Sept. 18, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge
Police say that dozens of additional cops and a focus on foot-patrols may be in the future for western Queens’ public housing.
The NYPD is mulling whether to remove control of NYCHA policing from Police Service Area 9, an arm of the Housing Bureau that is based in Pomonok, just east of Queens College.
Currently, PSA 9 polices Queensbridge, Ravenswood, Astoria and Woodside houses. PSA 9 officers commute to western Queens from the Pomonok office; a satellite office that is located on 21st Street in Long Island City.
Under the potential new structure, these officers would instead report to the 114 Precinct. They would commute straight to their assigned developments, rather than traveling from Pomonok. Their new boss would be the 114’s Commanding Officer, Captain Peter Fortune.
The number of officers would also more than double. According to the 114th Precinct, 41 new officers would be added to the four developments. Currently there are about 30.
Lieutenant John Grimpel, Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, confirmed the possible addition of 41 officers.
“Crime, population – that all went into why that area would be getting more,” he said.
Officers with the 114 Precinct said the new structure could provide an opportunity to emphasize foot patrols in the developments.
“We think [the potential restructuring] is going to work out well, because our plan is to put these police officers on foot,” Lieutenant Nicholas Morales said.
“It’s better that the people see police officers walking around,” he added. “You develop a relationship – it’s better. It’s kind of like community policing.”
Speaking about the plan at a meeting of the Old Astoria Neighborhood Association this week, Morales and Detective Edwin Negron were quick to point out that nothing has been set in stone yet.
Regarding increased foot patrol, lifelong Astoria Houses resident Vanessa Jones-Hall said, “it’s about time.”
She spoke tearfully about her experiences with crime and enforcement, and what she perceives as blind spots in current enforcement and car patrols.
“It’s like they’re just passing us by, although their presence is right there,” she said. “I look forward to them walking around. It’s better that way, to interact in the community.”
Supervisors at PSA 9 could not be reached for comment.
Not everyone has heralded the NYPD’s plan since it became public.
A petition started by April Simpson, President of the Queensbridge Houses Resident Association, reads, “we the residents of Queensbridge Houses feel that the disbanding of PSA 9 is not conducive to our community.”
“No one asked our opinion on this matter and we feel that we know this unit of officers like they live in the community. Please note our displeasure of this decision,” the petition continues.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents Ravenswood, Queensbridge and Woodside Houses, said in a statement, “I’m deeply concerned about the proposed plans to eliminate the PSA 9 police unit covering public housing developments in northwest Queens.”
“This decision comes at a time of declining crime rates and improved police-community relations,” he added. “The NYPD should not attempt to fix what isn’t broken and make decisions without real engagement of the communities affected.”
Councilman Costa Constantinides, who represents Astoria Houses, said, “definitely there are some benefits to this plan that you see it on its face, it looks promising.”
However, he also echoed Simpson’s concerns.
“The number one concern that I’ve heard at the Astoria Houses is that they’ve spent a long time building relationships with PSA 9 – they are unsure about what’s happening, and they want to know that these relationships are going to continue,” he said.
Grimpel said he could not specify a timeline on when the NYPD will make its decision.