Mayor Eric Adams along with representatives from city agencies held a town hall in Rochdale Village on Wednesday night, Sept. 7, to address residents’ concerns regarding public safety in southeast Queens.
The town hall, held at Rochdale Village Grand Ballroom, located at 169-65 137th Ave., raised questions about bringing resources to communities to address gun violence, improving community relations with the NYPD, youth engagement programs, mental health, homelessness and affordable housing, among other topics.
If we want to dam the rivers that feed the sea of violence, we need all New Yorkers on board. Join me in Queens where we're talking with residents on how to improve public safety.
— Mayor Eric Adams (@NYCMayor) September 7, 2022
According to the mayor, it is a joint effort between the city agencies to improve public safety and come up with solutions to tackle the issues.
“Public safety is not just the police. Public safety is every agency that’s here. We are going to utilize the full totality of our city and all of the agencies,” said Adams, who announced that every city agency will have a quality-of-life personnel for people to directly communicate with. “Those days of calling 311 and disappearing in a black hole somewhere, those days are over. We are going to track those 311 calls and make sure those agencies are responding to them.”
When asked about how the NYPD can improve relationships and communication with the community, NYPD Chief of Patrol Jeffrey Maddrey said that the NYPD’s Field Training Program has placed police officers back on foot patrol in neighborhoods.
“This summer we did our summer violence strategy, which was basically our cops on foot posts in areas where we were having challenges,” Maddrey said. “That’s how we started bringing down gun violence this summer.”
According to Maddrey, it’s all about going back to the basics — talking to residents and increasing communication.
For example, Maddrey announced that the NYPD has confiscated 2,225 illegal ATVs off the streets in collaboration and planning with city agencies and the community.
“People have been calling us and telling us they are storing illegal bikes in this location and where they’re riding every night. When the community is providing that intel, we are able to go and take it down. So far, for the year, we have taken down close to 5,000 dirt bikes,” Maddrey said.
To improve communication with the community, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said they’re leveraging the use of technology and social media to receive feedback from people.
Throughout the town hall, many questions were raised regarding education, youth engagement programs, and safety in schools and public transportation as children head back to school on Thursday, Sept. 8.
According to Adams, his administration is partnering with corporations to offer paid internship programs year round, exposing children outside of their environment to learn about real job opportunities that are available to them. This will increase their pathways to opportunities, Adams said.
In terms of piloting a program or a hub for the youth in southeast Queens to support them with services such as mental health screening, internships and work-based programs, Adams said they’re planning to hold a series of town halls with only the youth to discuss the programs.
“When we want to deescalate the environment of our young people participating in some of the violence we are seeing, we have to give them the opportunities and we have to identify them earlier,” Adams said. “We know beforehand where some of the problems are coming from. Our goal is to find these young people upstream, and not wait until they fall in the river and pull them out downstream.”
In regards to vocational training at high schools, Adams said they want to duplicate the Brooklyn STEAM Center, an innovative career and technical training hub that prepares 11th- and 12th-grade students for careers in manufacturing, technology and creative fields.
NYC Schools Chancellor David Banks said they’re starting to “reimagine and re-engineer” the school experience for children, preparing them for the 21st-century economy.
“Career technical education is a big piece of the puzzle, but the puzzle is much larger than that. We are reimagining how kids are taught how to read,” Banks said. “During his campaign, the mayor talked about how 65% of Black and brown kids never achieve proficiency in a DOE that has a $38 billion budget. That’s shameful, and it’s going to change. You can’t take advantage of career opportunities if you haven’t had a solid literacy foundation at the beginning.”
While there is a desperate need for public school safety agents, Banks announced that 200 school safety agents will be in schools starting Thursday. They’re also planning to bring in over 800,000 school safety agents during the school year.
In the coming days, Banks and Adams will be announcing a new initiative, Project Pivot, where men and women from communities across the city will serve as mentors to help young people.
In order to ensure the safety of children returning to school on public transportation, Adams said they have removed homeless encampments off the subway and have placed 2,000 people with mental health disorders at safe havens providing services they need. Adams said they have also placed police officers in the subway to conduct patrols and to interact with the public.
“We are being more proactive in our relationship to give you the comfort that you deserve, and that your children deserve while they’re riding the subway system. That system must be safe and we are going to continue to move to make it safe,” Adams said.
In addressing mental health, Adams said that state lawmakers should open mental health beds lost during COVID and establish a program, such as Fountain House, a national nonprofit organization fighting for the dignity and dreams of people living with serious mental illness.
“Loneliness is a crisis. It is a contributor to some of the indicators and real health issues, so we are taking a holistic approach to this matter,” Adams said.
NYC Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan noted the launch of the historic expansion of the crisis hotline, NYC WELL, with over $10 million of additional resources, in line with the federal suicide prevention hotline, 988.
“These are on-demand resources for community members to call to get help in their communities, but also for loved ones who might be in crisis and need support,” Vasan said. “This is just the beginning, we are at the early stages of making a series of investments around serious mental illness — people that are experiencing homelessness, people that are experiencing crisis, and youth mental health affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Vasan added that the Health Department will be working closely with the chancellor to invest in school mental health and the overdose crisis, as they are committed to these issues in the long haul.