Police say 51-year-old Joel Grasman stole the 30-ton Mack truck from an MTA facility in Richmond Hill, Queens, in an effort to steal welding equipment that he couldn't fit in his car, and then became a one-man wrecking crew, tearing down trees, power poles, wires and even a traffic signal.
The entire residential neighborhood was tangled in cables and more than 6,100 left in the dark after Grasman's 4 a.m. joyride with the crane extended and unsecured.
Authorities said there was 1.2 miles of damage estimated to be $2 or$ 3 million.
In court, Grasman confessed in two oral admissions to police and a two-page written statement. The defense argued that Grasman on medication and that this is out of character. He also requested immediate medical attention and a psychiatric evaluation, but he doesn't consider Grasman a threat to himself.
"I didn't know what to think until I looked outside and saw it," one resident said. "It looks like a war zone here. We didn't have it this bad from Sandy. We lost power, but that was it."
Meacham Avenue was closed between Dutch Broadway and E Street until around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, and a few homes remain in the dark. Residents are waiting for crews to inspect and clear their homes before LIPA turns back on the electricity.
After Grasman was arrested, he said just one thing to reporters: "This was a big mistake."
Grasman has been an MTA employee since 1990, but is currently on disability with an unspecified back injury. He has several prior arrests in the 1980s for trespassing, possession of stolen property, petty larceny, drug possession and DWI.
He is charged with criminal possession of stolen property, reckless endangerment, criminal tampering and criminal mischief. Bail was set at $200,000 bail cash or bond.