10th Precinct Community Council’s Concerns Prompt Promises, Deeds

Sergeant William Coyle, NCO Supervisor, spoke to Chelsea community members about homelessness concerns. L to R: Det. Mike Petrillo, Community Council President Larry O’Neill, Capt. Arsenio Camilo, Council VP Vinny Pizzonia, and Sgt. Coyle. Photo by Tabia C. Robinson.

BY TABIA C. ROBINSON | There was a packed house at Sept. 27’s 10th Precinct Community Council meeting, the first such gathering since its three-month summer break. Nearly two dozen Chelsea residents were in attendance, many of whom came to express public safety and quality of life concerns. Community Council President Larry O’Neill opened the meeting shortly after 7 p.m. by welcoming everyone, then introduced Community Affairs Detective Mike Petrillo and Captain Arsenio Camilo — standing in for an under-the-weather Commanding Officer Paul Lanot.

Capt. Camilo started the meeting off with crime statistics. Crime in the 10th Precinct is down 8.5 percent for the month and down six percent for the seven-day period. Although that is good news, grand larcenies are a major concern for the community.

“People leave their phones on the counter at the bar and walk away to the bathroom,” said Capt. Camilo. “When they return their phones are gone.” Commercial burglaries and bicycle accidents, Camilo added, are also up in the community.

The meeting was then turned over to the Neighborhood Coordination Officer (NCO) supervisor. Sgt. William Coyle started off by acknowledging that homelessness has been a problem in Chelsea for a long time and, recently, the situation has noticeably increased. Many of the community members at the meetings shook their heads in agreement. Sgt. Coyle said that his team has been identifying hotspots where the homeless tends to congregate. These are intersections such as W. 23rd St. and Eighth Ave., W. 23rd St. and Seventh Ave., and W. 28th St. and Ninth Ave.

To date this year, the NCO unit has made 205 contacts with the homeless at the corner of W. 23rd St. and Eighth Ave. and 84 contacts at the corner of W. 28th St. and Ninth Ave. At these contacts, the officers engage with the homeless, asking them questions and sometimes taking them to homeless shelters or the hospital based on their needs. Sgt. Coyle also consults with nonprofits in the neighborhood, such as the outreach and supportive housing organization Breaking Ground (breakingground.org). Community residents with concerns or complaints were urged to call 311, the 10th Precinct, or contact Sgt. Coyle directly to report problems with homelessness.

Community Affairs Detective Mike Petrillo opened the floor, encouraging those in attendance to share their experiences with homeless people in the neighborhood.

One woman mentioned a public defecation issue near the train station on W. 23rd St. and Eighth Ave., and said it has been happening more frequently than usual. Another woman made mention of homeless “troublemakers” who hang out near the recently shuttered Radio Shack store on the corner of W. 23rd St. and Seventh Ave.

Sgt. Coyle reassured community members that the command is doing all they can to address issues of harassment and loitering.

“We are being hands-on,” he said. “My team and I are out there on foot.”

The owner of Philippe Liquors and his daytime manager were in attendance, with the owner noting they get blamed by residents for the homeless “encampment” on W. 23rd St. and Eighth Ave. (the store is on 312 W. 23rd, btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.).

“I’ve been there for 30 years,” said owner. “It’s never been that bad.”

In light of numerous complaints from area residents — and perhaps feeling the pressure from a having recently been given a summons for failing an underage operation — the owner said they would be getting rid of some small-size (“nip bottle”) products and raising the price of others. One resident said she appreciates the store cutting down because it is one step closer to combating the issue.

Philippe Liquors recently changed its “small size” sales policy in response to complaints. Photo by Scott Stiffler.

Within days of the Sept. 27 meeting, a sign appeared on one of the store’s front windows, informing its customers of the new policy. It noted the policy was put in place “to curb the dire problem of people hanging out on the sidewalks, sleeping and drinking in public,” and also noted, “The current administration have tied the hands of the police with respect to homelessness. … We cannot monitor the public and cannot enforce drinking in public. People who are not intoxicated and are of age, have the legal right to shop at Philippe Liquors. We do not want to discriminate.” The letter concludes with a ps: “If you are not happy with the police situation, please contact the Mayor’s office or the 10th precinct.”

Bicycles and traffic safety also generated much discussion at the meeting, when an older resident expressed her concern about the speed of bicycles going down the street (there are designated bike lanes on both Eighth and Ninth Aves., the source of most complaints). Traffic/Youth Sergeant Paul Mondone said the command has already given out 815 summonses this year to speeding and other unlawful bicyclists. There are also auxiliary officers handing out flyers to every bicyclist they see.

“These people are flying through the bike path,” Sgt. Mondone noted.

On the same topic of traffic, another resident stood to complain about trucks and buses coming down W. 29th St. since the pedestrian plaza near the Penn South on W. 31st St. cuts off traffic.

Bike lanes, like this one on Eighth Ave. (btw. W. 22nd & 23rd Sts.), have been generating complaints about reckless speeding. Photo by Scott Stiffler.

“There aren’t supposed to be trucks and buses,” said the woman. “There is a sign. It’s dangerous to children and the elderly.”

There is water main construction on W. 29th St. as well, which causes more congestion. As the woman was giving more examples of the congestion and disturbances on her block, Det. Petrillo said that trucks are allowed on the block, but to tell Sgt. Mondone or call the 10th Precinct about the hours of which these activities are going on so they could try to keep it to a minimum.

The 10th Precinct is located at 230 W. 20th St. (btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.). Main number: 212-741-8211. Community Affairs: 212-741-8226. Crime Prevention: 212-741-8226. Domestic Violence: 212-741-8216. Youth Officer: 212-741-8211. Auxiliary Coordinator: 212-924-3377. Detective Squad: 212-741-8245. The Community Council meets on the last Wed. of the month, 7 p.m., at the 10th Precinct or other locations to be announced. The next meeting is Oct. 25.

The sign posted on a front window of Philippe Liquors, after ownership attended Sept. 27’s Community Council meeting. Photo by Scott Stiffler.

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