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Front Page October 15, 2009  RSS feed

HOMELESS HAVEN AT THE PARK

Civic Members Want Squatters Out
story and photo by Robert Pozarycki

Capt. Raymond DeWitt (standing at left), executive officer of the 104th Precinct, joined members of the 108th and 110th precincts in providing an update on crime in Maspeth, Elmhurst and Woodside during last Monday’s meeting of the Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET) at Bethzatha Church of God in Elmhurst. Pictured seated at the table (in background) is COMET President Rosemarie Daraio. (photo: Robert Pozarycki) Capt. Raymond DeWitt (standing at left), executive officer of the 104th Precinct, joined members of the 108th and 110th precincts in providing an update on crime in Maspeth, Elmhurst and Woodside during last Monday’s meeting of the Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET) at Bethzatha Church of God in Elmhurst. Pictured seated at the table (in background) is COMET President Rosemarie Daraio. (photo: Robert Pozarycki) A group of homeless persons have reportedly taken up residence at a public park in Maspeth, and residents attending last Monday’s Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET) meeting urged local police to remove them from the area.

During the Oct. 5 meeting at Bethzatha Church of God in Elmhurst, COMET President Rosemarie Daraio told the 104th Precinct’s executive officer, Capt. Raymond DeWitt, and P.O. Thomas Bell of the Community Affairs Unit that vagrants have been occupying Cowbird Triangle, located at the confluence of Hamilton Place, Jay Avenue and Borden Avenue.

According to COMET’s newsletter, residents have also complained of homeless residents occupying another public triangle, the Oliver Hazard Triangle, on the southern side of the Long Island Expressway at the corner of Hamilton Place and Perry Avenue.

Daraio noted that some of the men have been observed hanging their clothes on the fences of the Cowbird Triangle. Their presence in the park, she claimed, has alarmed residents who are now afraid to venture to the location.

“They’ve got to get out of the tri- angle,” she said. “People feel intimidated. You’ve got to come up with something to deter them.”

Captain DeWitt and Officer Bell noted that the precinct has sent its Conditions Team to visit Cowbird Triangle and spoke with some of the homeless individuals, offering assistance through the city’s Department of Homeless Services. But Bell noted that no police action could be taken to keep the homeless persons out of the park unless the individuals were breaking the law.

“If we see the clothes hanging around the park, we can summons or arrest” them, Bell said. “But being a homeless person is not a crime.”

He went on to note that even in the event a vagrant was arrested for a crime, the chances were good that the person would return to the location upon being released from jail.

Despite the complications, Captain DeWitt indicated that police would continue to monitor the situation and take steps to persuade the homeless individuals to leave the public parks. Daraio also hinted that the civic group may soon hold a protest in the area to call attention to the problem.

Crime report

Regarding other crime matters, Captain DeWitt told residents that the precinct has seen major felonies drop by seven percent for the year, while arrests have increased by about 14 percent. The lone major crime category which rose this year, he stated, has been burglaries, with 35 more break-ins reported than the number tallied last year.

In the area of Maspeth patrolled by the 104th Precinct, DeWitt reported, a pair of homes along 65th Place and 39th Street, along with a commercial establishment on Maurice Avenue, were burglarized over the 28-day period that concluded on Oct. 4. Over those four weeks, he added, a total of 12 crimes occurred in the section.

DeWitt urged residents to keep a watchful eye on their block and to report any suspicious persons or activities to police immediately.

The commanding officer of the 110th Precinct, Deputy Inspector Richard Napolitano, reported that crime has dropped by 14 percent year-to-date. In the area of Elmhurst within COMET’s jurisdiction, nine crimes—including five grand larcenies— were tallied in the last 28 days.

Napolitano noted that two of the grand larceny cases occurred at P.S. 102 on Van Horn Street. In one incident, a number of laptop computers were removed from the premises while construction work was being performed; during the other incident, an individual removed an undisclosed amount of property.

Two other grand larceny cases involved victims who left valuable property inside their vehicle or in an unlocked gym locker. The deputy inspector reminded everyone to safeguard their property at all times and to leave expensive items out of their vehicles.

Residents asked Napolitano to look into a number of vendors who have been observed selling produce out of vans along 57th Avenue near 85th Street (under the Long Island Rail Road trestle) and at the intersection of Queens and Woodhaven boulevards. The deputy inspector stated that his officers would look into the situation.

“We do vending operations there all the time,” he said regarding the Woodhaven Boulevard vendor.

Overall crime continues to be low in the area of Maspeth and Woodside south of Queens Boulevard patrolled by the 108th Precinct, according to P.O. Juan Toro of the Community Affairs Unit.

During the 28-day period that concluded on Oct. 4, he reported, nine crimes occurred in the sector, including four burglaries, three auto thefts, a grand larceny and a robbery.

Even so, Toro noted that the command has been battling a spike in auto thefts around its confines. Over the previous four weeks, auto larcenies increased by just over 14 percent. In the COMET area, he stated, cars were reported stolen near the following intersections: Laurel Hill Boulevard and 61st Street, 48th Avenue and 64th Street and 47th Avenue and 72nd Street.

Officer Toro also reminded residents to do their part to secure doors and windows to prevent potential burglars from entering their homes or apartment. He noted that in one of the four break-ins reported in the community, the burglar(s) entered through an unlocked basement door.

Targeting commuter vans

City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley announced that she was working with COMET to host a news conference to press the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to take action against commuter van operators who are illegally picking up passengers through the streets of Maspeth and Woodside.

The legislator said her office is organizing a press conference scheduled for later this month to bring attention to the problem; as previously reported, COMET has been petitioning the TLC and the city Department of Transportation to take enforcement action against the owners of commuter vans observed conducting business in the area.

“We will act to prove that the vans are breaking the law,” Crowley said.

Daraio noted that the commuter vans are permitted to service the Board 4 area (which includes Elmhurst) to supplement bus and train service. The vans, however, are not permitted to pick up or drop off passengers in the confines of Boards 2 and 5.

The civic president added that some operators have been observed refusing to pick up certain passengers in the community based on their ethnicity.

A spokesperson for Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, Carolina Gill, added that the legislator is working to set up a meeting with TLC and DOT officials as well as members of Boards 2, 4 and 5 to come up with a course of action aimed at ending the illegal pickups.

Other news

With plans to open a transitional homeless shelter on 58th Avenue in Elmhurst now defeated, the 58th Avenue Block Association are trying to convince the owner of the property to open an adult or day care center at the site, according to Linda Lam, the block association’s president.

She noted that her organization has attempted to contact the owner of the building several times regarding the future of the property after The Queens Alliance’s plan to open a shelter for 29 people at the site was withdrawn during the summer. Lam stated that she would reach out to elected officials to try and arrange a meeting with the property owner.

Christina Wilkinson, the president of the Newtown Historical Society, informed residents that efforts to create a public park at the former site of St. Saviour’s Church in Maspeth continue to hit a brick wall.

According to Wilkinson, the mayor’s office recently informed the organization that it will not agree to a proposed land swap with the current owner that would allow the city to take control of the former church site.

“Apparently, previous protests are the reason they don’t want to work with us there,” she said. If the city does not get involved, the society president said, the community would need to raise the $8 million needed to purchase the site on its own.

“We saved the church. It’s going to a different neighborhood,” she said, referring to the Juniper Park Civic Association’s plan to rebuild St. Saviour’s Church at All Faiths Cemetery. “But we want something for Maspeth.”

COMET generally meets on the first Monday each month at 7 p.m. at Bethzatha Church of God, located at 85-20 57th Ave. in Elmhurst. For more information, visit their website,