Bergen Beach and Mill Basin community members led a spirited and sometimes heated discussion with police in an attempt to resolve longstanding problems plaguing the area at their quarterly 63rd Precinct Build the Block Sector A meeting on Thursday, August 25th at Temple Sholom, 2075 East 68th Street.
Neighborhood Coordination Officers (NCOs) David Belkin and Felicia Grant listened to frustrated residents and offered helpful explanations and advice about what they could do to address their issues in Sector A, which covers most of the area east of Ralph Avenue in Bergen Beach and Mill Basin, and also Mill Island, Kings Plaza Mall and Floyd Bennett Field.
“The biggest quality of life complaint, we know, is in fact, the abandoned vehicles,” Belkin said of the recurring problem, often due to lack of space at the towing yard or other duties that take priority.
Residents complained about the growing number of illegally operated ATVs and dirt bikes on their streets, as well as loud music, running, yelling, partying and alleged drug use until 5 a.m.by large groups of disorderly people. They expressed frustration with the 311 and 911 system because of the delay or lack of response to their calls.
“Nobody can do anything about it,” said one resident on East 66th Street and Avenue T. The group she spoke about was known to Belkin and he explained that they want to do something about it, but they have limitations because they are not allowed to pursue these vehicles if they take off.
“Our commanding officer has been having cops working overtime on an initiative where they only focus on ATVs, but there’s only so much we can do,” added Grant. “We start the pursuit, but once they start going into alleyways, going the wrong way, driving recklessly, our pursuit has to stop because it becomes a dangerous situation.”
Belkin cited an example that happened at the Queensborough Bridge recently where officers pursued two illegal dirt bike riders who were speeding in the wrong direction to evade capture, crashed into a tractor trailer and died. He said that both officers were in trouble because they were not supposed to pursue them. “They were stripped of their guns and put on modified assignment pending investigation,” he said.
“Then we need to change the laws because that’s ridiculous,” said Yana Slobodenyuk, who has called several times to complain about problems on her block with no resolution, to which Belkin told her that she then needs to contact her councilmember. He also said it was department policy.
“We need to come up with a structural plan to catch these dirt bikes,” he said. “Everyone says we need to change laws, but we don’t have the authority to do that; we only go by what our rules and laws are.”
Another complaint was about people roaming the neighborhoods and coming onto private property to look for bottles and cans. In addition to calling 311 or 911, Belkin suggested posting signage to discourage trespassing.
Others asked if homeless shelters were being built in the area since they perceived the presence of more vagrants and were advised to attend their Community Board 18 meetings for that information. They were also advised to attend monthly 63rd Precinct Community Council meetings.
The NCOs also reported about a recent robbery and shooting that took place late at night at Hickman’s Playground, located at Veterans Avenue and East 66th Street. The victim was approached, robbed and shot in the leg. “In this neighborhood, it doesn’t really happen,” Belkin said. “It was a very, very rare incident.” The case is still under investigation.
They also reported about an assault that knocked a man out cold at Kings Plaza Mall on August 20th. A suspect was arrested on August 27th (see “Suspect Arrested in Kings Plaza Sucker Punch Assault,” Canarsie Courier, September 1, 2022).
Increased police presence has been provided for Kings Plaza Mall to deter crimes such as grand larceny when people leave unattended items in the presence of thieves or leave their vehicles running while they run a quick errand. “Please lock your doors and do not leave your keys in the car,” said Grant.