Feb. 17, 2016 By Michael Florio
The Commanding Officer of the 114 Precinct has called on the community board for help in combating crime at a women’s homeless shelter in Long Island City, following two violent incidents that broke out at the shelter last week.
Captain Peter Fortune addressed Community Board 1 at its monthly meeting Tuesday and asked the Board to reach out to the City regarding the women’s shelter in the former Verve Hotel, located at 40-03 29th Street.
Fortune informed the Board of two incidents where residents of the shelter had to be arrested, with one resident assaulting police officers.
The first incident occurred on Feb. 11, where police responded to a dispute between two roommates. As police arrived, one roommate struck the other in the head with a metal object, Fortune said.
The suspect was arrested and taken to Cornell Hospital’s psychiatric center for evaluation. Upon arrival, as the suspect was being taken out of the ambulance, she assaulted an officer.
“She head butted the officer,” Fortune said. “That officer has been out with injuries.”
While in the hospital, the suspect struck an officer numerous times with a metal IV pole and kicked him. That officer has needed treatment as well.
Then on Feb. 12, a resident refused to go through the shelter’s metal detectors and began to act aggressively, Fortune said. She broke the metal detectors and then began throwing chairs and bottles around the lobby.
She was arrested and brought to Cornell Hospital for a psychiatric exam, Fortune said.
Fortune said he subsequently spoke to the shelter contractor, the Acacia Network, and they were not aware of these incidents or arrests.
He added that the Precinct has received complaints from neighboring business owners, primarily bodega owners, who say residents from the shelter harass them.
Meanwhile, CB 1 District Manager Florence Koulouris said Acacia is supposed to be patrolling the area in a marked car but has not been doing so, instead stating that their marked car is in the shop and using an unmarked car instead. She called this “completely unacceptable” and urged a more visible security presence.
The shelter is approaching maximum capacity of 200 women, according to Fortune.
“We have to dedicate resources to go down there,” he told the Board.
“The Board can help by writing a letter to DHS and ask for a little more coordination between them and the police department,” he continued. “Communicate with them [DHS] and get us a little more help.”
When asked for comment, the DHS outlined its security operations.
“Our number one priority is ensuring the safety of our residents in shelters, as well as the surrounding communities,” a spokesperson wrote in an E-mail. “We currently have 24/7 security at this specific facility with four to six security guards on duty throughout the day.”
“We are continuing to review security needs and will continue to work with community leaders as we do so,” the spokesperson’s E-mail read.
The Acacia Network did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Following Fortune’s presentation, CB 1 decided to send a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and the DHS to ask for support in ensuring the safety and health of the residents, as well as the surrounding community. Koulouris said Wednesday that they are in the process of drafting this letter.
“When we had meetings [before the shelter residents moved in], they said they would have the proper staff, the proper guidance,” she said. “We want the best management company possible for these woman so that while they’re here, they’re safe and they’re secure.”
Since the letter is not finalized, she could not speak to specifics of what they will ask for.
“I’m not sure what we’re going to be asking for yet,” Koulouris said. “We’re going to review all the options necessary to make this a good situation.”
“Our concern is the safety of the residents as well as the safety of the police and the safety of the community,” she added. “You shouldn’t have to go to bed and be afraid your roommate’s going to hit you with a metal object.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who had a representative at the Community Board 1 meeting Tuesday, said today that he had reached out to DHS about the problem and was assured by the administration additional security officers would be provided.
“The reports from the 114th Precinct are disconcerting,” Van Bramer said in a statement. “I have voiced my concerns about the shelter to the Department of Homeless Services and the Administration. And I am particularly troubled by reports that the provider of services at the shelter, Acacia, has not been doing adequate neighborhood patrols.”
“The Administration has confirmed to my office that they will be adding additional security officers at the Verve shelter,” Van Bramer said.