Light, Green Light, House Lights...
Neighborhood Struggles For Survival
By LIZ GOFF
Dutch Kills residents want high density
living. Unlike their northeastern Queens counterparts, they want houses . . . lots of
houses. But instead, the city keeps stifling the residential development in this
neighborhood of homes nestled away in the shadow of the Queensborough Bridge.
Dunbarton II, Cityscapes and the all-nude "Gentlemans Club," Runway
69 are some of the newest additions to the Dutch Kills landscape.
Residents are in an uproar over the
relocation of the sex clubs in the area many of which were chased out of prior
locations by the citys crackdown on the XXX-rated clubs.
"Why here?, why
"How much does the city plan to dump on
"Where the hell is Mayor
Giuliani?," asked Jerry Walsh, vice president of the Dutch Kills Civic Association.
"He did such a good job of chasing these people out of Times Square and neighborhoods
like Forest Hills and Rego Park. When is he going to come here, to help us the same way he
helped residents along Queens Boulevard," Walsh said. "Or dont we count as
residents of the city?"
City Councilman Walter McCaffrey initiated
zoning legislation to assist neighborhoods in "evicting" the sex clubs, by
requiring that the clubs locate no closer than 500 feet of a home, church, school, or
other adult clubs. But after they were forced to pack up and move from their original
sites, the club owners went to court and won significant changes in the law changes
that plopped them firmly on the ground in Dutch Kills.
CityScapes - Just one of several sexxx clubs to pop
up at Queens Plaza. Tribune Photo By Ira Cohen
A stipulation in the law that was
designed to prevent red-light districts from evolving does little to help the situation at
Queens Plaza, local officials said. The stipulation requires that the clubs cannot locate
within 500 feet of each other a moot point due to the logistics of the Queens Plaza
area, said George Delis, district manager of Community Board 1.
Because of the box-like configuration of the
area that is zoned primarily for industry, adult businesses can proliferate there legally,
Delis said. The clubs are located at least 500 feet apart, Delis said, but they appear to
create a "red-light district" because the Plaza is "boxed" into an
"This is about to explode into another
Times Square," Delis stated. "There should be some legal limit to the number of
these bars that can open in the Queens Plaza area."
Gone is the hulking
blue-and-white Temporary Headquarters Vehicle that kept a watchful eye on conditions in
Long Island City from its post at Bridge Plaza North. Gone, too, are the teams of
narcotics and vice cops from Operation Condor and the Queens Vice Squad who patrolled the
area for the past two months.
The reason theyre gone is because the
conditions they were sent there to address are "vastly improved," police
officials told the Tribune.
Determined Dutch Killers Jerry Walsh, Bob Wilson and
George Stamatiades stand firm for residential development.
Tribune Photo By Ira Cohen
Those same officials are calling the
recent zero-tolerance crackdown on drugs and prostitution in Long Island City a great
success. Conditions at Queens Plaza and in surrounding neighborhoods are so improved, in
fact, that police brass at One Police Plaza pulled the Operation Condor and Queens Vice
cops out of the area as of Friday night, April 7. The specialized units have been
reassigned to a re-established Roosevelt Avenue Task Force, where they will concentrate
their efforts on drug and prostitution conditions along the commercial strip, officials
Local residents are concerned that the units
are gone from the Long Island City area, and fearful that the prostitutes will be back
"in a heartbeat," causing traffic jams and littering residential streets where
they "service" their customers, Walsh said.
"This is ridiculous," said Bob
Wilson, president of the Dutch Kills Civic Association. "Maybe the streets are clear
for the time being. But thats only because the cops are keeping them clear.
"As soon as the cops are gone, the
prostitutes will be back," Wilson said.
Not so, say police officials at local
precincts and at the Queens North Borough Command, who said the enforcement will continue
by police assigned to street narcotics modules and prostitution details at the precinct
Under new procedures established by "Team
Bratton" (former Police Commissioner William Bratton), neighborhoods are no longer
left in a lurch when specialized units are pulled from a location to take on conditions
elsewhere, officials said.
Under the new enforcement procedures,
neighborhoods remain in a zero-tolerance "mode," said a spokesperson for NYPD
Chief of Department Joseph Dunne, under the watchful eye of precinct SNEU (Street
Narcotics Enforcement Units) and Prostitution Details.
A portion of this building at the hub of Queens
Plaza is being eyed for walk-in shelter.
Tribune Photo By Ira Cohen
"Enforcement is continued
and intensified as needed, by local police who are in-sync with the needs of the
community," Dunne said.
That sentiment was echoed by Queens Vice
Captain Kevin Grasing, who said teams of Vice cops will continue to police the Dutch Kills
area at unspecified intervals, to keep the hookers off the streets.
Grasing said the Vice cops put great effort
into the recent crackdown too much effort to allow the conditions to return.
"We wont abandon the
neighborhood," Grasing said. "Well be there to support the ongoing
enforcement activities of the 114th Precinct to make sure the conditions do not
The zero-tolerance crackdown in
Long Island City set a precedent in policing in New York State when, on Feb. 8, attorneys
at the NYPD Legal Bureau filed for an injunction barring 20 known members of the Bloods
street gang from even stepping-foot in a 20-square-block area Jackson Avenue to
21st Street and 40th to 43rd Avenues between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. The city also
requested a permanent, 24-hour ban on six men and 15 women who they allege are gang
members or known prostitutes. Violators would be subject to arrest on charges of criminal
contempt which, if proven, could land them in jail for at least one year.
The request for the injunction was one method
utilized by Queens police officials to prevent a takeover of street prostitution near the
Queensborough Bridge by members of the Bloods, police said. Concern of a takeover stemmed
from a condition that existed in East New Yorks 75th Precinct, where the Bloods
moved in on street prostitution pimps "overnight," police sources said
creating an extremely violent climate.
The 75th Precinct abuts Queens and is
"too close for comfort," officials said. Those same officials were determined to
stop the gangs form trying to elbow-in for a similar takeover in western Queens precincts,
The request for court intervention was backed
by the enforcement effort, dubbed "CR2K" (Crime Reduction 2000), the crackdown
that was scrubbed on April 7.
The gangs, who had made their presence known,
never moved to settle in the Long Island City area once the NYPD attorneys asked for the
injunction, said one high-ranking police source. News of the requested court intervention
seemed enough to make the gang members reconsider the move, the source said.
News that the specialized
police units had been transferred out of Long Island City was met with a mix of anger and
frustration by local residents and with a determination on their part to keep the
streets clear of hookers and their customers. Its a battle that residents in Dutch
Kills have been fighting for decades.
"The police arrest the prostitutes,"
Wilson said. "But the courts set them free at their arraignment, sending them back
onto the streets within hours."
The Dutch Kills residents see enforcement as a
key solution to the problem, but they view residential development of the area, currently
zoned for manufacturing, as an equally effective tool for use to remove the prostitutes.
"It all goes back to zoning," said
former Dutch Kills Civic Association President George L. Stamatiades. "Manufacturing
and commercial zones tend to attract that type of activity after-hours because there are
fewer people on the streets of industrial areas at night."
Wilson said residents believe that residential
development in Dutch Kills would serve as another deterrent to street prostitution.
"With an increased residential
population, services like police and sanitation would increase," Wilson said.
"If houses filled now-vacant lots, many dimly-lit blocks would be filled with people
and a new light.
"If there was less vacant space in the
area, the prostitutes may consider taking their business elsewhere," Wilson said.
"It all goes back to the citys decision to kill Dutch Kills with its rezoning
of the area."
In 1960, city planners had an idea. They saw
"unbounding potential" for industry and commerce in the community just north of
the Queensborough Bridge. The city rezoned Dutch Kills as an M1-3 area the
citys most restrictive manufacturing zone. Unfamiliar with the intricacies of city
government and the workings of city planners, residents of Dutch Kills didnt wake up
to the reality of the restrictive zoning until it was too late and they found
themselves living in their own homes illegally.
The zoning sounded a death knell for the
residential sections of Dutch Kills. No new residences could be constructed; no additions
made to existing homes. And if a home was destroyed by fire or some other disaster, the
home could not be rebuilt. Only commercial, industrial and manufacturing structures could
be built in those sites.
The reason for the citys decision to
rezone the area was clear to residents to allow the unrestricted growth of
manufacturing interests in the area. And to create a "mini-Manhattan" on the
Queens side of the Queensborough Bridge, Wilson said.
The civics fought the city and its planners
for more than 10 years to change zoning in the area. The result was the citys
creation of an "M1-D" zone, a generic district that slightly eased the
restrictions on residential properties.
"We have so far not seen any new
residential construction in the Dutch Kills area," Stamatiades said. "But we
have seen a great deal of renovation and lots of houses that might have been forced
to become commercial have stayed residential," he added.
Further angering Dutch Kills
residents was a recent announcement by Salvation Army officials that the agency plans to
toss yet another bit of spice into the already volatile mix created by conditions in the
According to Alfred Peck, director of Homeless
Services for the Salvation Army, told participants at a March meeting of the Community
Board 1 District Cabinet that the Salvation Army plans to open a walk-in homeless shelter
at the site of the former Long Island Savings Bank building at 29-11 41st Ave.
A furious Wilson lashed-out at city and local
officials when Peck made the announcement.
"Why here?," Wilson asked. "Why
"We are already burdened with two
abortion clinics, two methadone clinics, substance abuse rehab residences, the sex clubs,
prostitution and the threat of gang intervention," Wilson said. "How much does
the city plan to dump on us?"
We are obviously disappointed that the police
department has decided to pull the big guns out of this area, but we are grateful that
they recognize the continuing problem and that they arent going to abandon us
completely," he added.