Serving the Bogardus, Hillside, Ellwood and Nagle area of northern Manhattan.

Memo on Police and Drug Dealers #2

Memo to the file on drug dealing managed by the 34th Precinct


            The 34th Precinct divides into wealthy areas such as Hudson Heights – 'West of Broadway' – and lower income areas such as Dyckman Valley – 'East of Broadway'. The Bogardus/Hillside/Ellwood/Nagle Block Association occupies a small zone in Dyckman Valley. It consists of Bogardus Place, Hillside Avenue, Ellwood Street, and the block of Nagle Avenue between Hillside and Ellwood.

            The group's catchment includes US census tract 283 and a small part of 285. In particular, it contains or borders on five schools, and a YMHA with preschool and after-school programs. It also includes numerous one-person apartment-based drug operations and three multi-person indoor/outdoor drug markets. An earlier memorandum in this series describes attempts to suppress the Hillside/Bogardus open-air drug market over the last year. It also details an open threat made by one of the drug dealers against police officers’ lives. No follow-up on this threat has taken place. Considerable efforts by residents directed at the police have succeeded in driving that operation from an all day/all night outdoor/indoor market to a largely indoor night-time activity focused on 10 Hillside Avenue. The drug dealing has not been suppressed, but only made less blatant. The active management of that operation by police of the 34th Precinct is detailed in the memorandum.

            A second, larger, outdoor drug market operates on 196 St. where it curves from Broadway to Ellwood west of Nagel, sandwiched in, and overlooked by, the YMHA, IS 218, and the City College Academy of the Arts. PS 152 which also contains an office of Save The Children sits directly across Nagle from much of this market’s activity. PS 152 hosts a charter school, Inwood Academy. This drug market uses 8-year-old children as lookouts and steerers.

            Three vignettes regarding this operation:

             1). Late night, roof-top exchange of gunfire on Nagel directly across from PS 152. A squad car responded to 911 report of shots fired. The gunmen scattered and melted away. After the squad car left, the gunman returned and resumed the exchange. Event about 18 months ago.

            2).NYPD narcotics detective, never assigned to the 34th, took his wife for a doctor's appointment on Nagel, a block from PS 152, and stood outside waiting for her. A group of drug dealers looked at him, and one of them made a cell phone call. Within one minute, a marked police car from the 34th with two Hispanic officers pulled up in front of the narcotics officer, and challenged him with the statement “OK buddy, what are you doing here?” He responded by asking “Who's your Precinct Integrity Officer?” The narcotics detective was deeply upset by the interaction, and concluded that, in all probability, the responding officers were actively protecting the Nagel drug operation.

            3). Two drug dealers from the 196 St. operation were overheard, talking on the street: “My friend the cop told me they were getting too many 311 calls about us, and that we have to be more discreet. He said our vans have been identified, and that we have to start using different cars”.      

            These, and similar matters, are well-known and openly discussed across the 34th Precinct `East of Broadway', and were subjects of a film and a NY Times story on the July 4th fireworks displays traditionally conducted by the various large drug organizations.

            I have received calls from the 34th Precinct Integrity Officer and from NYPD Internal Affairs, asking if police officers directly took money. The Integrity Officer actually said, “It’s just a little marijuana” and unveiled the precinct culture and attitude. These calls may offer the appearance of acting on the corruption problem. However, hands-on management of the dealers by officers in the 34th Precinct may have several motivations that don’t involve receiving drug money: to prevent territorial wars between operations, to make the precinct CompStat reports look good, to reduce workload, and to pry poor families with children out of the area to accelerate gentrification. The police appear to many residents to have a better relationship with drug-dealers than with the law-abiding people trying to get rid of the dealers.

There is no probity in the current situation of high numbers of drug dealing operations in a small area. Effective attention to these matters is long overdue. One approach would be a pilot project for this catchment area, a multiagency task force to clear dealers completely from all areas within two blocks of any school, any site of a well-established children's program, or any house of worship. If illegal fruit vendors can merit a 34th Precinct multi-agency task force, certainly a dense network of drug-dealers having gunfights across from preschool programs merits one.


Rodrick Wallace, PhD

30 Bogardus Pl., Apt 5C

NY NY 10040

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