Cops also address noise complaints at new First Avenue pizzeria/lounge
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Robberies and felony assaults have increased significantly in the past month in the 13th Precinct, with crime overall increasing only slightly, police said this week.
The crimes, which included bank robberies, a K2-related assault on an officer and attacks on Bellevue staffers, were discussed by Deputy Inspector Brendan Timoney at a 13th Precinct Community Council meeting this past Tuesday. Additionally, residents at the meeting expressed concern over noise at the new pizzeria and bar/lounge on First Avenue that recently replaced Adriatic.
At the meeting, Timoney also mentioned that a recent arrest made for K2, the synthetic cannabinoid that has started to be a problem for the precinct, especially around the shelters, contributed to the increase in felony assaults this month. This is after a man who was arrested for K2 managed to get his hands to the front of his body while he was handcuffed and punch an officer in the face.
Members of the 13th Precinct said at the meeting that there is an amount of uncertainty when dealing with K2 because it’s a relatively new problem for the NYPD.
“It’s not classified as a drug so they’re charged with an administrative code,” Timoney said. “K2 wasn’t out there as much last year. There has been a definite increase.”
Timoney said that the precinct is also running joint operations with housing services non-profit Urban Pathways to deal with issues around the shelters and he hopes that this will have an effect on the problems with K2 in the area as well, especially on West 25th Street where the Bowery Residents Committee shelter is and where there have been a number of arrests for K2 in recent weeks.
“If we can prevent people from congregating around the shelters, we’ll be able to control (the K2 situation) better,” he said.
He encouraged residents to call 911 if they see anyone smoking K2. Although the drug is sometimes referred to as synthetic marijuana, Timoney said that K2 has a different smell, more like a flowery substance “kind of like potpourri.”
Timoney also noted that the 38 percent increase in felony assaults in the last month is deceptive, because it doesn’t indicate an increase in random attacks on the street.
“Many of those occurred in the hospitals and most have arrests attached,” he said. “Out in the streets, there isn’t an increase.”
He noted that Bellevue Hospital often gets intoxicated people from all over the city, especially on the weekends, and nurses have been injured while administering treatment, although all of the injuries have been minor.
“Nobody’s getting stabbed,” Timoney assured the meeting attendees.
Robberies have increased 72 percent in the last month, but Timoney said that this is primarily due to a rash of bank robberies in the area rather than an increase in muggings on the street.
“Most of the robberies this month were bank robberies and attempted bank robberies,” he said. “There was a group that met at a methadone clinic in Staten Island and they started hitting banks in Manhattan. They went up to tellers and demanded cash but they got away with minimal money.
Special operations put together a plan with the 10th and Midtown South precincts and were able to apprehend the suspects. They were actually caught by officers at the 10th precinct who saw them outside a bank exchanging clothing.”
There was a spike in grand larceny incidents a few weeks ago, Timoney said, but overall the crime is down 14 percent for the month. He noted that the Starbucks in Union Square is an especially popular spot for criminals looking for unattended computers and five of the incidents in the last month involved that location.
Visana, the new pizza place and cocktail bar/lounge that moved into 321 First Avenue after Adriatic closed, recently opened, and has already incited the ire of some residents who live in buildings adjacent to the new business. Timoney said that he noticed some of the 311 complaints in the last month have been related to noise from the restaurant, which operates as a cocktail lounge in the back at night.
“It’s a sleepy, quiet block and suddenly we have a club,” a neighbor at 317 First Avenue piped in at the meeting.
Although residents referred to the spot as a club, Visana does not have a cabaret license, which would officially permit dancing at the venue.
Timoney said that he and Detective Ray Dorrian have spoken with owner David Jaffee, who seemed willing to cooperate.
“I told him to be a good neighbor because now he’s on my radar,” Timoney said.
The commanding officer noted that he and Dorrian checked up on the business in the early morning hours on a recent weekend to make sure the noise level wasn’t too high and Timoney said that the business was in compliance, but he said that since the complaints about the volume of the music has continued, the precinct will continue to work with the owner to prevent disturbing neighbors, including hanging signs reminding patrons to be mindful of their conversation volume when outside the lounge.
Following the meeting, Jaffee told Town & Village he had spoken with Dorrian, who mentioned that one of the main complaints was noise from conversation outside the location.
“We’re going to be working with a licensed security company to clear the front and encourage people to not make a lot of noise, and to make sure they’re not standing under the awnings or creating as much of a disturbance,” Jaffee said.
He noted that he’s spoken to a handful of residents to find out if they’re concerned by the amount of noise and while some said they hadn’t noticed a change, he said he was taking the complaints that he has received seriously.
“I’m confident that it’s going to get better,” he said. “We need open communication with neighborhood. We want to make sure we’re responsible. We don’t have the mentality that the police will clean up after us.”
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Officer Patrick Dolan, who started at the 13th Precinct in November 2013, was awarded Cop of the Month for his work apprehending a burglar who was prowling on fire escapes while trying to break into apartments. Timoney said that Officer Dolan responded to a 911 call about the break-in and set up a perimeter around the area. Cops were able to arrest him after the suspect got into one of the buildings and attempted to leave through the front door. The incident occurred over the summer and Dolan was supposed to be given the honor at the meeting last month but was on vacation at the time.
There has also been some confusion about the timing for the monthly Community Council meetings, since the usual date is the third Tuesday of the month. As Town & Village previously reported, the temporary date change to the first Tuesday of the month is due to classes that the commanding officer is taking that conflict with the regular time. A member of the community council said that the change has not been noted in most materials distributed by the group because the meetings will eventually go back to that date later in the month. Meetings are supposed to resume on the third Tuesday of the month by the beginning of next year.