Additional weekend officers quiet some noise; problems remain
by Daniel P. Bader
Noise. Booming speaker systems in cars, motorcycles racing down the streets or simply racing their engines at stop lights, large crowds of partiers – these are the sounds of summer in Northern Manhattan.
The police have assigned more officers overnight on the weekends, set up a mobile command center on Dyckman Street and deployed the “Skywatch” tower in hot spots uptown. Residents have said the efforts help, but are concerned about the noise and assaults that continue to plague parts of Northern Manhattan in the warmer months.
“The community keeps calling us and keeps telling us what the problems are,” said Community Board 12 Public Safety Chair Emilia Cardona at a June 3 committee meeting co-sponsored by local elected officials and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. The meeting agenda was specifically tailored to address Northern Manhattan’s perennial summer noise and mayhem issues.
Cardona and the committee are calling for a number of solutions, but ultimately want a new precinct established in Inwood in the next 10 years.
“Until we get an additional precinct” any fix is only temporary, Cardona said. “You can’t function properly if you do not have the support we need.”
Manhattan North Commanding Officer Raymond Diaz, a special guest to the committee meeting, said the outlook is bleak for a new precinct, especially when crime statistics continue to decline. Even increasing the current number of officers will probably not happen because the latest class of cadets numbered only 250 for the entire city.
A week earlier, at the 34th Police Precinct Council meeting held on May 27, Deputy Inspector Andrew Capul, commander of the 34th Police Precinct, highlighted those statistics, and explained how the police department was addressing the typical summer spike in noise complaints.
According to Capul, overall crime was down 37 percent for the week of May 18 compared to the same week the previous year. For May as a whole, crime was down five percent, and for the year to date, it was down 16 percent when compared to the same time period in 2008.
“We issue a lot of summons,” Capul said at that meeting, held in Belfer Hall at Yeshiva University on Amsterdam Avenue. Arrests were up 25 percent for the week. As far as “quality of life” summonses, Capul said his officers have handed out 1,077 for the year, the majority of which are noise related.
“We’re looking at some creative ideas,” he said.
Additional officers have been assigned from the NYPD Patrol Bureau and Impact Response Team. Fifteen to 24 officers have been assigned to the 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift, and 34 more brought in for the 8:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. shift.
“Receiving that help … we’ve seen a drastic reduction over the past four weekends,” Capul said. “That’s something we plan in sustaining hopefully throughout the summer. It should get better and better.”
Community members at the Public Safety Committee meeting pointed out where some of that attention was needed.
Jose Rodriguez, a member of St. Elizabeth’s Church on Wadsworth Avenue and also a member of a group called Manhattan Together, called Wadsworth Terrace a “Lost Land.”
“We are very concerned because things are going crazy now, and it’s not even summer yet,” Rodriguez said. With building superintendents scared to report what they see, and drug dealing prevalent, Rodriquez said “We don’t know what to do anymore.”
Other meeting attendees complained about motorcycles racing up and down streets, their engines whining.
Capul said his officers have not encountered drag racing, but are still cracking down on motorcycles.
“They’re loud on occasion. It may give the appearance of drag racing,” he said. “We’re not seeing that.”
But the precinct is still addressing the noise.
By this time last year, his officers had confiscated one motorcycle – its owner unlicensed. This year, he said, his officers have seized 16.
To combat noise on Dyckman Street police have installed a mobile command center and controlled traffic by allowing only local traffic into the street on weekends.
“These are things we’re doing that are very visible,” he said.
Borough President Scott Stringer is setting up a task force in the neighborhood modeled on the District Service Cabinet Meetings where CB12 representatives meet directly with heads of city agencies.
“If we don’t come up with a plan of action and just vent, you’re going to have motorcycles all summer long,” Stringer said. “When we have tried this model we have gotten results.”
The Manhattan Times is the bilingual newspaper of Washington Heights and Inwood.