Police Tell COMET Elm. Club Non-Compliant
Incidents of violent crimes and ongoing problems at an Elmhurst homeless shelter topped the agenda at the latest Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET) civic association meeting last Monday, Nov. 3, at the Bethzatha Church of God in Elmhurst.
Deputy Inspector Ronald Leyson, commanding officer of the 110th Precinct, and P.O. David Saponieri of the 110th Precinct Community Affairs Unit addressed concerns surrounding the Oct. 31 early morning shooting near the nightclub Hive, located at 79-21 Queens Blvd.
According to Leyson, a suspect fired between 10 to 12 rounds from a 40-caliber gun into a crowd of bystanders at the corner of Barnwell Avenue and Queens Boulevard.
Three people in the crowd were struck, including a 20-yearold female who was struck in her neck and later died of her injuries at Elmhurst Hospital Center. The other two shooting victims included a 21-year-old female who was struck in her leg, and a 31-year-old male whose head was grazed by a bullet.
The shooting occurred near Hive following an after-party sponsored by radio station Power 105.1. According to Leyson, the radio station held several afterparties at venues throughout the city following a larger hip-hop concert at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn the night before the shooting.
Leyson stated that the 110th Precinct had received many complaints in the past regarding rowdy nightclubs such as Hive and its predecessor, Club Exotics, which was closed in 2013 by the State Liquor Authority. According to Leyson, a special nightlife team at the precinct is tasked with tracking problematic performers, groups and entourages who have prior incidents of violence.
The nightlife team learned about Hive’s after-party via social media. A special police detail, including Leyson himself, was stationed outside Hive for the duration of the event. The officers made sure the venue provided adequate security, as well as maintained an accurate headcount of patrons entering the club.
Leyson stated that, initially, his team had “no incidents to report all night.” However, at 4 a.m. a fight erupted inside the club. He reported witnessing broken bottles upon entering Hive and immediately called for backup.
The deputy inspector stated that the three victims struck by gunfire were not associated with the altercation that took place inside the club and were “not the intended targets” of the gunman.
“Hive will probably be closed down temporarily,” stated Leyson. “They did everything we told them not to do.”
According to Leyson, the shooting is being investigated “around the clock.”
“We have a lot of leads we are working on,” he stated.
Despite the homicide, Leyson stated that crime in the “COMETland” is actually down 43 percent this year.
Other recent crimes included the robbery of a bodega at 85-42 Grand Ave. at 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 22. According to Leyson, a male Hispanic threatened the bodega clerk with a firearm and fled with $300 in cash.
Another notable robbery included a burglary at St. Adalbert’s School on 83rd Street by a former student. Leyson believes that drug use was the suspect’s motivation for the crime. The stolen school property was discovered by the suspect’s family and promptly returned to the school. The suspect is currently in rehab for drug addiction.
According to Leyson, the 110th Precinct received reports of 12 crimes in the past month at the homeless shelter within the former Pan American Hotel on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst. The shelter has had an overall average of 29 crimes since it opened in June.
“Most of the crimes at the Pan Am are domestic in nature,” Leyson explained. “Shelters often house families involved in bad relationships. There is often a lot of domestic abuse.”
Leyson was quick to point out that while the Pan Am Shelter primarily houses women and their children, husbands and fathers are also permitted to stay there. The Pan Am does not allow for other visitors, and does not house single men and women.
Jason Hilliard, the Queens borough director for City Comptroller Scott Stringer, introduced himself to the group and addressed their concerns about the Pan Am shelter.
“The comptroller wants to hear constituent concerns,” Hillier explained, “and I will be working as his point person within the community.”
Hillier explained that while the Comptroller’s office “has not had the best relationship with DHS (Department of Homeless Services)” he hopes that DHS would work with the comptroller and local community boards on the shelter issue in the future.
One resident voiced concern over growing trash bag piles surrounding the Pan Am near 51st Avenue and Queens Boulevard. The resident stated that he observed bottle pickers ripping through garbage bags that have amassed on the sidewalk outside the shelter. He also observed loose trash and rodents.
COMET President Rosemarie Daraio suggested consulting City Council Member Daniel Dromm as to whether the shelter’s trash collection is under the purview of DSNY or a private carting service. She voiced concerns over rodent conditions from shelter trash near the three schools and students surrounding the Pan Am.
“We need to keep our community clean and not have this trash on the sidewalk,” Daraio stated.
104th Precinct reports
Residents and COMET members voiced concerns over continued school bus parking in the vicinity of P.S. 229. located on 51st Road on the Maspeth/Woodside border. As promised at last month’s COMET meeting, Det. Thomas Bell of the 104th Precinct Community Affairs Unit stated he investigated the legalities of the situation.
According to Bell, the law states that school buses may park in spaces along a school’s perimeter. COMET Vice President Michael Fordunski agreed with Bell and confirmed that the city law does, in fact, make for this provision.
However, Bell was quick to point out that, according to the law, school buses may not double park, block crosswalks or park across the street from the school’s perimeter.
Capt. Christopher Manson, the 104th Precinct’s commanding officer, assured residents that buses not parked in direct vicinity of the school will be summonsed by the precinct, but will not be towed away.
Residents continued to allege that a repair shop located near the school is actually parking buses slated for repair on the streets. While P.S. 229 falls under the jurisdiction of the 104th Precinct, the repair shop in question is located under the purview of the neighboring 108th Precinct.
Manson and officers from both precincts stated that they would coordinate their efforts and look into the matter further.
The captain went on to discuss other crimes happening within the “COMET-land” area. The most recent incident occurred the morning of the meeting with the attempted robbery of a bodega located on Grand Avenue at 71st Street.
According to Manson, a masked gunman entered the bodega around 6 a.m. and brandished a firearm. He demanded cash, but since the bodega had just opened, the register was empty.
The suspect fled the scene, and the incident is still pending investigation.
Two other attempted burglaries in Maspeth are also under investigation. A perpetrator attempted to gain entry to a home on 64th Street through an open side window at around 7 a.m. on the morning of Oct. 18. Police believe the sound of the homeowner’s alarm scared the suspect and prevented the burglary.
Another attempted break-in was thwarted by a homeowner’s quick actions. Two male perpetrators approached a residence on 69th Place in Maspeth on the afternoon of Oct. 22. One of the suspects rang the front door bell in an attempt to distract the homeowner, while the second suspect attempted to enter the home through a back door.
The homeowner became suspicious of the suspect and set off the home’s security system. Both suspects fled at the sound of the alarm.
There was, however, one burglary that took place in Maspeth during the morning hours of Oct. 24. According to police, unknown perpetrators gained entry to a residence on Jay Avenue through a rear window and stole jewelry, $1,000 cash and liquor from the home.
The next COMET meeting is scheduled to take place on Monday night, Dec. 1, at 7 p.m. at Bethzatha Church of God, located at 85-20 57th Ave. in Elmhurst. For more information, visit www.cometcivic.com.