Out for ’07: $1 van barriers

By Gary Buiso

Police barricades may have been ‘in’ this year near Kings Plaza, but they could become passé by 2007. For now, the barricades—set up to deter commuter vans from barreling down residential streets near the mall—still stand on East 52nd Street, East 53rd Place and East 54th Street. But their days could be numbered, according to Dorothy Turano, the district manager of Community Board 18. At the board’s general meeting, Turano told members that based on conversations she’s had with the 63rd Precinct’s newly minted top cop, Captain Frank Cangiarella, the barricades could fall after the holidays. “I was told by the captain that he will reopen those streets after New Year’s,” she said at the meeting. But Cangiarella told this paper that it is “not correct” to assume the barricades would come down in January. “At this point, we are still looking at it,” he said. The barricades received the blessing of the precinct’s previous top cop, Deputy Inspector Kevin McGinn, who has since retired from the department. “We are still reviewing what course of action to take,” Cangiarella insisted. “They are up now, and there are no plans to take them down,” he continued. Still, Cangiarella said, the barriers are not solving the van problem. “I am looking at the bigger picture,” he said. “My concern is illegal vans. I have to address these vans,” he said. He said a plan involving a multitude of city agencies is currently in the works. “We would love to open the streets, but we have to solve the problem,” Cangiarella said, adding that nothing would be done without community input. Turano did not waver. “The board was led to believe that based on conversations with the new captain that the barricades would be coming down,” she said on Friday. Told what Cangiarella told this paper, Turano said she immediately telephoned him. After the call, Turano, not known to pull punches, said she is confident, based on that conversation, that some time next month, the barricades’ removal will be seriously considered. Turano said city agencies like the Department of Sanitation and the Fire Department have not been in favor of the barricades, which have the ability of making city workers’ jobs more difficult. Kathy Dawkins, a spokesperson for the Department of Sanitation, said trash has been collected “without problems.” “We work around obstacles all the time,” she said. “On occasion, [workers] may not put back the barriers, but the most important part is we are fulfilling our duty, which is to remove trash from the street.” “The main thing here is we are doing the job,” Dawkins said. City Councilmember Lew Fidler, who, along with Assemblymember Alan Maisel, supports the barricades, said that Cangiarella told him he “was stunned” to hear that the barricades would be coming down after New Year’s. “What he said is he wants to look at new strategies,” Fidler said. “He said he would never remove the barriers without consulting with the community and elected officials.” Asked if there then was a possibility the barricades would fall, Fidler said, “There is this possibility that he [Cangiarella] will override the desire of most of the elected officials and civic associations and come up with a solution that is better than this one,” the city lawmaker continued. “At the moment, the likelihood is slim to none,” Fidler added. Fidler and Maisel support a plan to ultimately make these blocks dead-end streets. “I absolutely expect that to happen,” Fidler said of the dead-ending of the blocks. The theory is that the vans would be forced so far away from the mall that they won’t bother to drive the increased distance to pick up or drop off passengers. As for the barricades, Fidler added that he would be “extraordinarily disappointed with the captain if he undid what Assemblymember Maisel and I have done with the prior [commanding officer].” Fidler said Cangiarella, who was named top cop at the new precinct, earlier this month, “should move toward greater enforcement anyway,” but to remove the barricades would be a mistake. “Maybe Captain Cangiarella needs a little taste of how bad the problem is,” Fidler said. Turano said the barricades are not the answer to the problem. “You don’t close the bank just because it gets robbed,” she said. “The way to do it is enforcement,” she added. Turano said that she is unequivocally sympathetic to the block residents, but the barricades don’t “attack the problem.” “What are you supposed to do, close all the blocks to Mill Avenue?” she wondered.

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