2018-02-14 / Front Page

DKCA Meeting Covers Variety Of Topics

By Thomas Cogan
The Dutch Kills Civic Association’s first meeting since December opened with a visit from Assemblyman Brian Barnwell, who talked about congestion pricing, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the effect of Uber, Lyft and other car services on the number of automobiles on the city’s streets.  The 114th Police Precinct report followed, in which Captain Osvaldo Nuñez read crime statistics only for Dutch Kills and also welcomed Patrol Borough Queens North Commander Juanita Holmes, who was paying a short visit.  The next report was one by a postal inspector, who spoke at length about fishing—postal fishing, which is probably worse than the public realizes and might ultimately transform all our mailboxes. The fire safety officer who was next had an abridged list of instructions and warnings, and considering the way listeners enjoyed his short performance it is likely they would have enjoyed the full version.   

Assemblyman Barnwell described Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal and his own to raise revenue to pay for MTA expenses.  The governor has no plan to put tolls on East River bridges but instead wants to establish zones, such as midtown Manhattan, which would cost a fee for automobile drivers to enter; in that case $12.00.  Barnwell had no comment in approval or disapproval of any bill proposing it, saying that if the bill got as far as a roll call vote in the assembly he would study its final version and vote up or down on it. He said his own idea would be to take a dedicated amount from the income tax of local residents. The so-called millionaire’s tax would force high-income residents to pay correspondingly higher amounts, but revenues would land in a general fund for several other expenses besides the rescue of the MTA, an agency he called “pathetic.”  Above all, he expressed the hopeful belief that the involved leaders and bodies—governor, mayor and legislature—would be able to come up with something effective.  One big congestion problem comes from car services like Uber and Lyft, whose drivers are independent contractors with their own vehicles.  Barnwell said that in New York their presence adds as many as 100,000 vehicles to the streets, forcing the limited number of regulated drivers from the yellow taxicab companies to work twice as much or more as before, just to keep pace.  Barnwell said that seems to be the reason why one taxicab driver recently killed himself in a public and publicized suicide.

Confining his crime report to Dutch Kills, Captain Nuñez of the 114th Police Precinct reported that for the most recent four weeks, robberies were up, assaults down and grand larceny auto up from one stolen vehicle to four.  Two of them, he said, were stolen from a dealership, one of them being taken by a pair of 13-year olds who went joyriding.  As precinct commanders often do, Capt. Nuñez said that he’s constantly struck by the brainlessness of drivers who leave valuables (laptops, etc.) in their cars or park them and walk away leaving them unlocked.

He reported that a shooting occurred recently at 40th Avenue and 21st Street, when a couple got into a dispute on the street and the man pulled a gun and shot at the woman.  He missed her, but the bullet continued for some distance.  Its force was largely spent when it struck another woman, inflicting a shallow flesh wound.  The shooter took flight and was later stopped by Nassau County police in Inwood, still packing the gun.  When Queens officers came to retrieve him, he was facing a gun charge in both counties.

Patrol Borough Queens North Commander Deputy Chief Juanita Holmes has been covering PBQN precincts lately, introducing herself to many who have not seen her in the year and a half she has been commander.  She said she has been on the force for 31 years.  She hailed the non-commissioned officers for their job performance in all precincts.  She commented that in her time police work has in some ways taken on duties that might be called social work and said she has very much accommodated herself to it. 

The postal inspector who followed the PBQN commander didn’t introduce himself but quickly got down to talking about “fishing” in mailboxes with sticks and sticky substances that bring up envelopes that they hope contain checks.  Any they do capture are “check-washed,” so they can change the value, take them to banks and raid the accounts of victims who were, say, only trying to pay their utility bills.  This is a familiar narrative by now, since fishing has been described many times.  The inspector said it’s wildly popular and might cause revamping of all the pull-down public mailboxes so that they have only very narrow slots designed to foil insertion and withdrawal of first class mail. 

He said fishing is a federal crime, but in New York and probably elsewhere, the feds don’t want to be bothered with prosecuting such grubby criminality, so local police wind up with it.  He advised those at the meeting to avoid mailing anything in a mailbox after the day’s last collection (c. 5:00 p.m.).  And be aware that these perps may be primitive pests but they’re persistent, he said, often working ’round midnight and into the early morning hours.

The fire safety lecturer was Frank Vandelowski, a 22-year veteran of the NYFD.  He covered a serious subject with a lot of comical expressions and takes that had the audience laughing and applauding.  He started in the kitchen, his first tip being to avoid leaving pot and pan handles sticking out from the stove, which can cause them to be accidentally run into, with perhaps disastrous results.  In case of a fire within an open pan, get a lid at least as wide as the pan and cover it.  Grease fires can be smothered with baking soda, so have that handy.  Using a fire extinguisher?  Remember PASS:  pull pin, aim, squeeze and sweep the fire retardant over the fire. 

Have an escape plan, to be ready for a large residential fire, he said.  Have two exit routes if it’s a house.  For apartment houses, there are those that are either fireproof or non-fireproof.  The latter are the ones with fire escapes, and always use them in the event of fire.  In fireproof apartments, it is best to remain in your own place if the fire is outside it.  If it’s in your apartment, call in the fire, go to a window and wait for the firefighters.  (The speaker had a hair-raising account of rescuing a resident on the 40th floor.)

What you must, by law, have at all times in your home is an adequate number of smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms.  He showed the current combination units, which contain both smoke and CO alarms and are good for 10 years.  For them or independent units, it’s three beeps for smoke and four quick beeps for CO.  Smoke alarms, combined or independent, must be installed in the ceiling.  Independent CO alarms can be installed anywhere.     

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