Serving the Bogardus, Hillside, Ellwood and Nagle area of northern Manhattan.
Summary of Bogardus/Hillside/Ellwood/Nagle Block Assn. Meeting
June 10, 2015 at Rocky Mount Baptist Church
David Toser brought his candidate designs for the block association logo. Attendees voted on their favorites, and one design won handily. David will work up the winning design for the t-shirt and the second-ranked design which is compact for applications where a small logo is needed. David is a grand resource for the block association with his talent and his commitment.
The meeting room was packed with community residents. Our topic (Our Policing Problems) brought people out to talk with their neighbors. The Safety Committee had decided on the meeting agenda and on one possible solution to the problems. The discussion of late night noise, post office parking (and other parking issues), and the never-ending drug-dealing showed that these problems are widely perceived as serious and in need of solution.
A brief recap of the history of the 34th precinct as the only precinct thought to host corruption and misconduct during the Crack Wars (late 1980’s-early 1990’s) that was not cleaned out and reformed was given at the beginning of our discussion. Attendees were referred to the Mollen Commission Report which is available on the webside American Buddha:
Calls to 311 for late-night noise usually lack a response. The noise gets worse in good weather when people hold outdoor barbecues and parties, often involving alcohol and drugs. Several attendees complained of being simply dismissed when they tried to discuss the problem directly with the police. Our precinct does not enforce the NYC Noise Code.
The uneven enforcement of parking regulations, the particular problems with the post office, and the illegal taking of public parking as “valet parking” by bars in the area further pointed up the role of the ordinary resident as the bottom of the totem pole in law enforcement. A resident parking in a no-parking zone gets ticketed; a postal worker with a fake windshield placard that says “US Postal Service” doesn’t get ticketed parking a personal car in the no-parking zone (or even the no-standing zone) on Hillside between Broadway and Bogardus. Our precinct does not fairly enforce the parking regulations.
Although the attendees knew that certain drug-dealing operations have gone on for many years, reports from certain blocks showed a possibility of warfare among dealers and a potential for violence. An attendee described seeing a car drive up to a building controlled by a particular set of dealers and men jumping out of the car to make war on that building. The Crack War had damaged the area in the late 1980’s-early 1990’s by driving out all the families who had the resources to move. The 196 St/Ellwood permanent operation, in particular, holds the potential for violence and had already had a gun fight the summer before last at Nagle and Ellwood. One attendee described gatherings of 40-60 men at Ellwood and Sherman around the bodega, gatherings connected with the operation.
The chair of the block association made a hand-drawn map showing many sites of the policing problems: the three permanent drug operations and the pop-ups, the places where late night noise reliably arises, and the postal and valet parking issues. For a small area, the density of policing problems seems grossly excessive.
The Safety Committee recommended one possible path toward a solution: a petition to the US Attorney for the Southern District and the NYS Attorney General. The Committee had approved a petition that was handed out to the attendees, but the attendees voiced their uneasiness with the draft. They felt that the petition should not outright accuse the Precinct of corruption. The attendees voted to have a petition drive but with a rewritten petition that doesn’t push the hot button so overtly. The chair agreed to rewrite the petition.
The official complaint form for the US Attorney’s office was handed out to the attendees. The chair has to see if it is available in Spanish also.
Several attendees wanted to see evidence of 34th precinct corruption or misconduct. One long-term member noted the long-time presence of blatant drug dealing in our midst and told the story of how a judge ridded a park of dealers in a short time. Safety Committee members committed to post memos about this issue on the block association website. In any case, a consensus was reached that the petition would dial back the emphasis on corruption.
Attendees then recommended other possible paths to solution: scheduled 311 and 911 calls and meeting with the Chasidic community of Bennett Avenue. Because numbers matter, one attendee brought up the mechanism of scheduled 311 and 911 calls, especially for late night noise and for potentially brawling gatherings.
Several attendees noted that the area west of Broadway had a large Jewish population that was very organized and active. It was recommended that members of the block association should meet with them about their methods of organizing, of maintaining activism, and of establishing community values and norms.
Finally, attendees noted that the block association composition is dominated by black and white members with a lower proportion of Latin Americans (Dominicans in particular) than the resident population. One Dominican attendee observed that talking about such issues as drug dealing was uncomfortable among Dominicans because so many had relatives and neighbors who were involved in dealing. Other possibilities included fear that the block association would accelerate gentrification. We know that we must do better in enlarging our Dominican membership despite these relationships and perceptions. We may now have enough Latin American attendees to merit separate Spanish language meetings.
This meeting was remarkable for the hard work that most attendees put into the discussion. Participation was widespread through the attendees, thoughtful, creative, and constructive.
Follow-up: The map of the policing problems and the memos are up on the website now. The petition has been rewritten and circulated to the June 10 meeting attendees for comment. It can now go to one of our translators to be produced in Spanish. We’re aiming to begin gathering signatures by the end of June.
To do: 1) producing a fact sheet on the policing problems to give petition signers
2) Everyone who wants to meet with the Chasidic community, please let the chair know (firstname.lastname@example.org)
3) Setting up a system for scheduled 311 and 911 calls. If you have ideas about how this can be done, please let the chair know.
4) Getting a Spanish translation of the complaint form for the US Attorney General’s office.