Eyesores and community terrors were the main topics of discussion at last Thursday’s Juniper Park Civic Association meeting, with positive news being delivered by authorities on both fronts.
As an angry JPCA President Bob Holden held up an image of a graffiti-covered commercial box truck illegally parked in the driveway of a residential building, Department of Buildings Queens Community Liaison Ken Lazar reported to the crowd of around 60 people that the agency is continuing to issue summonses to the owners of such properties.
According to Holden, around 30 properties throughout northern Middle Village are “being abused” by their owners in similar ways, and Lazar said that a wave of violations has recently been issued.
“Many of the areas [Holden] mentioned, we issued violations there about two and a half weeks ago,” Lazar said. “We don’t have the number of inspectors to be on this every night. This is not a high priority in a sense where it’s a hazardous violation, but we will do our best to get to every violation as soon as possible.”
Unfortunately, Holden said, the city has done little to cure the area of the “cancerous” properties outside of issuing violations.
“Ken Lazar has done a very good job of getting these guys summonsed, but you know what? They don’t show up to court and nothing happens,” Holden said. “DOB is doing their job, they keep sending inspectors and issuing violations, but who’s the big loser here? The residents who live on the block and in Middle Village and Maspeth.
“We’re calling on the mayor to get the Department of Finance after these guys,” he added. “We need to have a blitz, and this is where our elected officials come in.”
If the box trucks indicate that a commercial business is being run in a residential zone, Lazar explained, the DOB can close such an operation in a process called padlocking, but such an undertaking is complex and not always successful.
“The padlock unit goes through the legal proceeding, and the normal time frame before any action is taken is between three and four months,” he said. “It has to go through the court system and the homeowner is given a chance to correct the situation and then it goes in front of a judge.”
In addition to Lazar, 104th Precinct Capt. Christopher Manson, Det. Thomas Bell and other officers spoke at the meeting.
They reported to the applauding crowd that the suspect who had been robbing women at knifepoint throughout the area over the previous two weeks had been caught [see separate story], but were also subjected to numerous questions over graffiti cleanup.
Multiple upset residents disagreed with Manson’s opinion that it should be the home or business owner’s responsibility to clean graffiti off a building, while others asked the officers why graffiti cleanup has slowed dramatically this winter.
“Personally, I think that most of the graffiti cleanup shouldn’t be done by the NYPD. I think [business owners] should clean up those walls,” Manson said. “We can’t always get to it as fast as the actual owner of the property can get to it. There are other things we do through the course of the day before we can get to it.”
Manson, the precinct commander, did note that the 104th recently nabbed a world-famous street artist and has one of the two highest graffiti arrest rates in the city, but the recent string of brutal winter weather has hampered cleanup efforts thus far in 2014.
“When we identify the perpetrator, we don’t arrest them for the one time we get them, we arrest him for every single piece of graffiti he’s done,” he said. “We’ve arrested one person so far this year and charged him with 11 crimes. He actually has a cult following. ... This gentleman we arrested is now doing six months in Rikers Island.”