2016-03-16 / Front Page

Dutch Kills Meeting Talks Verve Hotel, Cites Gazette Article

By Thomas Cogan

As the Dutch Kills Civic Association’s meeting for March began, 114th Police Precinct Commander Captain Peter Fortune was expected to attend, but it was known that he was at a Greek/American Homeowners Association meeting and would arrive later.  When he did, he had to go over a few recent and spectacular crime events and the Verve situation, all of which has put a lot of pressure on him.  While he was absent, Kim Teixiera of DKCA and also of the local CERT (Citizens’ Emergency Response Team) lectured on the value of GO-bags, to be used in the event of a civil emergency.  There was a more pleasant topic too:  the vacant lot on 29th Street near 39th Avenue that is to become a green space for the neighborhood.

DKCA President Thea Romano brought up the matter of the Verve Hotel by displaying a copy of an article by Liz Goff in the March 2 Gazette relating how Romano had called a meeting Friday, February 26, attended by “a panel of local lawmakers and representatives from the FDNY, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, Community Board 1, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and Acacia Network, management coordinator for Pam’s Place,” the new name for the Verve, which has apparently been stripped of its commercial name (though it has remained on the building) and disowned by the national headquarters of the hotel chain. 

This lodging of homeless women was supposed to be temporary—six months was the popular assumption—but that policy seems to have become permanent.  Nightly bed-checks at 10:00 p.m.  were supposed to be a procedure to maintain order, but with a small force to make them in a multi-floored hotel, it was bound to become ineffective.  Security personnel had perhaps too much to handle and could only call the police to make arrests, since they were not authorized to make them.  Peace officers, who are unarmed but are able to make arrests, have become a part of security only lately.  Women with mental problems were not supposed to be among those sent to the shelter, since employment was the purported goal for the women who were.  Now, several have asserted, many mentally ill and unemployable women are among the residents.

One dramatic result of this and other related problems was declared by Capt. Fortune at the February 26 meeting.  As Goff wrote in her article, he “told the panel that officers at the 114th Precinct have responded to more than 300 calls to the 911 system in the last two months.  Callers reported criminal nuisance and other conditions involving residents inside the shelter and on the street.”  When the captain at last arrived at the March meeting he narrowed the number of 911 calls to 227, still an outsized figure. 

He also went over the well-publicized violence spree Sunday, March 6 by Astoria resident James Patrick Dillon, who is accused of killing one man, setting another afire, slashing a woman and splashing two police officers with acetone, an inflammable acid used in the earlier fire attack.  He was shot and arrested.  Before he was, part of the Grand Central Parkway had to be shut down while he was hunted.  There was another string of criminal acts by a local resident, a series of robberies on Broadway that was stopped when the alleged perpetrator was identified, captured and sent to substance abuse treatment.  (Dillon, in contrast, was said to be a schizoid who had not taken his medications for several months.)   The weekend shooting incident near Purlieu, a club at 36-04 34th St., rounded out a terrible period for the commander. 

He said of Purlieu and several other gentlemen’s clubs in the area that their popularity is inflamed by the presence of current musical stars and celebrities such as boxing champion Floyd Mayweather.  For the privilege of seeing them, the clubs charge high prices for admission.  Lots of alcoholic drink sales heighten the excitement, as does the clash of rival groups converging from all parts of the city.  The shooting victim was a cab driver, who though wounded in the head has survived.  Capt. Fortune said he is determined, with help from the State Liquor Authority, to shut down Purlieu—which has a large history of disruptive incidents—forever.

Teixiera opened her Go-bag talk by saying it should be the size of a moderately large backpack that you can easily tote if and when disaster strikes and you have to leave your residence.  The bag should contain vital items you would need if you were to be gone from home for three days, she said.  Among them would be several small containers of water; medications you might be taking; a toothbrush; light wearables such as a rain poncho to ward off inclement weather; a small thermal blanket, sold at army/navy and camping stores; snack items you might need as basic food; a small radio (some of which can be powered by a crank); and a flashlight, though batteries should be included separately, not stored in it.   Your vital documents (licenses, credit cards, etc.) should be photocopied and included.  Your phone will need a power stick to recharge it, and glow sticks that can be cracked open to emit light in dark places could be of help.  Finally, you should include a packet of cash—though in small bills, none larger than $20.  There might be a lot of improvisation when you’re out there, but these basics should keep you grounded, she said.

At 39-22 29th St., between two houses and where a building formerly stood, is a space that has been named Windmill Garden and is meant to provide a neighborhood green spot eventually.  Romano had a preliminary blueprint of it and photos of some of the shrubbery the Parks Department is willing to contribute.   She said flowers would be planted, but vegetables would not be grown there, since the area’s plentiful rat population shouldn’t be offered more food.  She wondered aloud if paving stones could be donated by Home Depot and was told that might be arranged if proof of identity were submitted.   


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