Police: Brooklyn Man Ran Parking Lot on City-Owned Site
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Darren Miller has been running a successful parking lot in East New York for the last 10 years. There is only one catch — he doesn’t own the site. The city of New York does.
The city arrested Mr. Miller on Tuesday for trespassing, illegally dismantling vehicles, and dumping hazardous waste after launching a multi-agency investigation into the city-owned lot a few months ago.
In 2005, Mr. Miller began a legal battle to wrest the 4-acre lot from the city, claiming squatter’s rights after 10 years of fencing in and using the property. The civil case is ongoing.
Yesterday, people who parked their cars and trucks in the Erskine Street lot rushed to remove them before the city shuts the area down. City officials estimated that Mr. Miller made about $168,000 a month charging people about $300 to park; the lot has room for 500 cars.
“Mr. Miller has an absolute right to be here,” his lawyer, Vincent Gerardi, said. “This was wide open, vacant land. … No one chased him off. Nobody made any complaints about it.”
Mr. Gerardi said his client was just trying to run a “normal business.” He paid his income taxes and did not break the law, the lawyer said.
The chief of the racketeering division of the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, Michael Vecchione, said Mr. Miller cannot claim squatter’s rights because aerial photos show that the property was empty in 2002, and that you can’t claim adverse possession of city property that is slated for development. The city has owned part of the stretch since 1968.
Mr. Miller’s court date is set for the first week of September.