Aug. 26, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
A number of residents have launched an online petition opposing private security guards patrolling the Hunters Point waterfront over the coming weeks.
The online petition, which was launched Saturday, seeks to prevent a separate group of residents from rolling out a private security firm to clamp down on anti-social behavior at Gantry Plaza State Park and Hunters Point South Park. The private security service is set to begin working the area–starting Thursday.
Supporters of the petition say that those advocating for the private security initiative have issues with minorities and poor people who come to the parks from other neighborhoods.
The petition says that private security would put these people at risk and that advocates have been using “coded language” on social media to describe the alleged perpetrators. The petition has garnered more than 220 signatures on change.org.
The advocates of the initiative have hired a private security firm to patrol the area, with the security team starting tomorrow.
The advocates say that crowds of young men and women have been taking part in drug and booze-fuelled rave parties while other delinquents have been illegally racing quad bikes and motorcycles in the parks and on sidewalks.
The group that has hired the security firm says that they have been left with no choice but to hire security because the cops aren’t policing the area enough and they feel unsafe.
They said they want the private security to act as a deterrent to crowds gathering at the parks when they close at 10 p.m. The advocates have hired four security officers to patrol the walkway outside both parks from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Thursday through Sunday.
However, the petitioners say that the move is nothing more than an excuse for racism and discrimination.
“I worry that many in the community actually have issues with black/brown and low-income folks in the neighborhood,” the petition reads.
“There are significant amounts of coded language and the ‘othering’ of the subjects of the posts. Hiring private security could increase the risk for black and brown residents of the community,” the petition reads.
The petition was created by Maria Diaz, a Long Island City resident. The Queens Post reached out to Diaz for comment but has yet to receive a response.
On Monday, Diaz updated her petition and wrote that her group of detractors had secured legal representation to fight the security initiative.
She wrote that the team will investigate the legality of the initiative and seek transparency and accountability from the advocates. Diaz wrote that the advocates have not responded to her inquiries — via the Hunters Point Civic Association Facebook page — as to how the security will work.
Diaz also wrote that she had spoken to Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer’s office about her concerns.
Van Bramer shared a screenshot of the detractor’s petition to Instagram stories late Monday and then released a statement on the issue via Twitter on Tuesday.
With so much disinformation out there on the Hunters Point waterfront. Here’s my view. (THREAD)
— Jimmy Van Bramer (@JimmyVanBramer) August 25, 2020
The lawmaker wrote that he was against the private security initiative.
“I am deeply uncomfortable and oppose a plan where wealthier individuals fund private security to patrol public parks and spaces,” Van Bramer wrote in a long Twitter thread.
Van Bramer wrote that the solution could be worse than the problem and that the move was a “slippery slope toward a situation that could get out of hand quickly.”
“And whether intended or not, people are right to question whether this private force will result in more over-policing of people of color,” he wrote.
Van Bramer in his tweet, however, said he is willing to participate in a community-wide Zoom meeting along with Queens Borough Parks Commissioner Michael Dockett.
However, Van Bramer’s tweet has further angered advocates who say that the council member has done little to address their concerns all summer. They say it may not have come down to this if he had helped them months ago. They are also calling for a solution.
Resident and organizer of the security initiative Yolanda Tristancho said that she has repeatedly contacted Van Bramer’s office but he has yet to engage with her. Tristancho provided the Queens Post with copies of her correspondences.
“He only went by that petition…instead of talking directly to the ones who proposed it and are working hard to organize a solution,” Tristancho said. She said other people in her group have reached out to him concerning these issues too.
“It makes me feel that my heartfelt email was completely ignored and the ones creating racial issues – when there is none – get the attention,” she said.
Tristancho refuted any suggestions that the initiative is racially motivated and said that the firm they have hired is a black-owned and operated security firm – On Point Security.
“Not that it should have any bearing… it’s not about race in any way,” she said.
“It’s about peace in the neighborhood and we welcome anyone who wants to come and enjoy the park but they must follow the posted rules that we should all follow,” she said.