The man, who has not been publicly named, faces charges of attempted kidnapping, reckless endangerment and acting prejudicial to a child under 17, police say.
The NYPD said earlier it was looking for two men in connection with the brazen kidnapping attempt on Thursday night.
Surveillance footage released by police shows a man exiting a brown sedan and quickly walking towards a group of children and an adult walking down the street. The man grabs the smallest of the children as he walks several steps in front of the others.
The man carries the boy to the other side of the sedan, puts him in the back seat and climbs into the driver’s seat of the car.
Meanwhile, the mother of the child, identified by police as Dolores Diaz Lopez, runs to the passenger side of the car and appears to be struggling with someone in the front seat. She ends up grabbing her son and pulling him out of the front passenger window.
The kidnapping attempt happened quickly, according to the video, lasting about 15 seconds.
The car drives off as passers-by begin to gather. A man hits the hood of the car with his hand as it starts up.
The mother told WABC she had never seen the men before. An NYPD spokesperson said on Friday that the incident was not being investigated as an act of domestic violence. Diaz Lopez says the man didn’t say a word to her or her children – he simply took the child and put him in the car.
Police said the boy was unharmed.