By Bill Parry
More than 400 residents of the Queensbridge Houses have signed a petition expressing their outrage at the NYPD’s decision to end the command of Public Service Area 9, the squad that is charged with patrolling the borough’s public housing developments. The Flushing-based squad operates the Ravenswood Satellite which covers the Queensbridge Houses, the Astoria Houses, Woodside Houses and Ravenswood.
“I’m not in agreement with this at all, I think it would be a horror story for us,” Queensbridge Tenants Association President April Simpson-Taylor said. “Whe reinvent the wheel? They’re always talking about how importants engagement is. We have that. We know them. Why take them out when it’s working here?”
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) represents the Queensbridge Houses and is concerned about the proposed plan.
“This decision comes at a time of declining crime rates and improved police-community relations,” Van Bramer said. “The NYPD should not attempt to fix what isn’t broken and make decisions without real engagement of the communities affected.”
One high-ranking Queens officer said, “I understand they’re upset but people don’t like change, period. But they’ll still have the same amount of police coverage and many of the same faces that they’ve grown accustomed to. What this is a restructuring of the way we do things.”
The commander, who did not want to use his name because it is an evolving process and “not set in stone,” said it’s a move that will make the NYPD work more efficiently with a new structure.
“The PSA system is a holdover from before the merger when Housing cops were folded into the NYPD,” he said. “It simply didn’t make sense. It’s headquartered on Jewel Avenue in Flushing and they’re covering developments on the other side of the borough. Now you move the cops closer to their areas and you give them true geographic responsibility. From an efficiency standpoint it makes a whole lot of sense.”
He added that the internal policy change will actually bring it closer to NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton’s system of “community policing,” not further away from it as the Queensbridge residents fear.
“The Commissioner wants the same cops in the same places every single day and that’s what this ill do,” he said. “I’ve got news for you. Crime is actually down in the developments, we actually had a very good summer, but there’s always so much that we can do better. We will do as we’re directed and we’re going to make it work.”
In fact, another highly placed police source said the same people will be in the same place. “The officer would turn out of the Ravenswood Satellite, same location as they turn out now,” he said. “It’s the same Housing cops that are already assigned, the only change is the insignia on their collar brass.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr