Notes From The 94th Precinct Community Meeting

November 18, 2008 by
Filed under: Greenpoint Magic, Williamsburg 

It was a full house last night at the in the basement of Capital One Greenpoint Savings Bank. In fact there were so many people in attendance they didn’t have enough chairs so many had to stand or sit on table tops. Before I get to “the main event” (the police’s conduct on Bedford Avenue November 4, 2008) I’d like to mention a few other items of interest:

1. The 50+ pairs “street sneakers” have been removed at the intersection of Kingsland Avenue and Jackson Street. At last inspection only two pairs have taken their place.

2. There were 27 summonses issued for illegal truck traffic this week. There will be a crackdown on illegal bicycling as well.

3. For the year (thus far) crime overall is up but compared to earlier this year overall it is down.

  1. The rates of robbery and assault are unchanged.
  2. There have been 13 burglaries (“6-8” of which took place in residences where the front door was unlocked/open). No weapon was displayed and the perpetrator is thought to be involved in other robberies.
  3. Someone was shot in the face— twice— during a Halloween Party at the Cooper Housing Projects. He (or she) is reported to be okay.

4. When queried about the Greenpoint Hotel C.O. Fulton knew of nothing unusual going on but noted that most of the activity there involved breaking up “personal disputes”.

5. Not yet reported in the statistics (because it happened 11/16/08): a purse was stolen out of the back of a car (“smash and grab”).

6. There were several complaints about semis parking underneath the BQE at Humboldt Avenue workers unloading the contents of one truck into another. In one case as late (early?) as 3:00 a.m. in the morning.

7. Club Exit has been talked to about their recent gun play.

But let’s get around to what everyone wants hear: Captain Fulton’s take on what happened at Bedford Avenue and North 7th Street the evening of November 4.

And questions there were …and a few surprises as well.

Unfortunately I ran out of memory cards (Dear Santa, please give me more memory cards!)— but my own memory (good ol’ gray matter) can pretty much summarize the rest.

1. Overall it was a pretty ugly meeting. The reason for this had little to do with Captain Fulton. Rather, it had to do with how the “old guard” treated the younger people present. For example: When Aaron Short (of the Greenpoint Courier and BushwickBK) asked if this was “a generational issue” a woman shouted:

I have sons your age!

Another man chimed in:

The issue is order over anarchy!

Others cried that the police were “too lenient”.

2. Another woman (the brunette seen at towards the end of the previous You Tube clip) asked the following question (albeit paraphrased):

How are you going to train your officers to handle crowd control (moving forward)?

A very salient question if you ask me, as all the development the Northside is facilitating an explosion population-wise. There was some back and forth between her and C.O. Fulton, e.g.; Fulton said all police cadets were trained the same and that there was a crowd of over 300 people. To wit she pointed out there were similar crowds in Ft. Greene and Park Slope and neither required a “Task Force” nor making arrests. C.O. Fulton initially disputed her numbers but said he’d look into it.

3. Believe it or not, this is when the meeting took a productive turn. A gentlemen in the back asked (once again paraphrased):

How can we take up this matter other than/in addition to going to the C.C.R.B. (Civilian Complaint Review Board)?

To this end C.O. Fulton offered to have a “sit down” with people present on Bedford Avenue that evening who felt the police acted inappropriately and backed it up by having one of his subordinates get the process started. When details of this meeting become available (to those of you who would like to have your say but were unable to attend this evening’s meeting) I will post them here.

My two cents (it is my blog after all)

A number of factors lead up to this incident:

1. As C.O. Fulton noted noise complaints in/around North 7th Street and Bedford Avenue are a long-standing problem— and what happened November 4th brought this anger to a head. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that the increase in/shift of population in the area (in favor of affluent young ‘uns) has lead to a proliferation of bars and other “late night” activities on the Northside.

Bars = drunk people.
A gaggle of bars in a very small area = a LOT of drunk people.
A bunch of people harboring anxiety over Sarah Palin becoming Vice President (given access to the intoxicants at aforementioned bars) = a LOT of VERY drunk people.
Learning Barack Obama won = a collective sigh of relief. And a LOT of VERY DRUNK happy people.

2. Lack of preparation on the NYPD’s part: I cannot fathom how/why they thought this election would notworse culminate into some kind of “activity”. Had McCain won I suspect what the 94th (and many other precincts in New York City for that matter) would have encountered would have been much worse. I find this troubling.

3. An inability or overall unwillingness— on both sides— young and old— to be considerate to each other. Speaking as someone in the “middle” (albeit in my ivory tower in Greenpoint) I didn’t mind the odd gaggle of people wailing and screaming until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning because Barack Obama was elected President. It was (and will be) a page in the history books. One which we were all lucky enough to experience. On the other hand I have experienced many sleepless nights at the behest of drunken hooligans. As was said at the meeting several times:

Some people have to get up and go to work in the morning.

Somewhere between there has to be a balance.

Simply put, there needs to be a greater effort on the part of the police and citizens— young and old— to work together to prevent what came to pass in the wee hours of November 4th-5th from happening again. This entails dialoging, not shouting over each other, hissing “disgrace” or finger-pointing. The fact of the matter is there is more than enough blame to go around: police and “civilians” alike.

Miss Heather


11 Comments on Notes From The 94th Precinct Community Meeting

  1. jake_tuff on Tue, 18th Nov 2008 11:21 am
  2. The police need to be taught that when dealing with people north of grand street they must be very gentle. The populus there is very delicate and not used to being told “no.” Also, if they are told “no” they will passive agressively address the issue by dragging you through bureaucratic bullshit until you give in.

    Also, isn’t part of the fun in street gatherings to get a running of the bulls type of situation with the cops?

  3. mikki on Tue, 18th Nov 2008 11:44 am
  4. Hey–Mikki here, I’m “the brunette.” I think it was a good meeting, and appreciate the 94ths being willing to reach out to the community. However, this meeting, which I think has traditionally only served for one particular segment of the community to air its views, was perhaps not the best forum for fully discussing the events of Nov 4th. The issue isn’t “anarchy” vs “order,” but how we can all work together to talk about what happened and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. The police had every right to ask the crowd to disperse–but their tactics might need rethinking. NAG and the precinct are working to set up another discussion.

  5. village_idiot on Tue, 18th Nov 2008 2:18 pm
  6. My goodness Heather, bravo on a much more balanced take than your first post on this issue.

  7. scoker3 on Tue, 18th Nov 2008 2:38 pm
  8. One item that caught my attention during the meeting is the use of the term civilians to differentiate from the police. The police are not the military and they are civilians, they live in our communities and are us. I have a lot of problems with the mindset this creates on both sides. Within law enforcement that they are a thin blue line protecting us from anarchy and within the rest of us that the police are some other occupying force. It is too easy when one has this mindset to fall into defined roles and forget that we are part of the same community.

  9. JarredG on Tue, 18th Nov 2008 2:46 pm
  10. Well said in reference to your last paragraph. I should really make a point to come to one of the meetings. They sound really interesting…

  11. missheather on Tue, 18th Nov 2008 5:08 pm
  12. JarredG: This was the last meeting of the year. However, I did get a schedule for next year’s meetings. Here it is.

  13. lsmith on Tue, 18th Nov 2008 6:12 pm
  14. I haven’t been able to go to these meetings because I work on Monday nights, so thanks for posting these.

    I live on Bedford between N. 7th & N. 8th street. I was thrilled about Obama’s win. People started gathering in the street right after the end of Obama’s speech. I wanted to go out and celebrate with everyone but I had to work early the next day. I ended up having to turn on a fan so that I could create some white noise to drown out the noise from the crowd. Thankfully, this method worked. The next day I was really surprised when I found out how long it had gone on. 3:00 a.m.? That’s ridiculous!

    I have to say, Obama or Nobama, I am REALLY tired of people treating Bedford Avenue like it’s their own private space. It’s public. And people do live here. It’s not just a place to come and get drunk or sell old dirty stuff and broken bikes on the sidewalk.

    I think one of the problems of this last incident is that most of the “participants” probably think that it was a one-off event centered around Obama’s win. The fact is, there was nothing unique about the “taking over the streets” aspect of it except for the fact that THIS time around the cops let it go on for HOURS.

    This was at least the third incident I’ve witnessed this year where crowds of people for various reasons closed down the street to traffic. The first time it happened, two volunteer cops showed up on bicycles and after a lot of maneuvering, they were able to get people back on the sidewalks and get the buses running. The 2nd time, regular police showed up and they tried to be nice. Third time is the charm? (I like that guy: “I left. Several Times.” ha.) There have also been numerous smaller incidents where I’ve wondered if ANYONE is in charge of this part of the city. Feel like blocking the B61 bus from getting to Queens? Go ahead! It’s part of your civil rights! This is how it’s starting to feel to me.

    Here’s something sad: a friend of mine across the street worked for the Obama campaign in NYC. She heard about the incident the next day and said she actually found it really sad considering how they couldn’t get enough people from this neighborhood to start up a phone bank.

    Celebrate, indeed.

  15. missheather on Tue, 18th Nov 2008 6:19 pm
  16. lsmith: Thanks for sharing your observations on Bedford Avenue life. I for one don’t know how you do it. What people don’t seem to realize it there is an aspect of bad urban planning at play; if there were not so many people (over-development) and bars compacted into such a small area I seriously doubt you would be experiencing as many problems. I truly believe this.

  17. lsmith on Tue, 18th Nov 2008 7:48 pm
  18. missHeather, yes, bad urban planning. But for me, it’s not so much the over-crowding or the number of bars — I LOVE NYC, afterall, and it’s a welcome change from when this neighborhood was like a ghost town at night. I think the real problem is the prevailing attitude towards the area that, hey, anything goes because this is hipsterville. People don’t recognize this area as a community because except when there are 300 people in the middle of the street screaming for 3 hours, no one is “minding the store.”

    To me, everything is centered on the individual instead of the community at large:
    Want to make some money? Bring your junk and sell it on the sidewalk and if you don’t manage to get rid of it all, leave it on the sidewalk and let someone else clean it up and pay the fines for it. Want to sell some bikes? Strip the parts from other bikes and sell them. If you can’t sell them all, lock them up on every available post, fence and tree and leave them there for WEEKS so that people who live in this community don’t have a place to lock their bikes. Want to express yourself? Do your “art project” in the middle of the street and the public be damned. Want to get free publicity? Set up your band and plug in your amplifiers!

    It’s everyone for themselves on Bedford Avenue. No wonder the police had trouble getting people to clear the street during this most recent incident.

    Actually, I find it funny that there were people complaining about the police on Tuesday, Nov. 4, when half the time I’m thinking, for the love of god, where ARE the police ?? ! (And I don’t even like police, so that’s how desperate I’ve become.)

  19. neighborhood threat on Tue, 18th Nov 2008 11:27 pm
  20. i’m also glad to hear from someone who lives down there. When i wrote on my blog that this was an issue of spoiled white kids exercising privilege, I got a lecture about civil rights from someone with a san francisco-based email address. the other comment was “i don’t care who was sleeping, this was a historic evening, I was going to do whatever I wanted” which of course proved my original point.

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