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Photo by Ryan Kelley/QNS
Photo by Ryan Kelley/QNS
Queens ADA James Quinn speaks at the March 22 meeting of the JPCA.

Local residents packed the cafeteria of Our Lady of Hope Catholic Academy in Middle Village on March 22 for the latest Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA) meeting, which featured members of the NYPD and the Sanitation Department addressing residents’ issues.

The March 22 meeting included a rundown of the local crime statistics with Captain John Mastronardi of the 104th Precinct, a presentation from Queens Assistant District Attorney James Quinn about Rikers Island prisoner statistics, and visits from Department of Sanitation (DSNY) officials and former JPCA president — now District 30 Councilman — Robert Holden. 

Mastronardi began the meeting by introducing many of his officers to the crowd and then gave updates about local crime and fielded many questions. For the year to date, crime is down in the 104th Precinct by 21 percent compared to last year, and crime is also down 16 percent for the current 28-day period, Mastronardi said.

The captain mentioned the precinct’s first homicide of the year in Ridgewood, and acknowledged a burglary problem in the area that he attributes to the city’s heroin epidemic.

“Watch your property. Watch your unattended items. Don’t leave stuff in your cars. It’s a big problem,” Mastronardi said. “We have a lot of people in the area walking around at night jiggling door handles looking for doors that are open, and a lot of people leave a lot of valuables in their cars.”

With that, Mastronardi noted the string of livery cab break-ins earlier this year in Ridgewood and said that the number of incidents in the pattern rose to more than 100, but police flooded the area and the perpetrator was “pushed back out to Brooklyn,” he said. The captain added that “mailbox fishing” is an ongoing problem as well, and he explained that, similar to burglaries, it’s very difficult to catch someone in the act.

One of the most common concerns raised by residents at the meeting was the slow response to 311 complaints and some 911 calls. Mastronardi said that the 104th Precinct receives the most 311 complaints in the entire city: Over the last 28 days, the precinct answered 1,556 calls to 311. Those complaints included 345 blocked driveways, 192 derelict vehicles, 668 illegally parked vehicles and 198 noise complaints.

“I’m not making excuses; this is an imperfect system that needs to be rectified,” Mastronardi said, adding that the only alleviation he can see is when the Neighborhood Coordination Officer (NCO) program begins in October. “I’m embarrassed to say that sometimes we get 311 calls and they don’t even get answered because the volume is so much.”

The conversation then shifted from catching criminals to what to do with them one they’re cuffed when Assistant District Attorney James Quinn gave a presentation about why he thinks Rikers Island should not be closed. Although Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to have the prison closed by 2027 and replaced with borough-based jails, Quinn showed charts with statistics that illustrate how the closure would almost certainly put dangerous criminals back out onto the streets.

That was followed by a brief presentation from two DSNY officials who talked about a minor change to the organics collection program that allows for the use of “any liner of your choice” to put in the brown bins. They also distributed bags of compost and said that organics are now being collected one time per week on recycling day, which allows DSNY to be more efficient with bulk pickups.

A few residents expressed frustration over the lack of electronics disposal, and one official explained that a state law prevents trucks that have been used for garbage removal to pick up electronics. That means DSNY needs new trucks for electronics removal, which will not be able to happen in Queens until the end of 2019.

Holden, who agrees with Quinn’s case for keeping Rikers open, had invited Quinn to attend the March 22 meeting. The councilman spoke on that subject too, while also acknowledging his meeting with the mayor in Middle Village the day before. Despite past criticism of each other from both parties, Holden insists he wants to work with de Blasio.

“I want to have a good rapport with him,” Holden said. “I do, because I think it helps this area. It helps the district if we’re talking and we’re trying to solve the problems and trying to compromise.”

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