Sector D Meeting St. Paul’s Church March 11, 2020. The NCO meetings are smaller groups designed to target more specific areas. The idea is to give residents a chance to connect with officers that actually know a particular neighborhood. This differs from the Precinct-wide monthly meetings which cover 168,000 people. Officers Callender and Sesay have been in charge of Sector D since it’s the inception of the NCO program. Officer Callender fielded questions while Officer Sesay made a (literally) giant list as issues were brought up. Nightshift Officer Marika Williams to answer questions regarding late-night issues.
The last Wednesday for which we would all be out in the evening, neighbors gathered at the St Paul’s Church across from the Church Avenue subway stop to air their concerns directly to the NCO (Neighborhood Coordinating Officers) of their area.
Considering the city was close to shutting down, the turnout was surprisingly good and lively.
Officers Sesay and Callender began by giving a quick rundown of issues they are dealing with in the area. Violent crime is still dropping citywide, but burglaries are up. Sector D has not been particularly hit. Package thefts, however, are a rising problem. Asking the local pharmacy to receive your packages is one solution suggested.
As a nightshift Officer, Marika Williams was able to speak to complaints about a space being rented out for parties at which there had been late night/early morning disturbances. Williams explained that since the complaints a few weeks ago, they had been keeping an eye on the corner and had actually made an arrest there just the previous weekend.
One group of angry neighbors from East 10th street were there to vent about the new parking meters recently added along their residential block. The meters were installed to make up for parking spots displace from Church Avenue when the bus lanes were enacted. They pointed out that the DOT did not “create” new parking spaces. They simply put meters on previously free spaces. No new spaces were created. But revenue was created. “I can’t park in front of my own house for the first time in living here 30 years.” One resident said.
Officer Callender had to re-iterate that this was not an NYPD issue. The residents nodded as if they have heard it all before. “We just came to speak because the DOT is not listening to us.” One woman said.
This triggered a bus lane related chorus of issues. The new bus lanes along Church Avenue, residents say, has led to cars using two parallel streets – Albemarle or Caton. But along Albemarle Road, the drivers hit a dead end at the subway tracks, and have to turn down Buckingham Road where they hit the deadlock at the corner of Church and Buckingham Road as they try to reintegrate onto Church.
The problem is magnified because the corner of Buckingham and Church is the end of the shopping district and cars do U-turns at this corner throughout the day. Despite this being possibly the most blocked up corner on the strip, for reasons yet to be explained, the DOT decided to stop the bus lane right at that point. With the bus lane stopping, the U-turn congestion peaking, and the newly added rerouted cars from the new bus lanes, residents along the block of Buckingham sometimes cannot even get out of their driveways.
Callender and Sesay sighed and took it all in before explaining they will try to keep the area clear. But that this is about DOT policy and a Sector D meeting is not the place for the complaint.
Other issues coming from residents included frustration that the FTap program had been weakened in recent policy developments. The FTap program involves officers, at the request of the owner of a building, doing “vertical patrols” of buildings. They literally walk the stairs. If they confront someone in the hall or stairwell, they ask for ID and inquire who the person is visiting. Officer Callender acknowledged that things have changed.
“10 years ago, if they can’t take me to a door of the person they are visiting in that building, they leave in cuffs. Today I have to give them two warnings before I can make an arrest.” Residents had come to ask for clarification of this rule. The idea that a person who had no excuse to be in a particular building had to receive two warnings to leave made some older residents angry. Again, the Officers clarified that they don’t make policy.
Sesay and Callender are known for saying “no issue is too small”. One resident was there to take them up on that claim. His neighborhood recently had a clean up day where they collected garbage from a six block strip. They learned, that almost a quarter of it was coming from one dumpster on the corner of Church Ave and Ocean Parkway. There is a dumpster that remains open and appears to be letting the wind take the garbage down the street. The residents asked if this could be addressed.
Community and tenants assoc leader Walter Omowalle came to speak on a host of issues.
He began by explaining that with the warmer weather coming, the corner of Church Avenue and Woodruff Ave becomes a hangout spot. During the day, in particular, there are motorcycle races.
“Last year” he reminded them “you put a squad car on the corner of East 21st and Church and that had a huge effect. Just the presence set a tone that such things would not be tolerated. We are here to ask you to do a similar thing at Woodruff this year. Sometimes they rev those bikes so hard that it sets off rows of car alarms like the old days.” Mr. Omowalle harkened back to “walk-around” events in which he and PCC President Ed Powell participated. “No one wants to arrest more kids, but we need to be active in altering their behavior. Why wait for a tragedy?”
Officer Callender took this opportunity to update us on a new position being created for young people. The idea is to have “NCO”s for young people. No surprise then, their title will be “YCO”.
Officers are chosen or volunteer for this position based on the Commander’s sense of whether this person is right to work with young people. At this moment Callender explained, the new YCOs are in a two-week training course designed to help them focus on what the new position entails.
A resident asked how many YCOs we will get. “The number is different for each precinct based on size. The 70th will get three.” Callender explained. The YCOs will answer to the current head of the NCOs, Sgt Velez.
The YCO position was first introduced to the public in the 70th precinct at the last monthly precinct community council meeting. Commander Wall explained the new position during a question/answer period regarding the new Urban Dove school moving into the precinct. The CO was asked what preparations he was making and he took the opportunity to explain the new position as it is geared toward dealing with young people.
Mr. Omowalle had one more request about more aggressive parking enforcement. “I used to go to the monthly 70th Precinct Meetings” he said “But now I lose my parking space here and have to park too far away from home for my car to be safe. So I don’t go to the meetings any more. I am glad we have these Sector meetings here.”
The officers stayed to answer private questions for as long as people kept them. You just have to drop in to get your issue on Sesay’s list.
Note: We try to take photos that do not display residents’ faces unless they approve of having their pictures taken and associated with the meeting. Both of the residents agreed to be photographed.