2015-12-16 / Front Page

CB 1 Holds Monthly Meeting, Discusses Mental Health

By Thomas Cogan

The December meeting of the Community Board 1 cabinet was an occasion for a steady march of representatives of local groups and institutions, spreading the word about mental health and those who unfortunately don’t have it; the homeless and the dangers they face in cold weather; free English classes available for immigrants; and a series of housing workshops to be given this month and four other months into next summer.  The 114th Police Precinct commander had a crime report and an engaging account of a man in a truck who followed a United Parcel truck around and stole packages the driver delivered.  Two Fire Department officers had some reminders about how to avoid fire hazards during the holiday season and what to do if fire breaks out.  The man from the Sanitation Department said his district had gained six new snowplows, though the weather was so mild it was hard to imagine that snow would fall again.

Introducing all these speakers was CB1 District Manager Florence Koulouris.  Leading off was Avé McCracken, public affairs head for Transitional Services Inc. New York (TSINY), a group that, according to its motto, “helps people rediscover themselves.”  That refers to aiding them in their recovery from mental problems, or psychic disability.  It provides outpatient care and residential programs to those who aspire to mental wellness and seem able to attain it.  McCracken said it started in 1975 as a means of dealing with the severely mentally ill at Creedmoor State Hospital in Queens.  She said the biggest problem is keeping patients on their medications.  She spoke about a hospital diversion program called Miehle’s Respite, on the grounds of Creedmoor.  At first, the city funded it, then withdrew its support, so TSINY had to get active to keep it going.  Miehle’s Respite is under the aegis of Parachute NYC, which offers free and confidential alternatives to hospitalization through its crisis respite centers, mobile treatment teams and a support line.  It declares, “Life takes us to unexpected places; Parachute NYC provides a soft landing.”  

Commander Captain Peter Fortune of the 114th Police Precinct, wearing not a uniform but a gray suit, began with an unhappy statistic:  the number of rapes in the precinct went up from one to seven in the latest four weeks recorded.  Robberies were up also, traceable, he said, to a group of five young offenders.  Felony assaults are up, mainly in the form of domestic violence.  Burglaries, in contrast, are down 30 percent, and the recent apprehension of some suspected burglars may keep the count down.  Grand larcenies are also up.  That stat prompted the commander to relate the tale of one larcenous offender, a man riding around in a Mercedes truck, following a United Parcel truck and at one point stopping the driver and claiming a package that the driver refused to give him because the identification he demanded was wrong.  The UPS driver phoned 911 and reported the truck and its license plate.  The police arrived and stopped the Mercedes truck, to find that the driver had been following the UPS truck and stolen some packages that the UPS man left at the front doors of houses.  When confronted, Capt. Fortune said, the Mercedes man charged his truck at one officer, but the threat ended there.  He was brought in and identified as a Brooklyn man, checking out his opportunities in the neighboring borough. 

Two men from the Fire Department, Lieutenants Antonio Velez and Tom Josefiak, came in with a familiar but always necessary December message:  the danger of fires and the insistence of celebrants to tempt fate in the matter.  Lieut. Josefiak said that he never has natural trees for Christmas at his residence but realizes the overwhelming desire others have for them.  Therefore, he advised, keep them in water; and please, don’t put candles on their branches.  Lighted candles anywhere are a fire hazard during the holiday season.  So are extension cords.  He said not to use extension cords to plug in tree lights, as one should not use them with any heat-drawing appliance or lights.  There were other hints from the two.  If fire breaks out in your apartment and you have to use a fire escape, use it only to go down.  If calling 911 to report a fire, give the exact address where it is occurring and the nearest cross street.

Luigi DiRico, supervisor of the local Department of Sanitation district, reported that the department has divided all community board districts into sectors, using Google Earth software to determine how much equipment to provide each.  He said his sanitation district got six additional snowplows as a result.  Now everyone’s wondering if it will ever snow.

Cara Ochsenreiter, community director for Breaking Ground, a group for treatment of the homeless, said that getting those homeless indoors who are outdoors, especially in winter, is a prime concern.  She said BG operates on a 24-hour basis, so anyone concerned about those who are exposed to the elements can report their location and a team of workers can go out to try to get them someplace, from a shelter or transitional space to a train station, where they will be better off.  The number, she said, is 718-360-8031.  She also said the group is looking for transitional space in Queens.

Lauren Lifton, community coordinator for Jacob Riis Settlement House in Queensbridge, said free English instruction classes for immigrants will commence next year.  Registration is in January and classes will be conducted at Jacob Riis, 10-25 41st Ave. (telephone 718-784-7447, ext. 185) and a local school.

JoAnn Darcy, assistant director of housing for the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition Inc., announced that the CALDC, in association with Queens Legal Services, the DHCR Tenant Protection Unit and the NYC Commission on Human Rights is holding a series of housing workshops, beginning Thursday, December 17, at 25-69 38th St. in Astoria.  The 2016 dates occur on four Wednesdays:  February 24, April 27, June 29 and August 24.  Rent stabilization and rent control laws; rent increases; leases; evictions; repairs; essential services; reasonable accommodations; and services for senior citizens and the disabled are among the topics covered at the workshops.  Anyone interested in attending any of the workshops should call 718-204-1056.

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