NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill received a warm reception from Whitestone residents Wednesday night as he answered questions from the audience pertaining to community issues within the 109th Precinct.
Community members were joined by NYPD officials and City Councilman Paul Vallone in the basement of the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, located at 11-05 150th St, where O’Neill encouraged everyone to continue working with their local precinct to tackle issues in the neighborhood.
Residents brought forth their frustration of late night loud thumping music that can be heard from certain points in Whitestone expanding into College Point and parts of northern Flushing.
“The question is, these cars are not being confiscated. From what I’m understanding of it is that the parties are being broken up. They get into their cars with 400 watt speakers and they move to different location and set up again so it’s a game of cat and mouse,” said Alfredo Centola. “Is there anything that can be done to get these cars impounded?”
According to O’Neill, the NYPD does have sound meters and they go out to conduct inspections.
“They’re running their restaurants, running their nightclubs, they’re trying to make money. Most of them are trying to be good neighbors, some of them not so much,” said O’Neill. “We do our best to strike that balance, we’re not necessarily looking to close down businesses. We want people to have vibrant businesses and communities.”
Deputy Inspector Keith Shine, commander of the 109th Precinct, said the loud music mutates on a daily basis, sometimes from the iron triangle to nearby Citi Field, parking lots and Flushing Meadows Park.
“This originally started with the boats down at the water. A lot of the time the residents of Whitestone are hearing the noise emanating from a distance,” said Shine. “That is part of the problem and we’re trying to alleviate it. We have to actually track it down from where it’s coming from and take action.”
O’Neill further added that there are over 30 boats in the Harbor Unit to address the issue and vehicles can be confiscated if their location is known.
“If it’s coming from another precinct that doesn’t stop us from having to do our job,” said O’Neill. “We do have borough-wide units. We have the strategic response group working all day long, and if it’s coming from across the water, we have a lot of great cops in the borough of the Bronx.”
Another pressing issue brought to the forefront included the opening of an all male transitional homeless shelter in College Point expected to house 200 men and how the NYPD will ensure public safety.
“We know it’s a concern. If they come and there are no issues and they’re great neighbors…that’s our best hope,” said Shine. “But if there are any changes or impact in the community, as always we’ll address it and monitor it very closely.”
O’Neill reassured residents that they will be closely involved with the shelter providing additional resources to keep the community safe.
“If Keith needs help when that shelter opens up, we’ll send more units over,” said Shine. “The plan is to make sure as it opens up there’s enough resources inside the shelter and then we have enough resources in the precinct to make sure to keep the people in the neighborhood safe.”
According to the commissioner, Patrol Borough Queens North will be receiving 32 new NYPD graduates and the 109 Precinct will receive additional recruits in June.
When asked about the city possibly legalizing recreational marijuana, O’Neill said his major concern is driving under the influence of marijuana.
“There is no legal test and to do it right you have to have drug recognition experts and it takes a year to train them properly,” said O’Neill. “Another one of my concerns is its not legal anywhere under 21. Another one of my concerns is that there’s a possibility they’re going to allow people to grow up to four plants in their home, and if you do it right that’s a lot of marijuana. There’s a host of issues with marijuana and that’s not going to get better if it’s legalized.”
Following the discussion, Vallone thanked the commissioner for taking the time to spend the evening with community members addressing issues.
“We a community have always stood with the 109th [Precinct], how proud we are that he came tonight and how we truly love and respect every officer in this room,” said Vallone. “We understand how hard it is — public safety and quality of life. It’s what we always stood for. I’m very proud of Whitestone to voice that to the commissioner.