Building the Block Meeting
Building the Block Meeting of May 8, 2019
First some background: “Building the Block” is an initiative of the 77th precinct with the aim of improving community relations. It meets four times each year. The precinct is divided into four sectors (A,B,C, D) and there are two officers serving each sector. Everyone in the community is invited to the meetings. Our sector is “B” and our neighborhood coordination officers are Alicia Frisch and Michelle Giglio.
The most recent meeting was on May 8th at the Ebenezer Wesleyan Methodist Church at 1024 Bergen Street. The meeting was attended by about sixty members of the community and was led by Officers Giglio and Frisch. Mark Thurton, Community Board 8’s chair of the Public Safety Committee, spoke and said that the statistics are getting better. He said that in 77th precinct, murder is way down; there was just one from January to April but then four more recently. Some people wanted to know why. Officer Giglio said warm weather brings more people on to the street and this makes it more likely there will be angry disputes rarely but sometimes leading to murder.
After Thurton made his remarks, the main part of the meeting got started. The meeting is utilized in two ways; it serves as an opportunity for residents to communicate their concerns to the police and to have those concerns met, and the meeting also serves to enlighten the police about problems that need attention. There were all sorts of issues raised at the last meeting-- some easier to fix and others less so. A gentleman complained that he gets tickets for no reason and said that the police are targeting black people. He spoke at length on this. Officer Giglio said that the police always have reasons for ticketing but if anyone feels the reason is wrong they can go to court and fight it. The man seemed frustrated and upset as his complaint about racism was not being addressed. A women suggested that the man get others in the community to write up their experiences -- that a group is more powerful than one person.
Another person complained of church members double parking and the police not stopping this. She told of how long she has been reporting this problem and how nothing has been done. She explained how the double parking impacts people in her building -- handicapped people not having access to their transportation, caterers not being able to load their trucks or cars with food in front of the building and having to walk far carrying the food to where they can load it into their vehicles. She was angry and frustrated. The officers said they’d look into the situation and try to organize a meeting with leaders of the church.
Another person complained of a group of men congregating near her home and told how intimidated she felt walking out her door to get past the men. Someone else told of prostitutes moving into her building with a drug dealing pimp and doing business there. She said there are many children in the building, and she herself felt unsafe. The officers knew the building and said they’d get a key from the landlord so that they could enter the building whenever needed and that they would talk to the landlord about the situation.
The officers emphasized that all complaints are confidential and encouraged all to contact them if in need. They were writing these complaints down and also explained that they cannot respond to all calls but tried to assure everyone that their calls and complaints are being addressed and all the information they receive goes into their database.
Overall these meetings serve a purpose. Disgruntled people get their grievances into the open, and some people have action taken concerning their problems. The police get a better sense of what is going on in the community and as data builds up, they get a better sense of the most important problem areas. Giglio and Frisch are obviously intelligent and professional but also convey genuine concern. They are patient and dedicated and form an important link between the police and the community they serve.
– Louise Kurshan