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Trucker charged with assaulting, stealing cell phone from Dromm

City Councilman Daniel Dromm holds up his cell phone and a picture of John Muriel, who is charged with assaulting Dromm and stealing the phone, keeping it behind his back. Photo by Rebecca Henely
TimesLedger Newspapers

City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said Thursday a truck driver assaulted him and stole his iPhone after the councilman took pictures of the man’s double-parked tractor trailer adjacent to the Trade Fair on 37th Avenue and 75th Street.

John Muriel has been charged with assault, petit larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and harassment as a result of the incident, Dromm told a news conference. The Queens district attorney confirmed that he had been arrested.

“I’m not going to have it,” Dromm said, “and I’m not afraid of these guys.”

The councilman said the altercation occurred Wednesday at around 12:20 p.m., after he returned from a City Council hearing. He had parked at the southwest corner of 37th Avenue and 75th Street and saw a large tractor trailer double-parked on 75th Street on the north side of 37th Avenue next to the Trade Fair. Dromm, who said he has been trying to stem the preponderance of double-parking trucks in the congested neighborhood, took out his cell phone and began to take pictures from the northwest corner of the intersection.

Ed Faico, a buyer for Trade Fair, said in defense of Muriel that the spot where he parked had once been a loading zone.

“If we had the loading zone here, this wouldn’t have occurred,” Faico said.

Dromm said when Muriel saw him, he yelled at him multiple times not to take his picture. When Muriel tried to get the phone, Dromm held it above his head. Muriel then pulled the phone out of Dromm’s hand, smacking him in the jaw and neck in the process, then pushed Dromm hard in the chest, the councilman said.

“Out of the clear blue, he went bananas,” Dromm said.

The councilman had called for help. He said the incident attracted the attention of passers-by and U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley’s (D-Jackson Heights) office, which called 911. Muriel also called 911 to report Dromm taking pictures and held onto the phone until the police came and took it back, Dromm said.

A neighbor, Barbara Noseo, said her husband saw the incident and that the driver had taken the phone.

Faico said he believed the driver had a natural reaction to having a phone stuck in his face.

On 37th Avenue between 73rd and 76th streets there are multiple groceries. Trucks often double park to unload their wares, which sometimes necessitates drivers coming up behind them to travel in the other lane to pass.

During the news conference, Dromm said a truck double-parked on 37th Avenue between 75th and 75th streets was the same one Muriel had driven Wednesday. Dromm also confronted another truck driver, who double-parked in the same spot as the previous driver shortly thereafter, as well as a police officer who did not ticket him.

Faico said while he was sure Dromm had legitimate arguments in a neighborhood with scant parking spots, the practice was necessary. He said Trade Fair made efforts to have its trucks come at 6 a.m. rather than during the times of the press conference was held, which was around 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.

“It’s tough times in the city and we’re trying to survive,” Faico said.

Dromm previously had tangled with the Trade Fair over its sidewalk enclosure on 75th Street, which was removed earlier this month. The councilman said it still seemed that the supermarket was violating the law since it had set up new structures on 37th Avenue. He said grocery stores are only allowed to have out fruit stands up to four feet from the building.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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