Jackson Heights town square gets cops in time for summer

By Bill Parry

Diversity Plaza now has a dedicated police presence.

The public square, on a stretch of 37th Road between 73rd and 74th streets in Jackson Heights, will have two patrol officers between the hours of 2 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The move was announced by Deputy Inspector Michael Cody, of the 115th Precinct, at Community Board 3’s monthly meeting.

“It’s quality-of-life issues,” Cody said. “We just wanted to get a handle on it, especially with the warm weather coming.”

The commander added that the police deployment was not a reaction to any serious crimes.

“It’s low-level stuff,” Cody said. “Drinking in public, playing music too loudly and other safety issues.”

He added that officers would be posted at the plaza until further notice.

Diversity Plaza’s biggest supporter agreed there was a need.

“There have been homeless people and some with substance abuse problems in that area for a long time, and they didn’t go away when we established the plaza,” City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said. “Now when people are sitting there and enjoying the space, they notice it more. It’s more of a public nuisance than crime that called for policing.”

Dromm added that the NYPD is responding to complaints positively and that one officer is stationed at Broadway and 37th Road with a second officer at 74th Street and Roosevelt Avenue.

The precinct commander said that in addition to the vagrants, loud music and other safety issues led to the police presence. Two NYPD security cameras have also been added at both ends of the Plaza.

The city Department of Transportation closed off the area to traffic in 2011 and established Diversity Plaza, and it has been in a temporary design phase ever since. The plaza has been used for Muslim Eid celebrations, an open-air community board meeting last year and an art festival last week.

“The plaza has helped reduce crime in the area because people use the space,” Dromm said. “And before we closed it off to traffic there were car crashes all the time, and now there hasn’t been one in nearly three years, so people’s lives have been saved.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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