2017-11-01 / Front Page

108th Police Precinct Community Council Holds Monthly Meeting

By Thomas Cogan
The October meeting of the 108th Police Precinct Community Council last week was the first since June.  After the summer break, the September meeting had been called off because there was a report of a situation in the main room of Sunnyside Community Services that would prohibit going ahead with it.  That situation having been dealt with, meetings were resumed at SCS, Community Board 2’s being one of the first. 

The October meeting of CB 2 and that of the 108th bore a certain resemblance, each one being attended by angry residents of a neighborhood near the Best Western Hotel on Hunter’s Point Avenue.  In early October it had been turned into a homeless shelter, with consequences those residents were determined to describe.  Their angry presence at the 108th meeting pushed a crime report and a Cop of the Month ceremony (for July) into the background, obscuring as well the introduction of two assistant district attorneys from Queens District Attorney Richard Brown’s office.   

Commander Captain Ralph Forgione began the meeting with Cop of the Month awards for two women officers, Patrol Officers Perez and Ostina, who were quick to respond when a report about an armed robbery came in Wednesday morning, July 5 at 11:00.  They went to the reported crime scene on 42nd Street near 47th Avenue, to be told by a man identifying himself as a victim that he was attacked by another man who robbed him, struck him with the butt of a pistol, then jumped into a white van that had been idling nearby and drove away quickly.  (The owner of the van reportedly didn’t know for another half-hour that it had been stolen.)  When apprehended, the perpetrator allegedly tried to bribe one of the arresting officers to let him go.  For robberies, assault and battery and attempting a bribe, he will be away for a long time, the captain said.

Crime was slightly on the rise in the precinct, the captain said.  There were 86 index crimes for the latest 28-day period, up 4.9 percent from the previous month’s total of 82.  There were two rapes reported during both the recent 28-day period and the previous one.  Robberies rose to 11 from seven.  Felonious assault jumped considerably, from 10 to 16, but burglaries fell off to nine from 16.  Grand larcenies went up from 37 to 40, but grand larceny auto crimes declined to eight from 10.

When the attendees got to ask questions, Sam Vargas, a CB 2 member, told the commander that quality-of-life offenses don’t rise to the level of crime and therefore get short shrift.  He said his neighborhood of 39th Street, near the convergence of it, Greenpoint Avenue and Hunters Point Avenue, has become a scene of public urination, marijuana smoking and general disturbance of the peace since early October, when the Best Western Hotel at 38-05 Hunters Point Avenue was converted to a shelter for homeless families.  A woman said the hotel wasn’t making money and was quite willing to allow the city to lease it and move in homeless families and a security staff.  Vargas said that phoning 911 for help only gets you questioned about weapons, crimes in progress or bloodshed—and if such mayhem isn’t going on, the police will ignore your complaints about noise, pot smoking and public urination. 

Another woman said the neighborhood had been peaceful until the homeless families were moved in.  A man said the police presence that the neighborhood was familiar with disappeared with the coming of the homeless.  Yet another woman said that a group of youth gathered under her window one morning and launched into rap routines.  She said their language was vile, so during a break she told them, “Thank you for the concert but now will you please go home?” Instead, they sent for more kids. 

One man became quite agitated and said that if the police are not responding to calls for help, the commander is to blame. Captain Forgione said he hadn’t even been aware the hotel had become a homeless shelter until the previous Thursday, when he had been informed of the conversion at a United Forties meeting. The angry man said he should have known about it long before then, though his estimate of when the hotel had become a homeless shelter seemed inaccurate.  Nevertheless he charged the captain with being irresponsible in the matter.  Captain Forgione repeated he’d heard late about the opening of the hotel to the homeless and even later about disturbances in the neighborhood.

There was general agreement that the ownership of the hotel should be held accountable for the local disruption.  One man said he had gone into the hotel to inquire if anybody there was aware of what was going on outside.  In return, he was questioned closely and he quickly saw he was getting nowhere with his inquiry.  That showed him that security is tight within the hotel but lax without.

In the midst of the controversy, Jesse Sligh of the Queens district attorney’s office went to the front of the room to demand some time to introduce two ADAs, Eric Weinstein and Jenny Gau, who, Sligh said, take good notes.  They are assigned to the precinct’s community council meetings until their assignment ends in August with the Night Out Against Crime.

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