The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Community Welcomes Deputy Inspector George Fitzgibbon

pic by Sonja Sharp/DnaInfo
Thursday night at the new community room in the basement of Play Kids, a bunch of us said hello to the newish precinct commander at the 71st, George Fitzgibbon. He was accompanied by longtime community affairs officer Vinnie Martinos. The two kindly offered more than an hour of their time to answer questions and offer perspective on the sorts of issues that have concerned folks around here for...for...well, for a long or short time depending on the issue and your length of residency.

Serious crime, for instance. It's not the "busiest" precinct in the City, but we've got our problems, as the year ending last September will attest. Fitzgibbon was quick to point out his early tenure successes busting a serial robber and stings on drug dealers. He talks a lot about working with detectives and narcotics officers from Brooklyn South and investigators from the D.A.'s office. Questions about gangs or "crews" led to a discussion of graffiti, clearly on the rise 'round here. And while gangs aren't a specialty of the commander's, he's well aware of the threat and presence of crews and we urged him to keep a keen eye on certain hot spots where locals block crews seem to operate. We spoke of specific corners and buildings of concern. It's our hope that they be targeted for increased enforcement. To be clear, we're talking about routine offenders - the folks we ALL know to be trouble, not random folk who happen to be talking to each other or hanging out. So please guys...take the time and get to know who's who! Our little "task force" has been helpful in identifying EXACTLY where those spots are, and we'll try to keep the pressure on. If you'd like to add to the list of hot spots, or reinforce our "database," please comment here! And to be part of the group (we number around 75 on the email list) please write me here.

As for traffic concerns, Fitzgibbon says he takes them seriously. But despite the clear urgency in the tone of a question from concerned resident Alex Ely, it does not appear to the Q that the commander has a firm grasp of just how out of hand the driving can get on the Flabenue. He does claim he'll be cracking down on illegal and irresponsible Dollar Vans (here here!), but his first response to our concerns was to note the recklessness of jaywalkers. Granted, jaywalking is a big safety problem, and folks all over town are starting to get jaywalking tickets as of the beginning of this year (now THAT is newsworthy - whoa - jaywalker getting tickets - in NYC - that's as big news as the first tickets for beers in paper bags back in the 90s) But that's not what we were talking about. Jaywalkers take their lives in their hands, to be sure, and can cause drivers headaches, but rampant speeding, dodging and redlight running is what we were talking about. (You gotta admit it's gotten better since the new traffic patterns.) Hopefully this conversation will lead to a better understanding of the nature of the problem. Look, we're not getting speed cameras (the State won't do it - see chart of U.S. states and their camera laws), and obviously traffic is fairly low on this precinct's list of priorities. (By the way, if you click that chart, note that NY State allows cameras for red light offenses ONLY in cities bigger than 1 million people. If ever there was a law that described the divide between NYC and NY State lawmakers, that's it! But if they can do it for stoplights, why not speed? This is definitely something to bring to State officials attention. Their longtanding answer that "it can't be done" is clearly bull. Like most of what comes out of Albany).

Deputy Inspector Fitzgibbon promised that he has an eye on the Parkside Playground. The day following the Thursday night meeting he texted me that two drug busts had gone down in our area. Hey, this is the guy we got, and he seems to be a straight-shooter, and able to tell us to our face if he is or ain't gonna do something. He's moved a lot of officers around to suit his style of commandeering, and promised to respond to concerns as we make them known. Sir, consider yourself welcome by the gang. That is, the gang that isn't the other kind of gang.

One last thing I noted, and it's not the first time I've heard it or sensed it. Regardless of what you think of the cops, they're human. Which means they respond to positive feedback as well as negative. When they do something well, we need to let them know that too. I'm reminded of just how well the Chabad community does at establishing bonds with the precinct. Members of the "community police" Shomrim were developing that relationship from the moment Fitzgibbon stepped in (see pic from the ever-informative Granted those of us who call Lefferts home aren't tied together by religion (though many of us share the same church - the Q train at Parkside, aligned as we are in a line with our brothers and sisters at Prospect Park or Church Ave, contiguous sects of the denomination known as "Brightonism"). And yet one would hope that on many issues we can speak with one voice, as it were.

Bottom line? This is it. The bottom line of the post. Or rather, now THIS is the bottom line.


Mary said...

Has anyone noticed shady activity going on outside of the bodega on the corner of Lenox and Flatbush (across the street from the fruit market)? Sure, when the weather is warmer, groups congregate outside of certain buildings and most seem okay, but it's bad vibes central on that particular corner, and not just because of the sexual harassment I've received and the racially-charged comments directed towards my husband, who actually has witnessed one "transaction" take place there. Just putting my feelers out to see if anyone has seen/heard about that corner as well.

Bo said...

I think it's going to take a major cultural shift in the police department for them to understand the traffic problems we face and then to realize it is their responsibility to help deal with the problem.

At the bare minimum, I hope he can get his own officers to stop making the illegal left turn from Lincoln to Washington, and get his officers to stop illegally parking in front of Wholesome Gourmet and thus backing up bus traffic.

Alex said...

I felt quite mixed coming out of that meeting. The dismissive response to the traffic issue was not great, and he went so far as to say that they did have officers out addressing the severe traffic on the evenings when it was a problem - I never saw any officers, so I don't really know what to make of his assertion. If you've ever watched Hardball, you're familiar with Fitzgibbon's communication style - he's a bit like Chris Matthews gets when he decides one of his guests has talked long enough.

However, Fitzgibbon seems very committed to addressing drug related crime, and so far, it seems like they're finally making progress. For that reason I am grateful and optimistic.

babs said...

I thought jaywalking was every New Yorker's god-given right. However, there's a difference between jaywalking (crossing the street when it's clear, just not necessarily at the corner) and the outright craziness I observe regularly on Flatbush and also on Empire, where I often see people just walk right out into the street without looking and against the light. What's that about? By all means ticket those types to keep them from killing themselves. But please, please, also ticket all the crazy drivers around here who blow though red lights and turn recklessly while there are pedestrians trying to cross the street correctly - almost got clipped again today at Bedford and Lefferts. Grrr.