April 11, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
The recent surge in assaults, burglaries and other violent crimes is spurring the Long Island City community into action.
Residents will take part in a public meeting with members of the 108th Precinct this week to discuss soaring crime rates in the area while a local group is planning to bring back private security to the Hunters Point waterfront when the weather heats up.
The public meeting will take place Thursday at Renew Queens, a community center located at 10-15 46th Rd., and Deputy Inspector Lavonda Wise – along with the 108th Precinct’s Neighborhood Coordination Officers and Crime Prevention Unit – will be in attendance. The gathering is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. and finish at 7:30 p.m.
The event is being organized by Johanna Carmona, a former prosecutor running for the Assembly District 37 seat, and aims to provide residents with an opportunity to have their say about the uptick in lawlessness plaguing the area. She expects up to 40 people to attend.
“There is a lot of concern about an increase in crime in the area, it’s pretty bad and very alarming,” Carmona said.
In the 108th precinct—which serves Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside—crime is up 42 percent for the year through April 3, compared to the same period a year ago, according to NYPD data. Robberies are up 108 percent, grand larceny is up 71 percent, while burglaries are up 16 percent.
Carmona said she decided to organize the meeting while she was petitioning to get on the ballot to run for office. She said that many residents told her they were on edge because of crime and pointed to the vicious hammer assault on a woman at the Queens Plaza subway station in February as an example of the seriousness of the matter.
She said that small business owners are also fearful about a rise in burglaries in the area, noting that four stores were broken into in Long Island City last Tuesday. Thieves smashed through front doors and robbed thousands of dollars in cash.
The meeting, Carmona said, will be a platform for residents to find out how the police plan on tackling the issue.
“We’re trying to hold a very respectful forum and hopefully people can get their questions answered.”
Carmona said that the forum will also be important for the NYPD to get feedback from residents.
“Sometimes people have information that they don’t think is valuable and it actually turns out to be very valuable.”
She said that attendees will be able to find out what safety tips they can use to better protect themselves and their businesses.
Carmona said there was a high degree of worry among Hunters Point residents with whom she spoke to. She said that residents complained about a fight on Center Boulevard earlier this month that spilled into the lobby of 1-50 50th Ave., resulting in the doorman there getting assaulted.
She said the recent crime wave is causing a lot of worry among Hunters Point residents who fear a resurgence of anti-social behavior and quality of life issues along the waterfront this summer. In 2020, the area became a hot spot for illegal fireworks, vandalism, drag racing and late-night parties with some residents hiring private security guards to tackle the problem.
The security guards are set to make a return this year, according to Yolanda Tristancho, the founder of LIC Community Action. The group was established in 2020 to address crime along the waterfront and spearheaded fundraising initiatives to cover the costs of the security.
Tristancho said LIC Community Action is meeting privately with the 108th Precinct Thursday to discuss how its security firm will coordinate with police this summer. She said that Dept. of Transportation representatives will also be in attendance to come up with ways to curb speeding and bump up road safety in the neighborhood.
Tristancho said the meeting will have a specific purpose, such as determining how the security guards will communicate with the 108th precinct should an incident escalate. They will also work on ways to improve signage in the area with the DOT.
She said that the aim of the security detail is to work alongside the 108th precinct since they are overstretched.
“The 108th is doing everything they can but there are limits to what they can do,” Tristancho said. “They don’t have a big enough workforce and also have to deal with other areas throughout the precinct.”
Tristancho said that the NYPD is also diverting its resources to tackle pressing problems such as crime in the subway.
She, like other residents, is concerned about the spike in burglaries and assaults. She said that workers at LIC Landing, the cafe located at Hunters Point South Park, recently complained about being harassed while on the job.
The rampant crime in the area was also brought up at Thursday’s Community Board 2 meeting where Hunters Point resident Michele Melnick raised some of the above incidents — as well as the assault of a female jogger on the Pulaski Bridge last month. The victim was struck in the neck by a suspect using an unknown object, leaving the runner with multiple scratch marks.
Melnick said the level of crime in the neighborhood was “insane” while there was a lack of accountability from police and most elected officials. She said only Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan was addressing the issue.
“The talk in mommy groups is about pepper spray and self-defense classes, about where and when we can no longer safely go alone,” Melnick said.
“This needs to change, this needs to change now.”