Southeast Queens community members, elected officials and Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday, Sept. 20, broke ground on the long-awaited 116th Precinct and community center that will serve the neighborhoods of Rosedale, Springfield Gardens, Brookville, Laurelton and the southern portion of Cambria Heights.
Borough President Donovan Richards and Congressman Gregory Meeks, along with Council members Selvena Brooks-Powers, I. Daneek Miller, Adrienne Adams and Leroy Comrie, were in attendance at the press conference held at the 105th Precinct’s satellite office, located at 242-20 N. Conduit Ave. in Rosedale, which will soon become the 116th Precinct.
According to the mayor, the new precinct will make the community safer.
“The real pride and real respect goes to the community leaders — you all fought for this, and it was not easy, there were ups and downs. Southeast Queens deserves this and has a right to public safety and reform and we couldn’t do it right without a new facility,” de Blasio said. “This new facility will help bring the community into policing while making policing more responsive for everyone.”
Well said, @Powers4Queens! Thank you for YOUR tireless advocacy and support in helping us open the 116th Precinct in Rosedale. Today is just the beginning, as we ensure equity and public safety for the people of Southeast Queens. pic.twitter.com/8Jsdxzanr2
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) September 20, 2021
Southeast Queens elected officials commended the mayor for listening to the needs of the community.
“Mayors came and left, but we still had the same voice and nobody delivered. Nobody listened to the entire community, but Mayor Bill de Blasio listened and delivered,” said Meeks, who referenced the struggle that started in the 1970s for the creation of a new police precinct amid public safety concerns. “We are breaking ground on a dream that’s been deferred for far too long, and a reality that is most important for this community, at a time when it’s most needed.”
Now, 44 years later, residents are overjoyed with happiness that the project is finally coming to fruition.
“It was a long journey, but we know at the end we are going to help save lives because it won’t take 15 minutes to come from the 105th Precinct and this part of town to resolve any problems that we may have,” said Bess DeBethem, a community member who has long advocated for the precinct. “We would also like to make the 116th Precinct an example of how the police department and community can work together.”
According to DeBetham, it has been many nights of attending meetings with the civic associations that were on board to push their agenda forward.
“Of course, we’ve had some people who said they didn’t want a precinct, but we didn’t let that stop us and we continued to to fight and here is the result,” DeBetham said.
Construction on the $78 million building began last month and is projected to be completed in January 2024. The NYC Department of Design and Construction is managing project for the NYPD. The total project cost is $104.8 million.
The new 48,410 square-foot facility has been designed with a community meeting room on the first floor, with a dedicated entrance from the front of the building, to allow members of the neighborhood to engage with the precinct in a way that strengthens awareness of the NYPD’s commitment to community policing. The precinct is placed strategically within the community to allow for more rapid responses and effective policing.
The precinct’s parking lot has been sited in the rear of the building, bringing the new precinct closer to the street and protecting the neighborhood’s residential character. A second parking lot will be located in front of the existing 105th Precinct Annex. A public plaza leading to the Long Island Railroad will occupy the western area featuring benches, a water filling station, bicycle racks and new landscaping.
“This new police precinct was conceived by the communities of Southeast Queens. It was forged, and designed, as a reflection of their best vision for effective public safety and is thankfully now being realized after decades of their hard work and inspiration. The NYPD embraces this moment for the opportunities this premier facility gives us to help deepen our connections and better serve the people who live in the neighborhoods it will cover,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said.
The 116th Precinct was approved by Community Board 13 in October 2018. In its 2019 statement of community district needs and budget requests, the board cited youth and children’s services as one of its three most pressing needs, citing the fact that “there is no community center in QCB 13 for our young people to socialize and exercise.” The Roy Wilkins Recreation Center will not fulfill that need, as it’s located within Community Board 12’s district.
The neighborhoods that would have been covered by the 116th Precinct are currently being policed by the 105th Precinct — the fifth largest precinct in the city, covering 354 miles of roadway.
The 105th Precinct posed consistent challenges to fully serving neighborhoods in the southern half of its jurisdiction, according to lawmakers. This resulted in long-standing disparities, response times and safety of families in the district.
“If we have an emergency down here and even though they have cars in the area, the commander would have to get from the 105th Precinct on 222nd Street to here in 10 to 15 minutes,” said Robert Glover, president of The Federated Blocks of Laurelton. “This new precinct is going to serve the community a lot better.”
Brooks-Powers and Adams said the groundbreaking is a “major milestone” and a “historic moment decades in the making” that was due to the relentless and committed advocacy of local residents and community organizations.
“This is a direct result of very diverse communities coming together for one common goal – to improve safety and quality of life for all. We are making a profound, equitable investment in public safety for Southeast Queens,” Brooks-Powers said.
Adams thanked the mayor, Richards, and all of the leaders who played a role in advancing the important project.
“This precinct will cut response times for residents, provide more resources for public safety, and improve police-community relations,” Adams said.
Richards, who cited the tension that has erupted between the New York City Police Department and communities over the past year, said the precinct will be living proof of what community and police relations should reflect in the modern day.
“We know that in southeast Queens there is no contradiction in asking for safe streets and also police reform at the same time,” Richards said. “We will never sacrifice pushing the department to do better, but also working with the department as well. The new precinct will have a community center, a plaza, and some park space to teach kids how to cross the street from our local schools — this is what 21st century policing needs to look like in order to create safe communities and a department that is responsive as well.”