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Queens Chronicle

Drug and gun bust at Queensbridge Houses

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Posted: Thursday, February 12, 2009 12:00 am

A massive police raid at Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City on Feb. 4 uncovered a slew of weapons and drugs, resulting in 59 arrests.

Police officers from the 114th Precinct made the bust at 14 units throughout the 26-building complex between 9 and 10 a.m., according to a source in the neighborhood.

The result of a seven-month investigation by the Queens Narcotics Unit, the bust yielded .38-caliber and .45-caliber handguns, a Tec-9 submachine gun, 434 loose pieces of crack cocaine, 350 vials of heroin, 100 bags of marijuana and $3,000 in cash, police said.

“These types of arrests are both dangerous and difficult, but well worth the effort,” said city Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), chair of the Public Safety Commission. “A huge battle was won in the ongoing war against drugs.”

Though drug and gun arrests are nothing new in the troubled housing project, the scale of last week’s police operation took some residents and workers by surprise.

“When I came into work in the morning there were more cop cars here than I’ve ever seen before,” said Luis, a salesman at a PCS Mobile store on 40th Avenue, who wished to be identified only by his middle name.

Drug dealers have long operated freely in the labyrinthine 47-acre complex, often moving from building to building, according to resident and New York City Housing Authority employee James Chauncey. “Nobody says anything because they don’t want to be called a snitch,” he said.

With 3,142 apartments, Queensbridge Houses is the largest development in the city, according to the NYCHA website.

First opened in 1939, the project was the product of a much-different era in urban planning, one that also gave rise to nearby Ravenswood and Astoria Houses, among dozens of others public housing projects throughout the borough and city.

Growing up in Queensbridge Houses with his brother Charles, Chauncey, 48, has seen the complex and the surrounding neighborhood deteriorate through the decades.

“I want the community to be back what it was in the ’70s, when things were cleaned up and everybody got along,” he said. “Now there’s drugs everywhere you go.”

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