May 17, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
A Long Island City group that is focused on public safety is bringing back its team of security guards this summer to monitor the Hunters Point waterfront. The group is also expanding its service to include sections of Vernon Boulevard.
Group leaders say the security guards will be patrolling the area from Memorial Day through Labor Day and will aim once again to deter troublemakers from drag racing, holding rave parties, and from various unsavory acts.
The group, called LIC Community Action, has hired security guards for the past two summers, prompted by the disorderly conduct on the waterfront that was rampant during the summer of 2020. There are typically four guards on patrol who address problematic behavior and notify police if need be.
This summer, the group will be expanding the initiative with the guards patrolling the Hunters Point section of Vernon Boulevard. The expansion stems from an appeal by Vernon Boulevard business owners concerned about the uptick in burglaries in the area.
Group leaders say that they have met with the 108th Precinct to discuss their plans.
“Deputy Inspector Lavonda Wise has been really cooperative and doing a lot of things that the community has asked for with some more police presence like auxiliary officers,” said Yolanda Tristancho, a resident who co-founded the group.
“She’s been responsive… so it’s becoming a very good positive relationship.”
Tristancho said the precinct has also been removing illegally parked vehicles along the waterfront.
The 108th Precinct, Tristancho said, is doing everything in its power to fight crime, although crime is on the rise in the precinct like much of the city.
In the 108th precinct—which serves Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside—crime is up 40 percent for the year through May 8, compared to the same period a year ago, according to NYPD data. Robberies are up 46 percent, grand larcenies are up 61 percent, while burglaries are up 39 percent.
The security initiative, Tristancho said, will consist of four guards once again this summer.
There will be two guards patrolling the Vernon Boulevard/waterfront area in a vehicle, with two making the rounds on foot.
The guards will patrol the walkway outside both parks and along Vernon Boulevard, she said.
The security team will work from 10 p.m. to around 2 a.m. every Thursday through Sunday – through Labor Day weekend, she said.
“We’re going to work in conjunction with the 108th Precinct and our security team is going to be that added presence when they’re not able to be there,” Tristancho said.
LIC Community Action has hired Imperium Consultants to provide the security. Imperium Consultants is a Queens-based company owned by Fritz King Vincent, who was in charge of security at the waterfront in 2020 and 2021 while he worked for a different company.
Tristancho said that Imperium Consultants team members have a good track record. The group will use safe and non-aggressive practices when dealing with the public, she said.
“The team will use a peaceful approach,” Tristancho said.
“The goal is to unite the surrounding community, not divide it. We want people who come to the park to feel that they are part of this community but we have to make sure that they are being respectful and considerate of the area.”
As in previous years, the security team will help quell disruptive conduct and attempt to de-escalate problematic behavior that may flare up along the waterfront.
They will ask visitors to leave the waterfront parks after closing time. Revelers who stay after hours, residents say, are often drunk, make noise and leave their trash– such as empty alcohol bottles.
The security team will also take notes of any unruly behavior in the area, log incidents and report its findings to the 108th Precinct, Tristancho said. The security logs will also be posted to the LIC Community Action website, which was recently launched.
Tristancho said that if an emergency escalates the security team has been instructed to call 911. The team also has a contact at the precinct to call.
“It’s another level of communicating so that the precinct is aware of what the team is seeing on the ground,” Tristancho said.
She hopes the group’s presence will also reduce the number of burglaries in the neighborhood.
“The team will bring an added presence to Vernon Boulevard and all along Center Boulevard which means if they see something that looks suspicious, they’re going to be able to communicate that back to the 108th Precinct,” Tristancho said.
She said the overall cost of the initiative will be around $20,000 and the group has raised around $10,000 to date. The group, which is now an official nonprofit, is accepting donations online via its new website, Tristancho said.
She said that Aiden Roche, LIC Community Action director, and James Edstrom, who runs the Hunters Point South Waterfront Residents Facebook page, have been instrumental in the fundraising drive.
Tristancho said that LIC Community Action has also been working with the DOT to improve traffic safety in the area. She said the DOT recently installed two digital 25 mph speed limit signs along Center Boulevard.
LIC Community Action is expanding its mission to be more involved in the community and aims to host events that support local businesses, Tristancho said.