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Not only will 78th Precinct include Barclays Center, it will extend to malls, rest of Atlantic Yards site; police parking on street still a concern

New York Police Department officials last night offered more detail on the reported, if not officially confirmed, news that the 78th Precinct, located at Bergen Street and Sixth Avenue, would be put in charge of policing the Barclays Center arena, the southeast border of which is a block away at Dean Street and Sixth Avenue.

(The mayoral recommendation must still be approved by the City Council. Currently, the Atlantic Yards site is split among three precincts.)

It was logical to have the 78th Precinct, given its size and location, to have the arena in its jurisdiction,  officials explained. But the precinct is expanding significantly into chunks of territory currently policed by the 77th and 88th Precincts, officials said at a monthly meeting called by Council Member Steve Levin to discuss community concerns about arena impacts.

Current 78th Precinct map
The boundary will expand in two major ways: first, north across Atlantic Avenue to encompass Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Terminal and Atlantic Center malls; and second, northeast of Flatbush Avenue to Atlantic and Vanderbilt avenues, thus taking in the rest of the Atlantic Yards site as well as the blocks below, to  Plaza Street.

Getting prepared

Captain Michael Ameri, who's led the 78th Precinct since December, said he has been meeting with community representatives and Forest City Ratner to prepare for arena operations.

"Obviously, traffic is a concern," he said, at the meeting, held at the YWCA at Third and Atlantic avenues. "I have to get emergency vehicles out of the precinct." He said he's also met with counter-terrorism officials.

Inspector Terrence Riley said the number of officers would be increased at the precinct, as well as supplemented for events. Earlier this year, 22 more officers were assigned, and more are coming.

Community concerns

Several people questioned whether the precinct could handle the crowds. Ameri said that the police have been overseeing large events at Prospect Park, and research the types of crowds that would typically attend specific events. The Barclays Center, which has its own security staff, prepares similarly.

Still, worries persist. Pauline Blake, president of the 78th Precinct Community Council, said that, unlike with Madison Square Garden, arena crowds would easily spill into residential areas.

Peter Krashes of the Dean Street Block Association, pointing to already-congested intersections, asked whether it would take longer to get people to the hospital.

Hrones said traffic enforcement agentes are trained to speed along emergency vehicles.

Police parking

Krashes also pointed to the persistent problem of police parking on the sidewalks around the precinct house. (I wrote about this in June.)

Ameri noted that Forest City has agreed to provide 24 slots at the surface parking lot being created at the block bounded by Dean and Pacific streets and Carlton and Vanderbilt avenues; that could accommodate official vehicles and vouchered vehicles that are not necessarily needed every day.

"This is an issue around the city," Riley said placatingly.

"But every precinct isn't next to an arena," responded Krashes, who pointed out how police vehicles encroached on people going to the frequently-used Dean Playground. (See photo at left for example.)

The issue was left unresolved.

While police have clearly cracked down on construction workers using streets near the arena for personal parking, the issue of police parking remains unresolved.

Last September, I queried Arana Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, for Empire State Development, the state authority overseeing the project.

"I don't know if I can do much… in terms of police parking illegally." That, she said, will have to be resolved before the arena opens.

I suggested that police are "not allowed to park everywhere, and they still do."

"Yeah," she replied a bit resignedly. "That needs to be resolved before the arena opens... They committed to resolving it before arena opens. They understand the first step is resolving that is identifying jurisdictions, because there are three precincts that overlap, and so they're working on that."

Well, jurisdictions have now been identified. However, as far as I can tell, police brass are unwilling to crack down on officers' expectation they can park personal vehicles near their workplace, and elected city officials, who must maintain a cordial relationship with the police on a number of fronts, are not yet willing to make it a priority.

Updates coming

Before the arena opens on September 28, however, look for this and other issues to get more attention, in both private and public meetings. The public meetings, not yet scheduled, include another meeting organized by Levin as well as the bi-monthly Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting.

The 78th Precinct Community Council meets on the last Tuesday of the month, except for July and August; the next meeting is September 25th at 7:30 pm.