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Late Night Booze Parties and Trash No Longer a Persistent Problem at LIC Waterfront Parks

Food Vendors along Center Boulevard, outside Gantry Plaza State Park on Oct. 21, 2020 (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

Oct. 25, 2020 By Michael Dorgan

A lot done, more to do.

That’s the view of residents living along the Hunters Point waterfront who have been fighting hard over the last few months to combat anti-social behavior and make their neighborhood calm once again.

The late-night booze parties, piles of trash and piercingly loud fireworks that plagued residents have largely abated – but dangerous speeding, non-compliant food vendors and broken lights continue to be a cause of concern.

Many of the problems at Gantry Plaza State Park and Hunters Point South Park stemmed from the good weather and the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions at the beginning of the summer that brought an unprecedented number of visitors to the area.

With quality of life conditions deteriorating and an underwhelming response from the police as well as city and state authorities–the community rallied into action.

The Hunters Point Parks Conservancy (HPPC) redoubled its efforts to keep the area neat and tidy and flag issues of concern.

Separately, a number of residents formed a group and hired a private security firm to patrol the parks and to work with local officials.

“The battle wounds are healing, but very good things are happening and the situation is improving,” said Mark Christie, a long-time Long Island City resident. “All the powers-that-be took notice and the community has spoken.”

The hiring of a private security firm–although controversial– helped address many of the quality-of-life problems, according to Yolanda Tristancho, a resident who formed the LIC Community Action group, which hired the security firm.

The group raised nearly $12,000 to pay for four security officers, who walked outside both parks in September and October and addressed quality-of-life issues.

The security officers, who worked every Thursday through Sunday, instructed visitors to leave the parks after closing time, de-escalated verbal altercations and told drivers of parked cars to turn down loud music, Tristancho said.

“The security team did an amazing job and were effective in keeping peace in a courteous manner,” Tristancho said. “They engaged with visitors and their presence also acted as a deterrent for people to not stay in the park late at night.”

The hiring of private security was initially met with pushback from a number of residents who said that the security would target minorities and had racist overtones. However, that has not been the case, according to Tristancho.

“We proved that the initiative was not racist and was just focused on enforcing the rules,” she said.

The controversy surrounding the hiring of a private security firm also brought to light the quality-of-life issues that had not been addressed for months.

The NYPD became more active, she said, and carried out joint operations during the late-night hours in early September in concert with New York State Police and PEP officers.

Officials such as Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and Jimmy Van Bramer also took action.

Nolan called for the mayor to create a task force to combat the crime and anti-social behavior while Van Bramer convened a  Zoom meeting with a number of city and state agencies on Sept. 10 to discuss the issues.

However, little has come to pass so far from those endeavors, according to Tristancho.

Nolan said that city and state agencies need to collaborate more to solve the issues and that she has tried to find solutions.

“Throughout the summer of 2020, my office has communicated with the mayor, as well as multiple city agencies,” Nolan said in a statement Sunday. “Unfortunately, most queries did not receive a response that committed to a course of action.”

Nolan, however, said that one of her staff members, Diane Ballek, president of the 108 Precinct Police Community Council, was in constant communication with the NYPD.

“This led to more uniform enforcement and ensured an open and effective dialogue with area police,” Nolan said.

Trash

Rob Basch, president of the HPPC, said that while several problems linger at the parks, major strides have been made in getting to grips with graffiti, trash and lighting issues.

For example, the HPPC found 22 locations that were hit with graffiti, 19 of which have been cleaned up by NYC Parks.

All of the tagged areas were on the southern end of Hunters Point Park South and the problem has mostly stopped.

The trash problem has improved thanks to the efforts of park workers and the HPPC that purchased and installed seven new BigBelly garbage cans at Hunters Point South Park.

BigBelly trash cans: northwest of the oval green (L) and on Center Blvd between 50th and 51st Avenue (R). (Images provided by Mark Christie)

Basch said that the solar-powered bins have helped reduce the excess trash since they can hold five times as much garbage as regular size bins and are able to self-compact.

“We appreciate the state and city park workers who care about the parks too and have done a tremendous job in helping to keep the parks clean and tidy,” Basch said.

The HPPC said that local restaurant operators have also stepped up and are cleaning garbage that accumulates around their premises.

“The trash situation has definitely gotten better and the BigBelly bins are all working fine but the main problem is the food vendors who generate the most trash at the parks,” Basch said.

Vendors

At the height of the summer up to 20 food vendors could be seen sprawled across Center Boulevard on weekends – some double-parked – but that number has now halved due to the change in season and a reduction in park visitors, Basch said.

There are no BigBelly bins by the main entrance to Gantry Plaza State Park where the majority of the vendors are lined up–since the state does not have the necessary equipment to service them.

The influx of food vendors to the area has also caused traffic problems, raised health and safety concerns and drawn people to the area late at night because vendors have no set closing time.

The Department of Health told attendees on the Sept. 10 Zoom call that it was going to make sure vendors have trash receptacles near their trucks, were parked correctly and would monitor whether trucks were leaving the area to clean their vehicles.

The DOH carried out at least one inspection in late September and shut down three vendors.

One of the vendors that was shutdown has continued to operate in the area while trying to conceal a “closed” notice, according to Tristancho, Christie and other residents.

Some trucks also continue to sell while double-parked on Center Boulevard and cars are also double-parking.

Food Vendors and cars double parked along Center Boulevard, outside Gantry Plaza State Park on Oct. 15, 2020 (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

Lighting

Other safety issues persist. Large areas of Gantry Plaza State Park are dark at night due to broken lights.

The two park lights at the end of Center Boulevard by Anable Basin are not functioning properly and the area near the Pepsi sign is particularly dark – an area where people have been congregating after 10 p.m.

These lights have been out since Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012 due to wiring issues.

A temporary set of floodlights, which are powered by a generator, are located near the ferry landing as a temporary measure but cut out at 10 p.m., according to HPPC board member Leonard Klipper.

“The floodlights are not meeting the needs of the area,” Klipper said. “As the days become shorter, the need for better lighting throughout the park during normal hours is going to become even greater.”

The Queens Post contacted State Parks for an update on the lighting situation but has yet to receive a response.

Floodlights powered by a generator in front of the Pepsi sign at Gantry Plaza State Park on Oct. 15, 2020 (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

However, the majority of broken lights at Hunters Point South Park – by the benches in the new section (Phase 2) of the park – have been repaired by the DOT in the past month at the request of HPPC and officials.

The agency has also fixed 13 lights around the oval inside Hunters Point South Park that were not working, Klipper said.

Reckless Drivers

But problems persist–and reckless driving is one of them.

Drivers continue to speed along Center Boulevard putting the public at risk, according to Tristancho.

At the Sept. 10 Zoom meeting participants called for speed bumps and cameras, and requested that the stop signs be more visual in an effort to clamp down on the high speeds.

Van Bramer vowed to call on the DOT to help bring those changes, according to attendees at the meeting. The Queens Post reached out to Van Bramer for comment to see if the DOT had made any progress in the past month but didn’t receive a response by press time.

Two areas of particular concern are at 50th Avenue and Center Boulevard, as well as Borden Avenue and Center Boulevard where drivers continue to flout the stop signs there, Tristancho said. She said that the intersections need better stop signs or else a set of stoplights.

Tristancho said that residents have also called for speed humps to be put down along Center Boulevard to reduce speeding.

Tristancho said that there has been an uptick in speeding since the private security finished for the season on Oct. 3. She said her group intends to re-hire the security firm in the spring and wants police to increase their presence in the meantime.

Revel scooter riders and loud motorcyclists, according to residents, also continue to speed along Center Boulevard and inside the parks.

There have also been reports that a party bus visited the area Saturday night which resulted in fighting and social distancing violations.

While problems still persist at the park residents recognize that there has been much improvement.

“Things are looking pretty good,” Christie said. “We are on the rebound and we are on the road to recovery.”

Food Vendors and cars continue to double-park along Center Boulevard, outside Gantry Plaza State Park on Oct. 15, 2020 (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

Broken lights in front of the Pepsi sign at Gantry Plaza State Park on Oct. 15, 2020 (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

Broken lights by the Pepsi sign and ferry dock at Gantry Plaza State Park on Oct. 15, 2020. Temporary floodlights have been lighting the area. (Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

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15 Comments

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Anonymous

Tell the guy who drives in circles at 6pm and 6am revving his engine TO GO AWAY. It’s damaging my brain to the point I’m going to do something stupid out there.

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Anonymous

Yes. Last 8 weeks has been nice and quiet. Although those random people revving their engines right on time @ 6am, and sometimes blasting rap music has persisted. Not going to lie, I hope they get into an accident and the car goes up in flames.

Also, I noticed police during the hours at which those people would be noisy. Go figure, they left once the cops starting showing up. Thanks.

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Juliet

This is great news! Thanks to the group for their efforts! We really need to add speed bumps on the main roads to reduce noises from speeding motorcycles and cars.

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somedude

speedbumps may never get installed given the city’s bankrupt coffers. going to take another gofundme effort by locals to hire unionized scamming overtime eager construction workers to do it over budget and late.

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songbird

yea everything is fine now because it is cold and no one wants to party in the park anymore – wait until next summer and let’s see if all these lackey politicians will still be singing the same song

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Polis

Thank you for thorough coverage of an irksome and dangerous issue. Another issue ia motorized bikes and smaller motorcycles inside park paths. A small planted ramble with shaded park benches is no longer a quiet retreat. Plants are disarray, or covered in weed vines, in both NYC and State Park areas. What does the Conservancy do? Central Park employs workers to weed, and spread mulch, etc. The State Park workers are in retreat especially, and appear unhappy with the Christie, etc. ownership of work not done. Ask them. Good luck.

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Clay

Wait til the civil unrest likely to follow the election and nicer weather come to rouse the rabble once again. The quality of life is poised to continue a downward spiral

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JaimeB

“One of the vendors that was shutdown has continued to operate in the area while trying to conceal a “closed” notice”

Yes, the article has two pictures of that filthy and noisy Twisted Wings food truck, which hasn’t moved from that spot since the middle of the summer. What a neighborhood nuisance.

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Anonymous

Let’s call a spade a spade. Jimmy Van Bramer didn’t listen to all those residents all summer, forcing them to feel left behind and they created to private security force in an attempt to take action. He then prejudged them as “ wealthier individuals” and opposed the plan, leading to the zoom call. He’s the definition of a politician and he doesn’t really care about all the people in his district.

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JaimeB

This take about van Bramer is spot on. The down side of term limits is watching your local rep pretend to become a crime-loving socialist to audition for his next paycheck from an activist nonprofit or whatever. The best part is, the residents basically ignored him and solved many of the issues without him. Instead of abolishing the police, we should abolish the City Council.

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Anonymous

Let’s go easy on the back patting, weather is the primary reason let’s revisit in Spring. Food trucks, racing on Center Blvd and homeless still living in the park, so let’s pump the brakes a bit n

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Merman

Does anyone else remember that jim van brainless video of him as an adult comforting himself as a gay teen. Oh man that video is so good!

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good job, seasons

it’s almost as if the decrease happened right as summer ended. but you know, good job all around.

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Mundek

Complete political bs. End of summer, cooler and eventually cold weather always quench the annual infestation. Year after year, for past 12-15 years. Career politicians can brace for it to return next spring.

Park abuse might have calmed down some, but the fast & furious car and bike displays, photo shoots, meets have not. Maybe LIC just needs to flood along with the rest of this wretched city for things to calm down, until they spin back up Waterworld style.

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