By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The intersection at East 14th Street and First Avenue has recently become a hub for the homeless as well as unsavory characters who’ve been loitering, making neighborhood residents feel unsafe, a number of neighbors have been saying.
The intersection was one of the topics brought up to police at a meeting on Tuesday evening held by the 13th Precinct Community Council.
StuyTown Property Services general manager Rick Hayduk told the precinct commanding officer, Steven Hellman, that management has gotten an uptick in calls about the area.
“We wanted to heighten awareness about First and 14th because there’s been an increase in vagrants,” Hayduk said.
City Council Member Keith Powers, who was at the meeting to introduce himself to the community, also said that his office has also been getting calls, especially in the last few days, and that the issues seem concentrated on 14th Street opposite Stuyvesant Town near the T-mobile store and McDonald’s.
Residents have also voiced complaints to Powers’ office about aggressive panhandlers on the north side of East 14th Street across First Avenue from Stuyvesant Town and in front of the Papaya Dog and near the vendors at the corner.
Additionally, a month ago, an argument in a candy store at that corner ended up with a 54-year-old man getting slashed on his cheek. The suspect has not been caught.
Hayduk noted that the complaints he’s been getting relate mainly to the safety of children because many of the calls have come in when school is letting out, as well as during lunchtime hours.
In response, Hellman advised residents to call 311 to report any incidents, saying that is the best way to notify him and the precinct about what’s going on.
“I haven’t seen as many 311s about that but those help us to know what’s going on,” he said. “It’s a tool for me to see what’s happening.”
He added that if there are ongoing quality-of-life or safety issues in the area, he can station additional officers nearby as a deterrent. The south side of East 14th Street is technically in the 9th precinct but Hellman said that he can work with officers in the neighboring command to make sure residents feel safe in the area.
Regarding other general safety issues in the area, one meeting attendee noted that there has been a patrol vehicle stationed on East 28th Street between First and Second Avenue near the Straus Houses and Hellman explained that this was due to shots that were fired outside the building in an incident in January.
Town & Village previously reported that 38-year-old Jamah Joseph was arrested for the shooting and Hellman explained that it was due to a fight over drugs.
“The intended targets have been identified but we don’t expect retaliation since Joseph is currently in jail,” he said. “But I feel that it’s better to be safe than sorry so I’ll be leaving a cop posted over there for the near future.”
Hellman noted at the meeting that crime in the precinct has also increased slightly in the last 28-day period, as well as for the year, but noted that as is usual for the neighborhood, the majority of the crimes are thefts.
Community affairs officers at the meeting also notified residents that as part of the new “Senior Safe NYC” initiative that the NYPD launched at the end of last summer, the precinct is offering resources for seniors such as reflective bracelets and alarm key chains that seniors can activate if they feel threatened to notify people in the area that they are in danger. Bags with the personal safety alarms and bracelets were distributed to meeting attendees who wanted them.