Amid an alarming rise in crime in the NYPD’s 109th Precinct, three Queens lawmakers are calling on NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell to create a new police precinct in northeast Queens.
Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, along with Assembly members Ed Braunstein and Daniel Rosenthal sent a letter to Sewell requesting a new police precinct to oversee the neighborhoods of College Point, Whitestone and Bay Terrace.
These communities currently fall within the 109th Precinct, which is based in downtown Flushing. Because of the large area covered by the precinct and the growing population, residents in these communities have described being neglected and insufficient oversight by the department. These concerns have been magnified by an increase in crime.
Residents in these neighborhoods deserve the peace of mind that an increased police presence will provide, Stavisky said.
“We take the safety of our constituents very seriously,” Stavisky said. “The officers stationed in the 109th Precinct do an admirable job with the resources they have. Population growth in the area, especially in downtown Flushing, has stretched them too thin. I believe we can establish a new precinct for the College Point, Whitestone and Bay Terrace communities at reduced cost to the taxpayers.”
Rosenthal said the 81% year-to-date increase in crime within the 109th Precinct is extremely alarming.
“This crime epidemic continues to be exacerbated by the loss of officers to adjacent jurisdictions from a precinct that is already spread to its operational limits,” Rosenthal said. “I earnestly join my colleagues and Whitestone residents in requesting this vital allocation of an additional precinct for our communities.”
According to Braunstein, a new police precinct would not only alleviate existing pressure but help “improve response time, expand police coverage and be an asset to the northeast Queens community.”
In their letter, the lawmakers suggested that the newly created precinct be based at the Police Academy in College Point, located at 130-30 28th Ave. The lawmakers believe this to be a convenient, cost effective solution that would save on land acquisition and construction costs for a new headquarters.
The 32-acre campus, which is operated by the NYPD Training Bureau, opened its doors in 2014, consolidating the old Police Academy in Manhattan and existing training facilities throughout the city into one central location.
Alfredo Centola, president and founding member of The We Love Whitestone Civic Association, requested the proposal for the Police Academy to be used as the new location for the precinct. According to Centola, residents in the community have been sending emails to elected officials to secure a site.
“A large part of the police academy is empty, and you also have buildings falling apart that can easily be repaired and replaced saving $92 million dollars,” Centola said. “There are options in the neighborhood that they can use. The College Point facility would be ideal because it’s already set up for the police department.”
According to Centola, the community has been advocating for a new precinct for the last 10 to 15 years. However, he’s been told by city officials that there is no money to fund the project.
“Borough President Donovan Richards was able to secure a new precinct in his neighborhood. What are we waiting for?” Centola said.
In August, southeast Queens elected officials celebrated a milestone in the construction phase of the new 116th Precinct in Rosedale, that will help to alleviate existing strains on the overburdened 105th Precinct that covers more than 350 lane miles of roadway in east and southeast Queens. The project comes after more than four decades of tireless advocacy by community members, who have pushed for a new precinct for generations.
Centola said a new police precinct in northeast Queens would help to alleviate the overburdened 109th Precinct.
“Everybody understands they have to deal with the Main Street-Flushing area — it’s a busy area — but oftentimes the Whitestone, Bay Terrace, College Point areas are like the unwanted stepchild,” Centola said. “We have a lot of issues going on in these areas.”
Those issues, according to Centola, include an uptick in burglaries, drive-by shootings at cars, and stolen catalytic converters and packages in Whitestone.
“New York City is going through a horrible phase right now, but you can’t expect the 109 Precinct to police when they’re short staffed and have a large area to cover,” Centola said. “The 109 Precinct and the new CO are amazing. They’re doing the best job they can possibly do, but we need to do something that will protect the neighborhoods and the 109th Precinct.”