A large crowd of upset residents gathered at the 63rd Precinct Community Council’s first meeting of the year at 1097 Bergen Avenue on Wednesday, January 3rd, to air their grievances and fears concerning the behavior and alleged illegal activities occurring near area homes and businesses mainly in Bergen Beach, Mill Basin and Marine Park, by the migrants housed at Floyd Bennett Field.
Donald Cranston, representing Assemblywoman Jaime Williams, said that despite the City’s attempts to dismiss their lawsuit — initiated by Williams and a coalition of civic presidents, community leaders and residents — to dismantle the migrant camp, the court case will be heard on January 18th.
“We’re sending a letter to the mayor and all the powers that be at the tent city that we’re not going to accept the panhandling door-to-door, the going into people’s backyards and whatnot — the panhandling, in and of itself, ringing of someone’s doorbell is not a crime, but the harassment portion of it is a crime, so we’re asking them to push that message at tent city,” Cranston said.
For further clarification, Deputy Inspector Rachael Kosak advised residents not to call 311 for panhandling complaints, but if someone enters a private driveway, alleyway or backyard, it’s a 911 call.
Frustrated residents, mainly from Marine Park and Mill Basin, complained that harassing behavior was happening on every block. Migrants were seen ringing doorbells; asking for money and handouts; and loitering at gas stations, businesses and supermarket parking lots. They were concerned about the welfare of the little children who were seen with the adults sitting on the sidewalks and curbs or walking in the streets.
Adding to the list of complaints was an allegation that migrants were trying to extort and scam people by trying to make false claims of getting hit by cars on streets and in parking lots in the hope of getting cash in exchange for not suing for damages, but residents were advised to always call 911 and report suspicious activity.
Kosak spoke of the limitations in addressing the issues unless there were specific complaints that warranted action. She also saw the need for more outreach and communications with the migrant population.
“In order for you to get the results you want, you need to go to where they make the decisions,” Community Council President Greg Borruso said in response to a resident’s plea to have everyone work together. He suggested working with Jaime Williams’ office as a coalition and getting other elected officials on board to bring the issue to Congress and the voting booths.
Councilwoman Mercedes Narcisse, who represents the affected district, spoke out about accusations and rumors against her for not supporting the assemblywoman’s efforts through litigation, rallies and speaking out.
She said that it was a federal issue and explained what her priorities were as far as obtaining funding and working for the community. “I don’t have the leverage to tell the federal what they can do,” she said. “You have to understand that.”
She said that someone at the meeting told her that she was the one who voted for the migrants to be here and supported having them at Floyd Bennett Field.
“I did not volunteer to bring no one to Floyd Bennett Field,” she said. “When I received the news about Floyd Bennett Field, I was the first one to say, ‘Oh my God, this is not what we want here.’”
In response to requests to do more, she expressed her empathy and support for the residents and announced both at the meeting and in a social media post the next day that she planned to meet with officials at Floyd Bennett Field to arrange a meeting with the migrants to “communicate directly with them, emphasizing the inappropriateness of their actions, and to explore possible measures to avoid similar incidents in the future.”
The next 63rd Precinct Community Council meeting will take place at 2335 Bergen Avenue on Wednesday, January 24th, at 7 p.m.
Photo Credit: On Scene Brooklyn South