BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO
Woodhaven residents and elected officials expressed concern and outrage during Thursday night’s Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) meeting over the recent rash of high-profile crimes to hit the area.
Two recent shootings rocked the area. The first occurred roughly three weeks ago around 4 a.m. outside the Port O’Call nightclub near Atlantic Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard. The more recent shooting was on the night of June 6 at the corner of Jamaica Avenue and 89th Street.
Then the community was stunned by the June 10 discovery of a dead body near Victory Field in Forest Park now being investigated as a homicide.
“It’s just a bad wave right now … but it’s not just us. It could happen anywhere in the city,” P.O. Jose Severino of the 102nd Precinct Community Affairs Unit told WRBA members during the session at American Legion Post 118. “We have leads in most of these crimes … but both shooting victims are being uncooperative, so it’s making our investigation difficult.”
One resident expressed fear over personal safety in light of the shootings. “I could stop by Jamaica Avenue to get a container of milk and be caught in a shootout,” she said.
In an attempt to calm concerns, Severino explained that several safety measures have been implemented in the wake of the shootings, including outside help from Central Command.
“Right now, we have multiple shooting posts to help increase visibility in multiple locations where those crimes happened,” he said. “We have an automatic shooting initiative in place and will be there for 24 to 72 hours after.”
Regarding the Forest Park homicide, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley called the murder “unsettling” and shared in the community’s concerns.
“Safety in Forest Park is so important,” she said. “I myself often run in the park. We’ve been on top of the 102nd Precinct to make sure they have patrols there.”
Another resident raised the question about security cameras in the park. “About two weeks ago, we noticed a security camera mounted on a light post,” she said. “But last weekend, that camera was gone. Ironically, it would have been in the same spot where the murder was.”
Angel Vazquez, Assemblyman Mike Miller’s chief of staff, explained that he was working to get the NYPD to sign off on an agreement allowing for the installation of cameras at specific locations within the park.
According to Vazquez, the first part of the six-stage process of approval was just completed. Going forward, the camera plans would require three-way approval from the Assembly, Dormitory Authority and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Greg Mitchell of Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office echoed Crowley’s concerns.
“Safety is our number one priority,” he said. “Through our budgeting, we did approve those emergency call boxes that will be going into Forest Park.”
Mitchell said he has been in touch with the capital department of the NYPD and expects the call boxes to be installed as soon as the upcoming budget passes.
WRBA President Martin Colberg urged residents to remain vigilant: “The biggest thing we can do is to call 311 or 911. Let’s get some kind of response out there and try to help each other as much as we can.”