Public safety issues by a neighborhood playground were the hot topic at the 63rd Precinct Sector C (Flatlands/Mill Basin) Build the Block meeting held on Thursday, December 15th at Caribe Hall, 1914 Utica Avenue.
Neighborhood Coordination Officer (NCO) James Saintil talked about the usual crimes prevalent around the holidays, but a new issue was raised about illegal drug use around Power Playground on Avenue N, between Utica Avenue and East 49th Street, located across the street from the Days Inn Wyndham, allegedly reputed to be housing the homeless.
Community Board 18 board member Terri Cadet-Donald raised the issue as she has observed “a couple of things going on over there.”
“There’s a lot going on over there,” NCO Saintil said, referring to the use of illegal substances and other activities. “It’s a hotel, but they use it as a shelter.”
The Canarsie Courier called the hotel front desk to ask if it was being used as a shelter and was initially told that there were no homeless residents, but when informed of the statement made at the meeting, the desk manager admitted to having one homeless resident using a room for a few hours at a time.
The Department of Homeless Services was then contacted and confirmed that the hotel, located in District 46, was not a Department of Social Services site, and Councilwoman Mercedes Narcisse’s office reported that they have not received calls from constituents about it.
However, former District 46 Councilman Alan Maisel said that it’s quite possible there are people hanging out at the park because it’s an out-of-the way and neglected park in a deserted area. “The derelicts of society will find a place where their kindred spirits hang out,” he said.
“So, they dedicate a certain number of rooms to homeless people,” Saintil said. “I guess they got a thing with the city where you can house homeless people there, and the sad thing is that it’s spilling into the neighborhood, so sometimes, at the park, we have to write summonses to people that are smoking illegal stuff – and there are kids around playing.” He said they issue summonses twice per week during the summertime. “But that’s all we can do; it’s a summons.”
One frustrated resident said this situation wasn’t going to fix itself and made comparisons to how the European government has facilities to educate and rehabilitate drug users.
“When somebody is hurt, has an urge or is going through some kind of mental breakdown and stuff like that, ‘just say no’ isn’t going to cut it,” the resident said.
He added that using stopgap measures and band-aid solutions by placing our homeless populations in hotels and temporary housing without addressing the core issues like mental health problems is not solving anything.
As for the increase in crimes, several other residents spoke of the lack of education about civic engagement, citizens’ rights as it relates to responsibilities to the community and to the nation, limitations placed on teachers and police, the lack of a parent at home to teach children right from wrong and the need for the community to speak up to hold elected representatives accountable.
“We’re in a society where we have voted in people who don’t care about us and it’s a big problem that they cannot pass laws that say criminals should stay in jail,” resident Bob Spieler said, referring to the bail reform laws passed in 2019.
“Someone bad has gone to jail,” an 8-year-old child attending the meeting with her family said. “Can you guys make him stay in jail forever?”
“We’re only responsible for catching the bad guys,” Saintil said. “As for them staying in jail, it’s the court system and the judge – it’s up to them.”