Sep. 15, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
A number of city and state officials came together for a Zoom call Thursday to address the quality-of-life issues that have plagued the Hunters Point waterfront this summer.
The meeting, which involved more than 20 participants, included representatives from the mayor’s office, NYC Parks, New York State Parks, NYC Dept. of Health, Community Board 2, civic groups and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer.
They came together to address a plethora of problems– from the influx of food vendors, overflowing trash, boozed park goers, late-night rave parties, fireworks, dangerous speeding and crime.
The call lasted for more than an hour and a half.
The meeting included Yolanda Tristancho, a resident who formed the LIC Community Action group, which raised funds and hired a private security firm last month to patrol the area.
The controversy surrounding the hiring of a private security firm brought to light the quality-of-life issues that had not been properly addressed for months. Officials, such as Van Bramer, finally took action after months of complaints and convened the meeting.
Tristancho said the meeting was productive and it was a step in the right direction toward finding a solution.
The city, she said, assured participants on the call that it would dedicate more resources to enforce park rules.
Tristancho said that NYC Parks has agreed to step up the presence of its Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) at Hunters Point South Park. The PEP officers, dressed in a green uniform, can issue summonses to people who violate park rules.
The Parks Dept. confirmed this and told the Queens Post that mobile units have been conducting spot checks in response to complaints.
“Hunters Point South Park will be checked daily by PEP officers,” a spokesperson for the Parks Dept said. “Our PEP officers have also added some night patrols to monitor the park and educate patrons on Parks’ rules and regulations and hours of operation.”
The Parks Dept, according to the agency, is also developing a plan to finalize the number of PEP officers assigned to patrolling the park.
Tristancho said that NYC Parks told attendees that it aims to make sure that nobody is inside Hunters Point South Park after the 10 p.m. closing time.
She said that the PEP officers will in effect supplement the private security officers that her group has hired who are on patrol every Thursday through Sunday from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Tristancho said that state troopers have already increased their patrols at Gantry Plaza State Park after closing time.
“It was a positive call having an audience to ask questions and get some strong actionable items in place,” she said.
Rob Basch, president of the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy (HPPC) who was also on the call, said there has been a heightened police presence in the area in the past couple of weeks.
“All parties are trying to work together and fix the issues and I’m hopeful things will get better and the community will get better,” he said.
The NYPD has been more active along the waterfront in recent weekends– and has been working in concert with New York State Police and PEP officers.
Joint operations were conducted during the late night hours on Sept. 4, 5, 7 and 13 at both Hunters Point South Park and Gantry Plaza State Park, according to the NYPD.
The joint operations resulted in 44 parking violation summonses, two vehicles being towed and seven court summonses– for infractions such as people being inside the park after hours and drinking alcoholic beverages.
Last night we conducted a joint operation with our law enforcement partners @nyspolice @NYstateparks with 108 NCOs and the 108 @NYPDauxiliary Unit, all working together to keep our public parks safe for all to enjoy.@NYPDnews @NYPDQueensNorth pic.twitter.com/H4B3TyO4HM
— NYPD 108th Precinct (@NYPD108Pct) September 5, 2020
Participants on the call also discussed the need for clamping down on reckless drivers who speed along Center Boulevard putting the public at risk.
They called for speed bumps and cameras, and requested that the stop signs be more visual.
The Department of Transportation did not have a representative at the meeting.
However, Van Bramer, according to Tristancho, agreed that road safety is a major issue in the area and vowed to follow through on the requested changes.
Van Bramer did not respond to a request for comment pertaining to the meeting.
Other safety issues participants sought to address dealt with lighting. Many lights in both parks no longer work and advocates such as the HPPC requested that they be repaired.
Basch said there are a number of broken lights at Hunters Point South Park– by the benches in the new section (Phase 2) of the park. He said the Parks Dept. is in the process of fixing them.
There are also about a dozen lights around the oval inside Hunters Point South Park that are not working. Basch said that the DOT– which is responsible for them–is aware of the issue.
There are also lighting problems at Gantry Plaza State Park, with the area by Anable Basin near the Pepsi sign particularly dark– an area where people have also been congregating. These lights have been out since Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012 due to wiring issues.
Another big issue discussed on the call dealt with the influx of food vendors to the area, which operate late into the night. Residents say that up to 20 food vendors can be seen sprawled across Center Boulevard on weekends that also contribute to litter problems.
“CB2 has been concerned all along about the operation of the food the trucks down in the park and the trash being left,” said Lisa Deller, the chair of Community Board 2, who was also on the Zoom call.
The DOH, according to Deller, told attendees on the call that food vendors have no set closing time and can stay open late. They are not required to stop operating at 10 p.m. when the park closes.
They are not permitted, however, to remain on the same spot for 24 hours, Deller said, since they are required to leave at some point to get their truck cleaned and serviced each day.
The DOH told attendees, she said, that it will be checking vendors’ permits over the coming weeks and will make sure vendors have trash receptacles near their trucks and are parked correctly. DOH also told attendees on the call that it will also monitor whether trucks are leaving the area to clean their vehicles.
The issue of street vendors came up at the Community Board 2 monthly meeting earlier this month.
Patrick O’Brien, who chairs the City Services Committee for CB2, said the Health Department had not been out doing mobile food inspections in recent months due to COVID. He said that the department only has between 15 to 25 inspectors hired to deal with mobile food vendors across the city.
“They are just beginning to come round and they gave us an assurance that it [the Hunters Point waterfront] would be prioritized,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien said that the board had also been in communication with the 108 Police Precinct. “One Police Plaza is aware of the situation down there they assured us,” he said. “They are manpower constrained but they will be sending more units.”