After 40 years of advocacy and hard work, southeast Queens residents can rejoice as Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday, April 20, that funding for the new 116th Precinct and community center has been restored to the city’s capital budget.
The long-awaited 116th Precinct and community center — that will serve the neighborhoods of Rosedale, Springfield Gardens, Brookville, Laurelton and the southern portion of Cambria Heights— will be fully funded, according to de Blasio, as he unveiled his Safe Summer NYC initiative during a press conference.
“These are things that the community has said will improve the quality of life and will allow the community to literally get what they need. This fight has been going on for decades, and once and for all, we will be able to provide the support for the community in southeast Queens,” de Blasio said.
Plans for the precinct include a street plaza and a community center with a food pantry to help feed families amid the pandemic. Southeast Queens community leaders commended the mayor for addressing the issue by restoring funding to the capital budget.
Referencing the struggle that started in the 1970s for the creation of a new police precinct amid public safety concerns, Congressman Gregory Meeks said it is “indeed a day of celebration” for the residents of southeast Queens.
“We want this new police precinct to be a part of this community and that’s why it was essential to have a community center attached to it. We will have that inter-exchange and engagement so that we can work closely together,” said Meeks, who created the 116th Precinct Task Force when he was elected to the state Assembly in 1992.
Newly elected Council member Selvena Brooks-Powers said the announcement is a “major victory” for her district’s civic organizations that have fought for equity, city resources and calls for the creation of a new precinct.
“This group has spent countless hours fighting for much needed and deserved equity. They have dedicated many hours towards strategizing and organizing around the need for a new precinct that would help to reduce response times,” Brooks-Powers said.
For Brooks-Powers, the creation of the 116th Precinct represents more than merely a station house — it represents equity and also a step toward a more progressive and inclusive approach to community safety, she said.
The 116th Precinct was approved by Community Board 13 in October 2018. In its 2019 statement of community district needs and budget requests, the board cited youth and children’s services as one of its three most pressing needs, citing the fact that “there is no community center in QCB 13 for our young people to socialize and exercise.” The Roy Wilkins Recreation Center will not fulfill that need, as it’s located with Community Board 12’s district.
The neighborhoods that would have been covered by the 116th Precinct are currently being policed by the 105th Precinct — the fifth largest precinct in the city, covering 354 miles of roadway — which has set up a satellite office on North Conduit Avenue next to the Rosedale Long Island Rail Road station. The satellite precinct has been in operation at a limited capacity since 2007.
The 105th Precinct posed consistent challenges to fully serving neighborhoods in the southern half of its jurisdiction, according to Brooks-Powers. This resulted in long-standing disparities, response times and safety of families in the district.
“The new 116th Precinct requested by the community since the 1970s was designed and slated to remedy this gap. It has been a long time coming to this point — a lot of frustration and loss of funding in last year’s budget,” Brooks-Powers said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio finally realized that defunding the police didn’t work out as he hoped — and has now ordered the NYPD to make Midtown Manhattan safe again so workers will come back after more than a year of pandemic lockdowns.
At least 80 uniformed officers and supervisors are expected to flood the area within the next two weeks after being redeployed from around the city to combat violent vagrants and other safety issues, sources familiar with the plan told The Post.
An NYPD deputy inspector will be in charge of the newly created “Business Improvement Unit,” which will be based out of the Midtown South Precinct, sources said.
The plan didn’t originate from the NYPD but was developed in response to a series of recent meetings the mayor held at City Hall with his staff and police brass, sources said.
It followed months of pleading by business leaders and others for the mayor to crack down on criminals and vagrants running amok around Penn Station and elsewhere.
As an example of the long-festering problem, a Vornado Realty maintenance worker said there’s “a whole crew” of vagrants who lie on the sidewalk near 34th Street and Eighth Avenue “every morning.”
“The people come out of the stations shocked. You can see in their faces, they can’t believe what they see,” the workers said.
“I am finding vomit, feces, needles. There is no one here controlling them.”
Recently, the situation has raised concerns that it will keep people who’ve been working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic from returning to their offices.
“They are afraid for their safety walking from the train to work, and they are afraid to ride the train,” one source said.
A Midtown office supervisor said that without a dramatic turnaround, it could cost the city “hundreds of millions of dollars” in business.
“There are too many random assaults by people wandering through the street,” a source said. “The attacks are being done by people who were just dumped in Midtown with no one providing any services.”
A real estate industry source summed it up: “We need action.”
Under the NYPD’s plan, the redeployed cops will be assigned to foot posts across Midtown and accompany workers from the Department of Homeless Services and the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection when they go out into the field, sources said.
“The mayor and the local politicians didn’t want the police to deal with the homeless and peddlers but now that their plan failed miserably, the mayor is asking the police to help clean up the mess they created,” a Manhattan cop said.
Another source said, “The mayor’s plan failed and privately he realizes it.”
Paul Dimino, third-generation owner of the Sea Breeze Fish Market on Ninth Avenue, called de Blasio “an idiot.”