The city is cracking down on a longtime tow truck operator who’s parked his derelict cars on city streets in Queens for years — and is currently being sued for allegedly siccing his “junkyard dogs” on a cemetery next door.
Tomaso Tiseo has parked broken-down cars, buses, and trucks along a few blocks surrounding St. Michael’s Cemetery in East Elmhurst for years, according to neighbors and elected officials.
Over decades, he’s turned the streets into storage for his damaged cars, officials and neighbors said.
Even when the NYPD tows Tiseo’s vehicles, they return, officials and neighbors said. But the city Department of Transportation has now ordered him to remove the cars after he took over city property by filling a small street, known as Bowery Bay Road, which doesn’t appear on some official maps.
“The property owner has been notified to remove derelict vehicles from the city’s right of way and DOT is coordinating with NYPD and DSNY on enforcement,” DOT spokesperson Vincent Barone told THE CITY.
Transportation department officials toured the affected streets last week with local elected officials, including City Councilmember Tiffany Cabán (D-Queens), state Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens), and Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani (D-Queens), who all say they have complained about Tiseo for years.
He parks the cars — mostly with out-of-state license plates, or none at all — around 49th Street, Astoria Boulevard South and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway Service Road, according to DOT.
Most of the cars have busted windows and are covered in graffiti.
Along the commercial block across from the cemetery, business owners and employees said the cars are a “nuisance” and they don’t know how Tiseo has been allowed to park them for so many years.
“He’s got cars everywhere,” said one longtime business owner. He asked that his name not be used, fearing retaliation from Tiseo. “I can’t believe this is still happening.”
Tiseo uses a former NYPD tow truck to bring the cars to East Elmhurst, but it’s unknown where he’s towing them from, according to neighbors.
Ramos, who was on the tour with DOT officials, said the street should be cleared.
“One person has managed to commandeer an entire New York City street, taking valuable space from businesses and tenants unchecked for decades,” Ramos told THE CITY in a statement.
Although the crackdown is not related to a larger citywide push, Mayor Eric Adams announced earlier this year there would be increased enforcement on illegally parked trucks around the city. Adams even showed up for the towing of an 18-wheeler on Springfield Boulevard in southeast Queens in August.
“New Yorkers are stating we want to live in a city where quality of life is considered as paramount, no matter where you live and no matter what block you live on,” he said at that event.
Junkyard Graveyard Dogs
St. Michael’s Cemetery filed a lawsuit against Tiseo last year, alleging he first cut a hole in his adjoining fence in the late 1990s, and would let his “junk yard dogs” — as they’re referred to in the lawsuit — roam free around the graveyard.
Over the years he’s continued to use the 170-year-old cemetery’s property to park more cars and other debris, according to lawyers for St. Michael’s — who call it “systemic encroachment” in the suit.
“Environmentalist Aldo Leopold cautioned that when land is viewed in terms of commodity rather than community, it will be abused,” attorney Greg Nahas of the firm Pardalis & Nohavicka, told THE CITY, quoting the famous nature writer.
“St. Michael’s contends that [Tiseo] has systematically and unlawfully annexed its property to create more space for its junkyard.
“[Tiseo] has also asked the city and the taxpayers to foot the bill for the storage of junked vehicles along historic Bowery Bay Road.”
Property records show Tiseo first bought a lot on the corner of 49th Street in 1988. He also owns other lots under various limited-liability companies, according to an affidavit he filed last year in response to the lawsuit.
In that filing, he said the fight with St. Michael’s was over an approximately 5-foot-wide stretch of land that he and his tenants “have exclusively used and occupied for over 33 years, i.e. ever since I purchased my property in 1988.”
Tiseo wrote in the affidavit that he leases the lots to FedEx, which has a warehouse next door. The mostly industrial street is also home to an Amazon fulfillment center, and an inspection garage for yellow and green taxicabs is also up the street.