into his own car — ah, the trials and tribulations of a wannabe thief. So he did what must have seemed like a logical thing at the time: Steal a 66,000-pound Mack Truck, make like a tree and get out of there. I’ve always wanted to drive a tank, too, but it wouldn’t make for a great getaway car.

During the 51-year-old electrician’s 4 a.m. drive home to Elmont, he extended the vehicle’s crane arm, downing tree limbs, ripping power lines and knocking over at least a dozen utility poles. About 6,000 people lost power. Marty McFly would be shaking his head.

Some residents said the trail of destruction blazed by Grasman reminded them of superstorm Sandy. That’s exactly the sort of comparison the Long Island Power Authority wants, I imagine. But LIPA restored power to all but a few hundred homes by late morning and is continuing repairs to utility poles and power lines.

Grasman eventually ditched the truck near the Southern State Parkway at Corona Avenue — downed traffic light still in tow — and tried to make his escape. But the getaway attempt was equally as successful as his early morning commute, and he was arrested soon after.

Charges are still pending in the case, and it’s unclear what exactly they’ll include. But first-degree stupidity should rank high among them. Given Long Island’s recent history with transit workers’ disability benefits, let’s just hope Grasman doesn’t try to take medical leave for self-induced whiplash. At least he was an electrician for the MTA and not a bus driver. 

In any case, Grasman probably wishes he had a time machine now. 

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