Aug. 18, 2016 By Christian Murray
Hunters Point residents were calling on the commanding officer of the 108 Police Precinct and a NYS Parks Police lieutenant to put more boots on the ground at the waterfront parks at a meeting Tuesday on park safety.
Residents claimed that the perceived lack of police in the parks has opened the door to crack dealers, pot smokers, drunks and miscreants. Furthermore, they claimed that Center Boulevard has become a “drag strip” that is endangering the lives of pedestrians and that the police are failing to monitor it.
The meeting, attended by more than 100 residents and hosted by the Hunters Point Civic Association and the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, was organized following reports by a resident that she had witnessed an attempted rape in Gantry Plaza State Park earlier this month and that the alleged perpetrator threatened her with a knife.
The witness’s account of the incident went viral on Facebook, prompting the NYPD and NYS Parks Police to launch an investigation.
The victim has yet to come forward and none of the area hospitals have reported that someone had claimed to be raped. Police have spoken to the witness, but claim it is tough to investigate a sex crime without the victim providing an account. Nevertheless the police continue to investigate the matter.
Deputy Inspector John Travaglia, commanding officer at the 108 Precinct, defended the precinct from claims that there were not enough police in the area. He said they do monitor the parks as well as issue summons for those who speed along Center Boulevard.
He said that while police resources are stretched the officers are there.
“I can assure you that there are officers working there,” he said. “I see the reports and the summons being issued. The conditions unit of the 108 [Precinct] goes into the parks.”
Armed with statistics, Travaglia noted that crime is extremely low in the Hunters Point district and encouraged residents with issues to attend the 108 Precinct Community Council meetings in Sunnyside each month to keep the precinct informed of any problems.
But Travaglia’s views did not placate the attendees who questioned his claims about the police presence and the issuing of summons on Center Boulevard.
“As a mother and a woman, I was shocked about the [rape] incident,” one attendee said. “We understand you are stretched but we don’t see the police in the state park or city park and we think no one is policing the area…yet the precinct [house] is right there.”
Others claimed with the recent influx of new residents, largely the result of the 1,000 units that have opened at Hunters Point South, park safety is only going to get worse.
Much of the discussion dealt with the confusion over what law enforcement agency oversees each park.
With Gantry Plaza State Park being run by the state, the NYS Parks Police is primarily responsible for rooting out crime there. The state police wear distinct uniforms than a different from NYPD officers.
But many residents claimed that they had never seen the NYS Parks Police officers before despite their conspicuous uniforms. They argued that this was further evidence that there is a lack of a police and called for more officers. Some said they had seen the state officers but that they were typically in their cars. They wanted the officers to get out of their vehicles and walk through the parks to provide a deterrent.
Lt. Jay Jones, who represented the NYS Parks Police, said that he has officers at the park all the time. He said residents should notify him about any crimes that are taking place in the park. He provided attendees with a phone number to call: 212-694-3620
“I’m hearing reports of crack [for the first time],” he said. “I need to hear these things. I need to know.”
He said the reports get shipped to Albany and from there decisions are made as to how many officers should be deployed at the respective parks.
Residents were also advised to call Andrew Williams, the Gantry Plaza State Park manager, with concerns at 718-786-6386.
Nevertheless, residents who see crimes in progress should still call 911.
Meanwhile, the city parks manager who oversees Hunters Point Park South is Norman Chan. He said that if residents have issues pertaining to that park they should call him at 718-626-8622.
Some residents complained that the police precinct house is too old and is not set up in a way that is conducive for people to lodge complaints. They were also perplexed by how the 108 precinct had to park their vehicles all over the streets.
The precinct house, they said, should be moved, as they argued it was built at a time when Long Island City was an industrial area. One attendee claimed that the area has undergone a seismic change in recent years, yet the precinct house has not made the transition.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said that he is urging Mayor Bill de Blasio and his commissioners to come to Hunters Point and hear residents’ concerns for himself.
“The mayor is doing town halls all over the city and has yet to do one here,” Van Bramer said. “We need more resources and the major needs to know the community is growing.”
Van Bramer said de Blasio needs to know about people’s concerns and their call for more resources. “He can’t just have proposals for new buildings.”