Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer today urged the city to adopt regulations to discourage the proliferation of illegal sidewalk cash machines. A survey of commercial areas in each of Manhattan’s community board districts found hundreds of such ATMs on the sidewalks, including 99 in the East Village, with 70 between First Avenue and Avenue B alone.
Unlike cash machines inside bank offices, the street ATMs are not regulated by state law or city statute. Under city rules, such sidewalk “encroachments” are regulated by the Department of Transportation, and retail stores are only permitted to display merchandise for sale within three feet of the store.
In addition, while bank ATMs are required to have surveillance cameras, mirrors and lighting, there are no such regulations for street ATMs. The survey showed that more than 85 percent of the street machines lacked visible surveillance cameras. In addition, more than 40 percent had been vandalized with graffiti, and the average charge for withdrawing funds was nearly 8 percent higher than at indoor ATMs surveyed.
Borough President Stringer said, “The last thing our crowded sidewalks need is competition for space from these illegal machines. But this is more than just a nuisance. The exploding number of sidewalk ATMs need to be covered by the same consumer protections that apply to bank ATMs. Otherwise we’re asking for rising incidences of street crime and identity theft.”
He added, “Before these machines take over another area, it’s time for the city to step up and call a halt to these attempts to cash in on our neighborhoods. We need to license these machines and force the owners to meet reasonable standards of safety and cleanliness.”
City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn said, “There’s nothing convenient at all about illegal ATMs. They don’t just dispense cash, they’re a magnet for vandalism and robbery. I want to thank Borough President Stringer for his work to highlight the many problems created by illegal ATMs.”
State Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh said, “Some people may appreciate the convenience of finding an ATM wherever they go on the Lower East Side and in some other neighborhoods, but unregulated ATMs pose real risks of theft and fraud. And as with other items that we allow to be placed on sidewalks, we should also regulate the locations of the machines to ensure that they don’t interfere with pedestrians.”
State Assembly Member Jonathan Bing said, “For several years, I have introduced legislation to create a registry of non-bank ATMs and require greater safety precautions for these machines. I applaud Borough President Stringer for bringing much-needed attention to this issue and for his decades of advocacy on behalf of consumers in Manhattan and throughout this State.”
Susan Stetzer, District Manager, Community Board 3, said: “Community Board 3 has an active street life and densely populated sidewalks. Illegal ATMs do not serve our community –they create potential criminal/safety problems, they are covered with graffiti, and they take up valuable sidewalk space.”
Because sidewalk ATMs are unregulated and are owned by a variety of firms, there is no centralized database of number and location of machines. However, a sample survey conducted by the Borough President’s staff in 12 Manhattan community boards showed the presence of 258 unregulated sidewalk ATMS.
Other Manhattan “hot spots” surveyed included 181st Street in Washington Heights, with seven outdoor ATMs clustered near Fort Washington Avenue; and West 23rd Street in Chelsea, with four sidewalk machines clustered around the intersection with 8th Avenue.
Owners of the outdoor ATMs surveyed by the Borough President’s office included MetaBank of Brookings, South Dakota; Atlas ATM Corp of Providence, R.I; Access To Money of Whippany, N.J.; and Cardtronics, of Houston, Tex.
Typically, owners of ATM businesses contract with retail stores to install the machines on the sidewalk outside the store for a monthly fee.
Office of Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer • 212.669.8300
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